VOICES: The importance of queer education

Category:  Opinions
Monday, October 11th, 2021 at 5:16 PM
VOICES: The importance of queer education by Alexander Beatty
Photo: Pexels.com

The queer youth community in America is ill-informed about their history, current rights and identity. Schools don’t provide enough — if any — information about gender or sexuality. Information that may be of vital importance to their happiness or survival goes unshared thanks to century-old biases.  

Scotland, the city Edinboro ties its roots to, just became the first country in the world to introduce LGBTQ+ education in its curriculum, a huge moment for queer people and parents of queer children around the world. The idea is to incorporate queer topics in everyday learning. According to Ruth Foran from the Organization for World Peace, “All public schools will teach lessons about the LGBTQ+ community such as same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” The world we live in isn’t just black and white and school curriculum should reflect that. To fully prepare for adulthood, the curriculum must match what will be seen in the world. 

There is a lot of British public support for this new legislation, stating that this education can be life-changing for LGBTQ+ youth, which directly contrasts the view of the American public.

In America, it is illegal in certain states to mention any part of the LGBTQ+ community in fear that teachers will turn their students gay. The reality is teaching LBGTQ+ education allows students to be comfortable in their identity, which is unfortunately not seen as a good thing. These anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum laws, or “no promo homo” laws, prohibit any discussion about the LGBTQ+ community. Lamba Legal, an organization dedicated to equality, explains these laws are put in place because, “being gay is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.” These speak only upon health education, but they are vague enough for educators to interpret laws as they please. Educators and administrators have used these laws to outlaw all LGBTQ+ teachings. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ laws are very harmful. They feed into the stereotype that queer people hold inappropriate ideals and pursue improper lifestyles. Homophobia (and all variants) are soon to follow that stigmatization. Sex education is crucial to students, and this law limits information on safe sexual practices and undermines the overall goal of student health. HIV education is beyond important to the community as prevention and protection are key to staying healthy and alive. The CDC states there are 38,000 new HIV cases each year, and there is no cure. Protection is key to prevention. The goal of education is to teach queer youth how to prevent illness and, if that fails, how to live with it. These hateful efforts to diminish teachings can lead to a decline in self-esteem and mental health issues in queer students. 

 Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Stonewall Riots, Matthew Shepard, the AIDS epidemic, Obergefell v. Hodges and Christine Jorgensen are just a handful of people and events that should be known when discussing LGBTQ+ histories. Unfortunately, queer history is often dusted over by teachers, and children have no idea the great people that came before them. A proper education will show the youth that their sexuality or gender identity does not limit what they can do or how far they can go. The only limitation when teaching queer history is the erasure or covered up over time because of the negative context surrounding being LGBTQ+.  

The AIDS epidemic is an example of a specific LGBTQ+ event that is imperative in educational curriculum. The heartbreak and destruction that it caused on an entire community of people remains devastating. Although it was something media at the time cast a shadow over, when reported upon, it was often stigmatized to spread fear. The ban on donating blood as a gay man is a result of this epidemic, along with several other harmful stereotypes that follow the queer community. Queer youth need to be aware of where these came from and how the epidemic impacted society to fully understand their history.   

Queer history should be taught wherever standard history is taught because it has always been a part of history and will continue to be. It will help queer children understand themselves and the world around them. 

Although one country is a step in the right direction, there is a long way to go until LGBTQ+ students are treated equally in their education and properly taught all they need to know to safely venture into the world. 

Resources were pulled from the CDC, Lamba Legal, and The OWP. 

Alexander Beatty, Staff Writer | @EdinboroNow

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