Like it or not, LGBT people are a part of history. Now California is encouraging schools to make that a known fact.
On Thursday the California state board of education approved 10 LGBT-inclusive history textbooks for schools teaching kindergarten through eighth grade. California is now the first and only state to include LGBT-inclusive textbook recommendations.
“California tends to be the first state to pass a lot of progressive laws and — mainly because of our diversity — a lot of inclusive laws,” said Executive Director of Our Family Coalition Renata Moreira in an interview with The Daily Beast. The coalition was one of many organizations that pushed to teach LGBT history in the Golden State.
“I think in other states folks are still looking to California to see how the inclusion is going to be rolled out. So there’s some hesitancy and frankly lack of leadership in other states to see that people with disabilities and LGBT people are included in history.”
According to California’s 2011 Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act, history and social science curriculums must include information about successes of a wide range of Americans including LGBT people, Native Americans and people with disabilities. California school districts are not required to use books recommended by the state, but curriculums must adhere to state standards adhering to the FAIR Act.
"The decision today means that LGBTQ students, and those with LGBTQ families, will finally be able to see themselves and our history accurately reflected in textbooks in California," said Moreira. "We celebrate SBE's final vote and are more than ready to continue working with partners and educators on the next chapter as we move to district adoption across the state."
The board also rejected two books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for violating the FAIR Act by not including LGBT history. Specifically, according to LGBTQ Nation, the books mentioned historical figures like American Poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson without including material about their sexualities.
“The absence of specific labels regarding sexual orientation creates an adverse reflection because the identity of these individuals is not honored and demeans their contributions to history. The depictions of these individuals do not specifically refer to achievements in art, science or other fields as LGBTQ contributors.”
In response, HMH claimed modern labels should not apply to history.
“The achievements of people who experience or express sexual desire for their own sex as well as those who do not conform to conventional gender norms are central to both United States history and culture. However, HMH feels that the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer are contemporary terms that may not map well on past lives and experiences.”
As an alternative, HMH included information in the teacher’s materials that claimed these historical figures might have identified as LGBT if they lived today.