In hopes of preventing bullying, California may require textbooks to include the “contributions” of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, reports the Los Angeles Times. Social studies books and other materials would have to include “a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans … to the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.”
Since California buys so many textbooks, “publishers often produce books tailored to California that other states use as well,” notes the Times. On the other hand, the state has postponed buying new books for several years because of the enormous budget deficit.
Gay rights activists say the legislation is overdue and would extend recognition long provided in textbooks and classrooms to historical figures who are African American, Latino and Asian American.
Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, introduced the bill.
In an emotional plea for the bill at a recent legislative hearing, Leno invoked the name of Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old student from Tehachapi who committed suicide last year after facing anti-gay bullying at school.
“In light of the ongoing and ever-threatening phenomenon of bullying and the tragic result of suicides, it seems to me that better informed students might be more welcoming in their approach to differences among their classmates,” Leno said in an interview. “Students would better understand that we are talking about a civil rights movement.”
I don’t believe bullies wouldn’t bully if they just knew about Walt Whitman and Willa Cather or even Bayard Rustin.
But it seems churlish to keep gay Americans in the closet when we already stuff textbooks with the “contributions” of racial and ethnic minorities, plus exemplary women. Crispus Attucks gets equal play with Samuel Adams, the beer guy. FDR’s space shrinks to make room for Eleanor.
Perhaps discussing whether Abraham Lincoln was gay will engage students who prefer to discuss sex rather than states rights, slavery or industrialization.
The new biography of Gandhi suggests he had a homoerotic relationship with a bodybuilder in South Africa. Gandhi was gay? If only the bullies knew!