Eager to Learn, Denied the Chance: The Struggle for LGBTQ+ Education in America

To the young and fiercely progressive readers of this platform, here’s a revelation that’s bound to ruffle your feathers: Only a meager 13.8 percent of over 12,600 LGBTQ+ students claim to have encountered a lesson in their history classes that touched upon LGBTQ+ history. Shocking, isn’t it?

As the digital age engulfs us, countless LGBTQ+ kids are resorting to the vastness of the internet to understand and embrace their identities. They scroll, they click, they watch – all to catch a glimpse of a reflection of their own selves in a historical context, something their school textbooks fail to provide.

A deep dive into a recent survey orchestrated by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut uncovers this glaring discrepancy in the US education system. Ryan Watson, the survey’s lead researcher, expressed his bewilderment at how few LGBTQ+ students actually see themselves represented in what they’re taught. While academia has been clamoring for inclusivity for over a decade, lawmakers seem to be swimming upstream.

Not only are these young minds being deprived of inclusive education, but state legislatures are also passing what is infamously coined as “Don’t Say Gay” laws. These laws, based on misguided notions and unsound arguments, bar educators from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity. The irony is palpable as these lawmakers claim to protect the children, but from what? Knowledge? Acceptance? Understanding?

Take the example of Willie Carver’s high school students in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Before his class, many students had never even heard the words ‘gay’ or ‘trans’. However, their thirst for knowledge led them to create a student club, “Open Light”, where they taught themselves LGBTQ history, women’s history, and Black history. How’s that for some student-led initiatives?

But while their spirit is commendable, it’s deeply unsettling that these students felt the need to do so. Their endeavor is a clear indication of the gaping hole in our educational system – one that shies away from embracing and educating about diversity. Carver’s experience, tinged with pride and disappointment, is reflective of a larger issue: sanitized curriculums can alienate students who are hungry for information that resonates with their reality.

The silencing doesn’t stop at school. Even at a college level, there’s a deafening silence around LGBTQ+ topics. Gabe, a trans man from Florida, recalls his entire education, right up to his bachelor’s degree, without a hint of LGBTQ+ history.

But, as Carver pointed out, in this day and age, trying to impose bans on knowledge is a futile endeavor. Young minds are curious, resourceful, and technologically equipped. They will seek, and they will find. The real battle isn’t about what’s taught in schools; it’s about the recognition and acceptance of these young souls, eager to learn, and deserving of respect.

So to every policy maker, educator, or concerned citizen reading this – let’s not make these students fight for an education that should be their right. Let’s not make them search for a mirror to see themselves. Let’s be that mirror.