Pride Month: Celebrations, Civil Rights, & Educational Equity

clouds with hands holding gay pride flag
The History of Pride
June is Pride Month, a national celebration commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Uprising—an important moment in LGBTQ history. Influenced by the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, this uprising was a response to discriminatory laws and practices. The first march, which occurred in 1970 was organized by activist Brenda Howard, also known as “The Mother of Pride.” 
 
During the month of June, LGBTQ communities gather together in the name of diversity, self-affirmation, and social justice. The Pride flag we see prominently displayed during this time was designed in 1978. Its bright stripes pay homage to the stripes on the American flag. Its rainbow of bold colors represents difference and inclusion broadly, and the principles of life, healing, sunlight, and harmony more specifically.
 
While allies can and should participate in Pride events, these events are geared toward those who feel their gender or sexual identities fall outside of the mainstream. LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Once used as a pejorative term, ‘queer’ is now used as an umbrella term for those who identify as non-straight. 

LGBTQ Curricula
California was the first state to require the study of LGBTQ history in schools with the Fair Education Act (2011). According to former Governor Jerry Brown, “history should be honest. This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books” (Walker, 2019).
 
States that followed suit include New Jersey, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois. Illinois State Senator Heather Steans asserted: “It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions of LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment” (Walker, 2019). 
 
This is critical. LGBTQ youth have been found to be at a significant and increased risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidality (Russell & Fish 2016). These risks are even more pronounced for youth who are transgender and/or nonbinary (Price-Feeney, Dorison, 2020), thus making LGBTQ youth especially vulnerable to unique and negative mental health outcomes related to COVID-19.

Want to Learn More?
For more information on how to commemorate PRIDE and best support LGBTQ students all year long, check out the following websites for guides, toolkits, and more focused on creating safe spaces:

- ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
- GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
- Teaching Tolerance

Dr. Sierra Austin is a graduate of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at The Ohio State University, with a focus on race and social justice. Sierra's research (done in our member district Columbus City Schools), activism, work focused on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change. She offers professional development through the ESC focused on equity, consultation, and community workshops.

References:
Price-Feeney, M., green, A. E., & Dorison, S. (in press). Understanding the mental health of
     transgender and nonbinary youth. Journal of Adolescent Health.
 
Russell, S.T., & Fish, J. N. (2016) Mental health in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
     (LGBT) youth. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12, 465-487).
 
Walker, Harron. “Here's Every State That Requires Schools to Teach LGBTQ+ History.” OUT, Out Magazine, 
     16 Aug. 2019, 9:14am, www.out.com/news/2019/8/16/heres-every-state-requires-schools-teach-lgbtq-history.