BiblioBitch: LGBTQ History on the Bill

Biblio Bitch

For LGBTQ and disability rights activists, allies and California youth, as of April 14th, it got better. The CA senate voted 23-14 in favor of a bill mandating the inclusion of curriculum based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, and if the bill is adopted by the state assembly, the teaching of LGBTQ history will become lawful. Much like the cultural contributions made by women, people of color, immigrants, aboriginals, and workers, if the bill is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California will become the first state to require the inclusion of LGBTQ history in schools. Hardly mentioned in the media thus far, the passage of the bill will also grant people with disabilities long overdue space in California classroom curricula.

Even while opponents comment with predictable yet terrifying homophobic/transphoic threads in online coverage of the bill, and Fox News rants irrational bigotry as usual, it looks as though recent LGBTQ suicides are finally sending a message to state legislators. Proponents of the bill urge teachers to model acceptance, saying that including LGBTQ and PWD history is necessary before youth will understand queer people and people with disabilities as having rights and protections. Whether it took the widely publicized death of Tyler Clementi in September, or Dan Savage and husband Terry Miller’s viral could-be-a-lot-more-inclusive video campaign It Gets Better Project, its youth-led response Make It Better Project, and the vital work of community organizations who have been addressing LGBTQ youth issues for decades, awareness around queer teen suicide prevention and bullying has exploded.

The It Gets Better Project, although it has generated the most publicity of the previously mentioned groups, has been critiqued for tokenizing the t and perhaps b in the acronym, especially in not including enough trans people or addressing the unique and challenging barriers trans people face in the United States. Promising youth that it gets better can trivialize and ignore experiences that don’t match up, meaning for some, life after high school can get even worse. Says Ev Maroon:

I knew there were well adjusted transpeople as I was making my decision to transition, too, but I still made arrangements to take my own life at one point. Knowing “it gets better” is far, far from enough to do anything about the systematic oppression of a group of people. But perhaps it makes Savage feel mushy in his shoes.

LGBTQ youth themselves have been some of the biggest constructive critics of the It Gets Better Project, stating that youth don’t want to wait until high school is over before life becomes livable, rather, they are encouraging youth to support each other with clear steps for youth and adults to create change now. 

Male, white, cisgender, affluent and famous, Dan and Terry are touring the launch of the It Gets Better Project book—a collection of stories from campaign supporters—and a book that culminates the largest collective effort to stop queer bullying in schools, ever.  Let’s hope one day soon their book will be stocked on the shelves of public school libraries alongside many more in LGBTQ history and culture across California and beyond.

by Mel Mundell
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5 Comments Have Been Posted

Dan Savage is every -ist in

<P>Dan Savage is every -ist in the book, and then some. I hope his column tanks and makes room for stronger voices that don't need to rely on prejudiced humor for a cheap laugh.</P>

That's a shockingly poor,

That's a shockingly poor, sour and insulting shout-out to the It Gets Better Project. Solidarity fail. Savage frequently hat-tips kids making it better, including the Making the Better Project. Seriously failing to acknowledge some fantastic responses inspired by this project, including the still-critical but affirmative messages by folk. But people have made up their minds about Dan Savage. It makes me sad that we can't acknowledge lines of solidarity and celebrate creative strategies and interventions, especially ones that invite democratic collaboration. Not quite sure what to make of the line at the end "Let's hope one day soon their book will be stocked on the shelves of public school libraries". Was that sarcasm? This will do nothing to get any of those right-on books on library shelves, but I suppose we can be satisfied with our own sense of moral disenabling superiority. Is the really the tone on how to begin this conversation--I guess rich (?) cis-gendered white gay males are the enemy. Disgusted and disappointed.

This Wisconsin queer wants to

This Wisconsin queer wants to give props to the good folks at California's GSA Network (including the students with whom they work) for advocating and lobbying for this measure. A good follow up article would focus less on Dan Savage and the folks on the ground who have been fighting for the inclusion of LGBTQ people, history, and events for years. I would also love to hear more about the folks in the disability community who lobbied for this legislation.

Just LAST NIGHT he told a

Just LAST NIGHT he told a crowd of 300 that Rick Santorum is trans. As a joke. During a Q&A in which several people asked about the criticism from many that he is trans-phobic. If he is willing to use trans-ness as a joke even in that context, he's too unprincipled to lead an anti-bullying movement.
I wrote up the lecture on my blog today:

Re: That's a shockingly poor,...I was not being sarcastic AT

<p>I was not being sarcastic AT ALL about wanting to see the It Gets Better book in school libraries and for the project to reach as many people as possible. I can see why you misread some of my comments and agree that my summary paragraph was unclear. In writing for Bitch readers I assumed that most people would be familiar with the many positive aspects about the It Gets Better project that I felt it important to mention the ways in which this campaign is not inclusive to all members of the queer community. In particular, when the trans community faces by far the highest rates of suicide and violence in the LGBT. <a href=" National Transgender Discrimination Survey</a> published in 2010 states:</p>
<blockquote>When asked “have you ever attempted suicide?” 41% of respondents answered yes.&nbsp; According to government health estimates, five million, or 1.6%, of currently living Americans have attempted suicide in the course of their lives.</blockquote><p>So many well-intentioned organizations in the queer community tack on the "T" without addressing the unique needs and issues faced by trans people.&nbsp; The reason I listed Dan and Terry's identity characteristics, crudely and unclearly perhaps, was my attempt to illustrate how they are leveraging their privilege to access an enormous audience and publicize a very important issue--how they appear to be primarily addressing experiences similar to their own, ones that are gay, white, middle class, and cisgendered. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

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