New Jersey is now the second state in the country, after California, to pass a law requiring LGBTQ+ history to be taught in schools and it has gotten mixed reactions.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill to promote equality for gay and transgender people, a key promise during his gubernatorial campaign.
Under this bill, public schools are required to teach lessons about everything that LGBTQ+ individuals have contributed to the political, social and economic history of the country. The bill does not apply to private schools.
“We often see in classrooms across the country the bullying of LGBT students and this is a way they can incorporate into the curriculum that there are gay Americans that have made vast contributions to this nation . . . This is a way of encouraging students who feel that they’re outcasts that they too can make a contribution to American society,” Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, an original sponsor of the bill as well as an openly gay member of the legislature at the time, said.
The bill, however, has not gone unopposed. Many conservative groups of parents believe that LGBTQ+ history should not be taught in public schools, saying it infringes on parents’ rights. Regardless of who agrees or disagrees with introducing this new curriculum into the school system, as Gusciora said, the impact of this bill is more than just another history lesson.
The LGBTQ+ community has little to no representation in the education system when members have contributed so much more to our daily lives than we realize. Queer historical figures are implemented in the lessons we learn but their sexuality is often kept quiet.
People like Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci, Tennessee Williams and Walt Whitman are all taught in schools. For whatever reason, their sexual preference is not disclosed.
Teaching openly about LGBTQ+ history and the sharing of a person's sexual orientation is what helps to empower the community. There is still a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights. Treating it like it can’t be discussed in schools only puts a negative connotation to it.
Teaching LGBTQ+ history would help young kids in school who identify as members of the community feel like less of an outsider. Learning the school system doesn’t acknowledge historical figures as gay makes kids feel like there is something wrong with who they are. This is a conversation that should be open and noncontroversial as it helps students respect the community and their contributions.
It also helps them feel proud to be who they are when they learn about things the community has brought to the world.
Whether someone agrees with it or not, LGBTQ+ people have had to fight for a long time to get where they are and they should be represented, respected and celebrated.
The most recent gay bullying statistics show that 9 out of 10 queer students have reported being bullied because of their sexual orientation and half claim it was followed with recurring physical assault. The bullying and discrimination that occurs in schools for LGBTQ+ kids is awful and could be reduced by changing more history.
Having people like them being represented in a more open setting could help them feel more included in their community and normalize their sexual orientation for the bullies as well. Censoring LGBTQ+ in schools only makes the kids of the community feel shame for who they are.
There is still a long way to go for LGBTQ+ people and making them feel more supported but bringing in strong figures to represent them in schools can be a good stepping stone to normalizing members of the community. Hopefully, this bill will encourage other states as well and in the near future, we can see the spread of LGBTQ+ history all over the country.