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Queering the History Classroom

Posted by Katherine Joyce
4 October 2012 - 7:10pm

In the summer of 2011 the California legislature passed a law amending the state’s education code. This law extended existing prohibitions of discriminatory content to include sexual minority groups, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups. In addition, it “require[d] instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans […] to the development of California and the United States.”

Of course, this bill did not pass quietly into law.  Those who opposed it believe it is tantamount to censorship for the government to only allow the portrayal of gays and lesbian in a positive light; others have raised concerns that this law will “indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality”. However, those who support law believe that it will help prepare students “for a diverse and evolving society,” and make school safer for sexual minority students.  Governor Jerry Brown, upon signing the bill into law, said that “History should be honest.”
The Toronto District School Board, in its Equity Foundation Statement & Commitments to Equity Policy Implementation document, also encourages the teaching of LGBT history.  They want to ensure that the "contributions to Canadian and world history and historiography from gay and lesbian communities and other communities who identify themselves on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are included accurately in all aspects of the curriculum.” The Board hopes that by doing so they will be better able to both “meet the needs of underachieving lesbian and gay students and other students facing discrimination because of their own or their family members’ sexual orientation or gender identity” and to provide “each student with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours needed to live in a complex and diverse world.”
Should you wish, and I hope that you do, to include the history of LGBTQ individuals and groups in your classroom, here are some resources to consider:
The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA): Located in Toronto, the CLGA is the second-largest LGBT archives in the world, and was founded in 1973. The staff and volunteers are available to help create a lesson plan with archival materials. 
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has created a lesson plan called When Did it Happen? An LGBT History Lesson for students in Grades 4-12. Although the events discussed in this lesson centre on the United States, it is possible to take the idea and replace many of the events with those listed on Wikipedia’s Timeline of LGBT History in Canada.
GLSEN provides many other resources for teaching LGBT history, including an oral history archive called Unheard Voices; suggestions for implementing the LGBT-Inclusive History and Social Science curriculum that meets California’s new standards; and teachers’ guides to documentaries Out of the Past and Gay Pioneers
PBS provides an interactive timeline to accompany Out of the Past.
Paul Halsall, based out of Fordham University, has created People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History. This is a comprehensive guide that allows the user to search for historical overviews and documents from a variety of time periods and world locations.
What resources have you used to include the history of LGBTQ individuals and groups in your history lessons?