OpEd: The History of Us

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How do you record or write the history of a secret, of something that until recently did not even dare to speak its name?

Homosexuals have been around since Homo sapiens but how do you go about finding the progress of a minority that has throughout the centuries been perceived as everything from pariahs to child molesters?

Who writes history? The victor gets to write it. The ruling class puts its stamp of approval on it. The parties in power twist it or change it to suit their own means. Often remarkably short-sighted and darkly colored views get recorded under the name of “history."

Take the Texas Board of Education. It voted 11-4 in favor of changing the textbook guidelines for history, economics, social studies, religion, capitalism and government to reflect a more conservative perspective of America, including which major cultural movements to focus on and which to leave out.

On the other hand, the State of California passed a law making Gay History a requirement in public schools. The law adds LGBT Americans to a long list of groups that should be represented in social studies classes.

Supporters of the that law believe teaching gay history will help to foster tolerance on campus. UC Berkeley professor Tina Trujillo says a change in instruction can shift students' opinions on a given subject.

For the first time in the United States teachers are figuring out how to incorporate the new material into their classes. The teaching of Gay History becomes an historical landmark for our still fledgling movement.

What do we know of our history? The further back we go the more doubtful its accuracy is, as is the case for the ancient Greeks and their student lovers. Or it is speculative and tentative, with little proof to back it up, when it applies to gay monarchs and popes through the ages.

It is a collection of incomplete bits and pieces when artists, writers, composers from previous centuries are discussed in a gay context. It becomes more reliable when we read about the horrors brought on, starting in 1871, by Germany's Paragraph 175, which later became a tool for the persecution of homosexuals under Hitler's Third Reich.

Time can be a great, albeit slow, storyteller; churning forward while oppression inevitably gives way to acceptance. Students in California will perhaps have a chance to learn of the legal trials of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, of the scandal of reparative therapy, the reason for ACT-UP, the travesty of disallowing gays in the military, the killing of Harvey Milk. But also the recorded post Stonewall celebrations, legacies born out of that seminal act of defiance such as Gay Pride events the world over, Gay Games, National Coming Out Day, the glory, mixed with the heartache of the AIDS Quilt, the repealing of both DADT and the sodomy law, openly gay politicians serving in Congress, same sex marriage in 19 states, plus Washington D.C.

They are little dots and sparks when looked in the context of eons of history. We will take whatever we can get. We have been a people forced to hide ourselves and our history. But the secret is out, we have a story to tell the world. Millions of stories never told until now, and history is also written by common, everyday people. We have to take note of our achievements and mark the milestones that let us see how we came to be and where we are heading.

As Dwight Eisenhower said, in 1961, what we have in front of us is: "The long lane of history yet to be written.”


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