"Some people say the life that I've lived and the performances I gave... I should be proud of that. I am. But when do you stop being proud?”
- Tina Turner
How does one even begin to justify pride, the first of the Seven Deadly Sins? Then, to compound the challenge, how to write about LGBTQ Pride, when same-sex love and transgender self-expression are still considered “sinful” by so many around the world?
In fact, it is our defense of being LGBTQ that elicits our pride. If no adverse moral judgment were attached to being an LGBTQ person – if it were as neutral, let’s say, as being brunette or having freckles or showing a preference for spinach over peas, who would care?
Sadly, the moment one is identified or self-identifies as a sexual or gender minority person, the gears of social discomfort, opprobrium, and rejection are still persistently activated. Disrupting the heterosexual/cisgender assumption in our social engagements is so often disturbing to the majority.
LGBTQ pride is our answer to the often implied, and sometimes asked, “Aren’t you ashamed? Why can’t you just keep it to yourself?” There is an old wry observation that “the sin that once could not speak its name now can’t just shut up.” In fact, it might shut up whenever that day comes that there is nothing remarkable about sexual or gender minorities. Until then, expressions of LGBTQ pride are a public demonstration that we have nothing to be ashamed of or to hide.
Yet another important function of LGBTQ pride is to explode the “single story” aspect to our community. There is no one way to be a sexual or gender minority person. We are as diverse as humanity itself over centuries and that truth has to be driven home in how we present to the public – culturally, politically, artistically, and spiritually. And on Pride Day!
History shows that minorities are often handed a script (both by external forces and also by their minority community itself) which they are expected to follow. That can be helpful for young people in the first stages of identity development. They need the sense of safety that group solidarity can confer and they look for role models. But, as they mature, the policing of sexual and gender conformity, can be a negative force in their lives.
For over 50 years, since their own liberation, LGBTQ people, by their example, have gifted their heterosexual and cisgender brothers and sisters expanded boundaries of sexuality and gender expression that otherwise can be narrow and suffocating. Queer studies, emanating from the academy, have had a profound effect on breaking down rigid notions of gender and sexuality. At this moment in American history, fewer people than ever, particularly the young, are satisfied to confine themselves to the strictures imposed by conventional sexuality and gender labels. Hence the reaction of the Right, who depend on cultural and religious certainty in going about their lives, is to declare a moral panic. Fluidity and ambiguity threaten the foundation of their worldview.
Teaching for Equity
Those of us who are educators have an obligation to teach about the complexities of the world. Despite the efforts of science and mathematics to discover causes and predict outcomes, we humans defy definitive analysis in the workings of our lives. That is not to say that the virtues and goals of a democratic and egalitarian society are all relativistic and unachievable. We want our students to aspire to the civic goals set out in our amended Constitution, to act with kindness and compassion toward others, and to build caring communities. We want them to be proud to be enablers of America’s highest values – not to be proud just to be Americans.
Because teachers are preparing students for active citizenship in a diverse world, we must teach about that diversity in a thorough and expansive way. We cannot limit our study of race to Black History Month, our exploration of gender to Women’s History Month, or our attention to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to LGBTQ History Month. These critical and intersecting topics must be woven into the curriculum all year long. And they are not confined to Social Studies. We have a rich literary canon to study as well – not to mention opportunities to see the connections, sometimes merely imputed between Science and human experience.
And we must not silo sexuality into the Health class alone. Students do need a safe space to learn about many kinds of healthy relationships and health risk reduction, but there is a clear downside to the medicalization of any sexuality or gender identity when there is little counter-narrative.
There is strength in culture and polity that is not monolithic. It is something to be celebrated. We have the opportunity – just in our vast and variegated country – to value our differences and, at the same time, to rejoice in the espoused values that unite us. Now that would be something to be proud of all year round.
Continue your learning. Explore additional resources:
- Educate your students - The ADL has round up a robust list of K-12 curriculum, children’s books, and other resources to bring LGBTQ Pride Month to your schools and classrooms.
- Be Inclusive - MyPronouns.org provides a comprehensive overview of how to be inclusive with your words, why pronouns matter, and more.
- Know the terms - what you should and shouldn't say when referencing the LGBTQ community.
- Show your support - Support a charity in their work to champion diversity and support the community and celebrate pride, check out the 2021 International Pride Event Calendar.
- Design for Equity. Learn how to create an inclusive classroom where every student, regardless of their zip code, the color of their skin, the language they speak, their sexual and/or gender identity, and whether or not they have a disability, has the opportunity to be successful.
Unless one indicates otherwise, one is assumed to be straight and cisgender.
See LGBTQ-inclusive curricula in Language Arts and Social Studies at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/safe-schools-program-for-lgbtq-students - inclusive-curriculum-materials-