Gay history lands in the lesson plan
Updated: August 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm
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News item: California is the first state to require public schools to include the contributions of LGBT people in social studies curricula.
We take you to the classroom of Mr. Mitchell a couple of years from now, as he adds the new material to his AP American history class.
Mr. Mitchell: I assume you all read the chapter on civil rights movements last night.
Jeff: Mr. Mitchell?
Mr. Mitchell: Yes?
Jeff: I have a note from my dad. He didn’t want me to read the chapter because of the gay parts.
Mr. Mitchell: Do you still want to go to Yale?
Mr. Mitchell: Read the chapter. Did anyone else have trouble?
Sarah: Well, not trouble exactly, but the picture of gays picketing confused me. The women wore dresses. My aunt’s a lesbian, and she hasn’t worn a dress since her First Communion.
Mr. Mitchell: Why do you think homosexuals who protested during the period before Stonewall dressed conservatively?
Ben: Because they didn’t have a sense of style yet.
Mr. Mitchell: Try again.
Skye: Because they didn’t want to offend anybody. People we’re already wary of them.
Mr. Mitchell: You got it.
Ben: If they were so concerned with what people thought, why did they go to bars run by organized crime? Like Stonewall?
Mr. Mitchell: Why do you think?
Skye: The Mob had better music.
Sarah: The bars were the only places they could be themselves.
Jeff: Why are we learning about bars? We’re underage.
Miguel: We covered speakeasies. They were important during Prohibition.
Jeff: I think, if we’re going to talk about bars, we should learn something useful. How to make a Manhattan. That’s useful.
Mr. Mitchell: I can see we need more structure to this discussion. You all read about the March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But, what you didn’t read — because the new textbook isn’t ready yet and don’t get me started — was that the organizer of the march was a black gay man, Bayard Rustin.
Jeff: Now you’re just making things up. If that were true, we’d all know it. It would be a famous fact.
Mr. Mitchell: Ah, Jeff, you’ve brought us to a critical point. It is true. But, why haven’t we known it?
Ben: Martians wiped our brains.
Skye: Homosexuality was something you just didn’t talk about.
Mr. Mitchell: It was a taboo subject. Gays and lesbians hid that part of themselves or history hid it for them.
Jeff: I hope we’re going to talk about all the bad stuff gays did too. They destroyed Rome and started World War II. That’s in my dad’s note also.
Mr. Mitchell: No wonder it’s three pages. Okay, everybody, in my high school history class we studied white men only. What would be the problem with that?
Sarah: It makes it sound like everyone else just stood around and didn’t do anything.
Miguel: It leaves out the history of everyone else.
Jeff: Can I go see the nurse?
Mr. Mitchell: Why?
Skye: His head hurts from being pried open.
Mr. Mitchell: Let’s address the homework question before you depart. For Monday, pick one of the names on the board — Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk and Gloria Steinem — and write two pages about their roles in their respective movements. Don’t be so depressed, Jeff. In a couple of weeks you get to write about Ronald Reagan. : :
info: LesRobinson@aol.com . generalgayety.com
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