Guest blog from Council member Anti-Defamation League
Written by: Scott Hirschfeld, Director of Curriculum and Sarah Woodbury, Operations and Field Outreach Coordinator, Government and National Affairs Office
LGBT History Month is an important opportunity to bring to light the “Unheard Voices” of LGBT history throughout schools and school communities. The historic contributions of the LGBT community are for all intents and purposes invisible and too rarely acknowledged in the lessons we teach and their histories are all but imperceptible in the instructional materials we count on to describe the world.
In response to the lack of representation of the LGBT community in school curricula and the recent spate of bullying and violence against LGBT youth, ADL, GLSEN and StoryCorps have collaborated to create “Unheard Voices,” an oral history and curriculum project that will help educators to integrate LGBT history, people and issues into their instructional programs. Through a number of audio interviews, “Unheard Voices” highlights the amazing stories of brave individuals who helped shape the history of the LGBT community. These interviews portray the positive influence the LGBT community has had and help fight against the pervasive negative stereotypes that are so pernicious in our society. The audio interviews are accompanied by backgrounders and lesson plans that will help teachers and students understand the historical importance of the LGBT community.
The number of recent suicides among young people who were bullied or harassed because they were gay or perceived to be gay highlights how the lack of acknowledgement of the LGBT community in our education system can be incredibly damaging to young people. A 2009 survey by GLSEN indicated that a majority of students did not learn about the contributions of the LGBT community nor were they exposed to positive representations of the community. Students who were not exposed to information about the contributions of the LGBT community to our society reported higher instances of bullying and harassment towards those students who were considered to be gay or lesbian. Conversely, the GLSEN study indicates that in schools with positive representations of LGBT topics in the curriculum, LGBT students were less likely to report hearing homophobic remarks or experiencing victimization at school, and more likely to report that school personnel and their peers intervened when homophobic remarks occurred.
The resources in Unheard Voices can serve as almost a lifeline for LGBT youth and a potent bullying prevention tool. LGBT inclusive curricula can help educators to create more honest and accurate instructional programs, as well as safer and more affirming environments for all youth.
“Unheard Voices” is available for free download here.