OP-ED: Teaching LGBT History

BY COUNCILMAN DANIEL DROMM

All kids need to learn gay history.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have made huge contributions to our country, yet few people know.

Recently, I met with a major education publisher and asked the company to bring examples of how they cover gay history. They brought me five small trade books – most were fiction, one was not. That’s all they had.

22B Dromm Op-Ed PicHistory books have been whitewashed of any reference to gay history. This presents a false history. Our stories need to be told and we can start right here in Queens.

Even before I was elected to the City Council, I set out to co-name certain streets after important LGBT New Yorkers – markers of our presence in the Borough.

Along 37th Avenue on 78th Street and 77th Street in Jackson Heights, two corners are dedicated to gay men who lost their lives to anti-gay violence – Julio Rivera and Edgar Garzon.

Guillermo Vasquez Corner (Broadway and 77th Street, Elmhurst) commemorates a leading Colombian gay rights and AIDS activist.

Jeanne, Jules, Morty Manford PFLAG Way on 171st Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing marks the former Manford family home now known as the cradle of the gay rights movement.

Naming the U.S. Tennis Association Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park after lesbian activist Billie Jean King was a great tribute to her LGBT activism as well as her incredible professional career.

All kids need to know these things and LGBT kids deserve to have LGBT role models.

They need to know that Bayard Rustin, the mastermind behind the 1963 March on Washington, was an out, proud African American New Yorker.

Teaching the history of the LGBT rights movement will help children understand how we arrived at the point today where same sex couples can marry in New York State. It didn’t just happen in a vacuum.

It all started in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn when a group of outcasts fought back against police corruption. When President Obama, in his second inaugural address, mentioned this rebellion, it made significant reference to gay history in history books required.

Yet so much of our history remains missing. It’s time for the truth to be told. For as the old adage goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm was elected to the City Council in 2009 after a 25 year career as a NYC public school teacher. He publicly came out in 1992 to support an inclusive curriculum that taught tolerance of all of New York’s diverse communities including LGBT people. Realizing the need for more LGBT visibility in Queens, he founded the Queens LGBT Pride Parade in 1993. Dromm represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and is chair of the Council’s Education Committee.