By Xóchil Ramírez
Boyle Heights Beat
Guedea, a senior at Esteban Torres High School who identifies as queer was a panelist at a Queer History Forum held Oct. 12 at Self Help Graphics.
Community members gathered to discuss the importance of LGBTQ history, and its implementation in California schools’ curricula. The event –titled “Our Queer Past: Shaping Our Future”– also featured a panel, where students and adult allies shared their experiences with LGBTQ history.
The event began by screening Nancy From Eastside Clover, a short documentary about an elder, Latina queer woman from East LA. In the film, Nancy Valverde shares stories of being harassed and arrested by police in the 1950’s because of the “Masquerading Laws” which did not allow people to wear clothes that were associated with the opposite gender.
Director Gregorio Dávila and executive producer Richard Corral said it was important for queer people of color to recognize LGBTQ History that is not acknowledged. They also talked about their larger project, L.A. A Queer History, which features “symbolic queer heroes who have impacted the world we live in today.”
Another speaker was Erik Adamian, Community Engagement and Program Coordinator at the One Archives Foundation, who shared a story about himself as a young boy learning about his identity. “I was discovering things about my sexuality, and because I didn’t feel safe enough to go to the GSA [Gay Student Alliance] at my school, I turned to my textbooks. I was disappointed to find there were [no LGBTQ heroes there]. That led to a bunch of scary thoughts about myself and my future.”
Adamian explained that the foundation –which supports the One Archives at USC– provides teacher training for lessons plans that promote diversity. They also conduct research examining the school climate in regards to LGBTQ-based curriculum.
Adamian shared one study, which found that students who attended schools that were inclusive of LGBTQ history-based curricula, were half as likely to experience victimization in their school environment than those who attended schools that did not. It also found that 63% of students were never taught about LGBTQ people, history, or events in their classes.
Krystal Torres, from Out for Safe Schools, spoke about the significance of the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education (FAIR) Act which was signed into law in 2011. The legislature called for the incorporation of LGBTQ history in California schools’ curriculum.
She discussed the value of local advocacy and knowledge sharing, especially in cases where textbook publishers do not align their material to what is required by the FAIR Act.
“You need parents and students talking to their administrators and telling them how important [the inclusion of LGBTQ History] is to them. If we don’t have that pressure at the ground level, everything that happens with textbooks and the framework [is ignored]”, she said.
LAUSD Board member Ref Rodriguez, who identifies as a gay Latino man, questioned why some schools in California are not including LGBTQ history in academic courses.
“The law requires that we teach LGBTQ history in our schools. If people don’t know that it’s required, they won’t demand, it. There’s still places where you don’t see this being taught. LAUSD needs to support teachers with lesson plans and training so that they’re able to implement curriculum that includes all voices, particularly the LGBTQ voice”
The panelists explained why being aware of LGBTQ history is important to them.
Justin Escala, a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School shared, “I feel that queer history is important because people are naturally afraid of what they don’t know. The more we mention it, the more open minded, and respectful we will be.”
“It provides that safe space to come out, and build community with their peers” said Citlali Rosas, a student at California State University Northridge.
Emily Grijalva, a GSA Advisor and English teacher at Mendez High School expressed her support for her students through an academic setting.
“As an educator you need to make sure that your curriculum reflects students’ identities”, Grijalva said. “If we’re trying to combat oppression, we need to have those conversations in the classroom. We need to create a safe space for our LGBTQ youth. I make sure to integrate it into my English classes.”