Author: Maya Serna
There has never been a better time to be LGBTQ and to be living openly in America. Same-gender marriage is legal now in all 50 states. Our culture is becoming increasingly accepting of the queer community, and huge pride events are held all over the world during the month of June. Most people also think that our government protects LGBTQ rights with anti-discrimination laws and regulations. It might seem as though the LGBTQ rights movement is finally coming to an end after years of struggle and hard work. While this paints a nice picture of the status of the queer community, the truth is that we still have a long way to go before LGBTQ people have achieved equal rights.
Only 20 out of our 50 states have full bans against discrimination based on orientation and gender identity. The other 30 states only have a partial form of protection or no protection at all for their LGBTQ citizens. Ohio is one of the 30 states that does not fully protect its LGBTQ citizens. Luckily, teachers are state employees which means that in Ohio at least, they cannot be fired for being LGBTQ. Just a couple of years ago, teachers did not even have that kind of protection. While this law partially protects teachers for simply being themselves, LGBTQ oppression is still prevalent in many ways and especially in regard to children. LGBTQ oppression still happens every day in most classrooms in the United States (U.S.).
In the 2015 US Transgender Survey, about 30% of working transgender people reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the workplace, and many more cases went unreported. This discrimination can come from co-workers, bosses or patrons, and manifest in many different ways from microaggressions to full-blown bullying.
Another issue faced by queer people working in education and by their students is the lack of LGBTQ curriculum material. As of now, the only four states in the U.S. that require the inclusion of LGBTQ topics in public school curriculums are California, New Jersey, Colorado and Illinois. This leaves a huge learning gap for students in the other 46 states in what schools are required to teach them. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), some states even have laws that require teachers to talk about the LGBTQ community negatively if it comes up. What kind of message is this sending to the majority of LGBTQ students and teachers? That their history does not matter, that LGBTQ issues are not important, that because they are a minority, they don’t deserve to be included in health class curriculums?
As I have discussed in my previous articles, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) does an excellent job of making LGBTQ students and faculty feel welcome at their college. However, there are always ways in which to improve. Last summer I took a beginning health class at Tri-C. I was disappointed to find that the textbook had only a few pages out of several hundred dedicated to LGBTQ health specifically. LGBTQ mental, physical, and sexual health cannot possibly be fully covered in a few short pages. If LGBTQ students cannot depend on their school for information, then they are going to be forced to search for it online where a lot of what they find is going to be unreliable, incorrect or even potentially harmful. According to another study by GLSEN, LGBTQ inclusivity in school curriculums makes a better learning environment for all students, especially LGBTQ people of color and LGBTQ people with disabilities. GLSEN states, “67.6% of LGBTQ students in schools with LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum reported that their classmates were somewhat or very accepting of LGBTQ people, as compared to 36% of LGBTQ students in schools without the curriculum.” LGBTQ issues, history, and health should be a basic requirement for all school curriculums. It should not be considered something optional, but as something necessary and beneficial for students and teachers.
I am grateful to attend a college that supports its LGBTQ community. It would be a dream come true if our staff would consider designing a comprehensive class focusing on the LGBTQ community where students from all backgrounds can learn and discuss the rights, history, and advancement of the LGBTQ community in the U.S.. I think it would be pretty cool to be trendsetters in this social justice movement.