Honoring LGBTQ History Month

Recent events show why it matters now more than ever


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

In late September, the school board in Maquoketa, IA, a town 30 miles south of Dubuque, became the latest to find itself embroiled in the debate over classroom inclusiveness. 

According to the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press, the school board responded to concerned parents expressing outrage specifically over one teacher’s display of a Black Lives Matter flag and a Pride flag. The school board proposed a policy that limits employee expression to “classroom displays … primarily focused on curriculum,” as opposed to displays some parents and community members deemed “polarizing.” 

While such policies ostensibly limit all political statements in classroom spaces, it matters that inclusive flags were the direct, explicit reason for this proposed policy shift. Many school districts hide behind the premise of moderating all divisive speech acts to appease reactionary parents targeting LGBTQ visibility. 

The problem is that these policies implicitly link support for marginalized communities with a political position—as opposed to basic human decency—and reiterate the distance from so-called norms inclusive language and images attempt to abridge. 

Such efforts to limit diversity and inclusion in the classroom are not limited to flags. The American Library Association has noted a remarkable increase in efforts to ban books, especially LGBTQ-themed books. Some legislators want to follow the model of Florida with excessively broad educational gag orders, often called “Don’t Say Gay” bills. 

While it is appropriate to draw attention to these anti-LGBTQ efforts at any time, October serves as a particularly opportune time to focus on the importance of inclusive images, language and even curriculum in classrooms at all age levels because October is LGBTQ History Month. 

Observing October as LGBTQ History Month began in 1994. Whereas Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, LGBTQ History Month was envisioned to coincide with the school year to encourage acknowledging the importance of LGBTQ lives and communities in curriculum. 

Additionally, since the late 1980s, Oct. 11 has been celebrated as National Coming Out day, an event meant to honor the Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which occurred in October 1987. It is possible that people reading this column may be unaware of, or only marginally aware of, the Stonewall Uprising and the 1987 march. This lack of knowledge highlights what we miss when we suppress LGBTQ history and why we should teach it to address that suppression.

Existing is not a political act. Intentionally denying the existence of others is purely political in the worst way. As efforts to erase, suppress and deny LGBTQ existence creep ever northward, this month offers a chance to seek out ways to learn more about the history reactionaries are working so hard to deny.