Many say they hope for such a day when we need not remember the struggles of minority identities that are rewarded with a government-specified remembrance month out of the year, but I do not wish for such a day to come. Instead, I hope for the day that such times are celebrated because we have moved out of a time of oppression and invisibility.
LGBT history month, like many of the other history months out of the year, is about learning from mistakes made in the past, remembering how far we’ve come from those mistakes, preventing those mistakes from happening again, and moving away from the erasure that has been so widespread in our history lessons of the past. Even when I was going through my own academic studies, when I graduated less than two years ago, it was unheard of to be learning of any LGBT figures in history.
Even if we did learn about them, we never learned that such figures were queer (see: Alexander the Great, Walt Whitman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Greta Garbo, James I, Lord Byron, Tchaikovsky; the list goes on). Textbooks skirted the issue nervously or staunchly refused to admit that sexualities outside straight and genders outside the male/female binary even existed. Erasure in this sense has led many to believe that any sexuality or gender outside the cishet norm was “invented” in the past century; and we’ve all been around to see what kind of prejudice that has created.
The importance of role models, especially in school, where students are vulnerable to influence and are defining their own identity in such a crucial stage, is rooted in these history months. Being able to create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming, not only in schools but around the world, in every community in every society, allows these people to grow, hopefully without having to face the same kind adversity that these historical figures did.
But that adversity exists still, and in a more aggressive fashion than many are allowing themselves to believe. So we celebrate this history month, and we celebrate pride, and we welcome those into a community that feel unwelcomed by the larger societal constructions built around them, unwilling to let them step even a toe out of line. And we hope for this education to build a better foundation for the future.
Words and images by Francesca Tirpak