If you take a look at this list of famous gay people from LAMBDA.org, you'll note that many of them are in the history books -- with no mention of them being gay.
In learning the history of early civilization, does it matter that Alexander the Great was probably gay? In studying about famous women writers through the ages, is it worth knowing that Sappho, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf were likely lesbians? Does it matter, historically, that Eleanor Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover could have been homosexual?
California says yes.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill yesterday that requires public schools in his state to include the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in their curriculum. "History should be honest," he said in a statement. "This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books."
The bill is believed to be the first of its kind. California already had a strong foundation of inclusive curriculum, with laws requiring its schools to teach about the contributions of Native Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Asian-Americans, and other groups. The "gay history" law takes effect next year, but new textbooks reflecting it won't be released for a few more years.
Religious and conservative groups, such as the Christian lobbyist group the Traditional Values Coalition, say the new law is an "outrage" and that Gov. Brown "has opened the classroom door for homosexual activists to indoctrinate the minds of California's youth."
Gerald Unks, editor of the newsletter The Gay Teen, has another view. "Within the typical secondary school curriculum, homosexuals do not exist. They are 'nonpersons' in the finest Stalinist sense. They have fought no battles, held no offices, explored nowhere, written no literature, built nothing, invented nothing and solved no equations. The lesson to the heterosexual is abundantly clear: homosexuals do nothing of consequence. To the homosexual student, the message has even greater power: no one who has ever felt as you do has done anything worth mentioning."
Like the "It Gets Better Project" -- a website where celebs and regular folks alike post videos to support struggling gay teens -- gay-inclusive history books and lessons could help show GLBT students that being gay is something good -- or at least no longer taboo.
What's your take? Is California onto something smart or overstepping its bounds?
Check out these other resources for gay teens.