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October is LGBTQ History Month and Illinois has an extra reason to celebrate in 2020: the LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum Law is now in effect for Illinois public schools.

An initiative of Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Legacy Project—and proudly supported by Planned Parenthood of Illinois—this law makes Illinois one of just five states to require the inclusion of LGBTQ contributions in history classes taught in public schools.

This law is another step bringing us closer to telling our nation’s complete history. And it’s so important.

In Illinois, 88% of LGBTQ students have heard the word “gay” as a slur and only 24% of LGBTQ students in Illinois were taught anything positive in their classrooms about people like them. 

Kyle, a recent Illinois high school graduate and current PPIL gender affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) patient reflected on his own high school classroom experience:

I didn’t learn anything about queer contributions to history in my high school classes. I also didn’t learn about the gay rights movement, despite it being tied so closely to other civil rights movements.”

If Kyle had the opportunity to learn about LGBTQ history in school, he said he “wouldn't have felt so isolated in my experiences. And it could have deterred cisgender and heterosexual students from making derogatory remarks and using hateful slurs. High school is an easy place to feel ‘other’, and being so openly queer was a definite contributor to my otherness, especially living in a small rural community.”

PPIL offers GAHT at all 18 health centers statewide, which is especially important for people like Kyle who live in central Illinois. According to Dana Garber, PPIL’s Transgender Hormone Program Intake Coordinator and GAHT Case Manager, two thirds of our GAHT patients live in rural communities. In a previous blog post, Dana explains in detail how GAHT works at PPIL and lays out the additional services we provide, such as resources for vocal therapy and counseling, and assistance with legal name changesso when one of our GAHT patients makes history, they can be accurately named in history books!

History shows that LGBTQ people have been scientists and humanitarians, politicians and authors, and so much more. Thanks to the Inclusive Curriculum Law, Illinois students can now learn that the architect of the 1963 March on Washington was activist Bayard Rustin, a gay Black man. They can learn about important women like the Mother of Social Work, Illinoisan Jane Addams, and the first American woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride—who were both lesbians. Importantly, students will be able to learn about events like the Stonewall Uprising and how LGBTQ people contributed to the Harlem Renaissance.

Under Illinois’ new Inclusive Curriculum Law, LGBTQ students like Kyle will finally see role models presented accurately in history. And non-LGBTQ students will have a more thorough understanding of our history and of the great diversity in our nation. And that’s a reason to celebrate.

Mike Ziri (he/him) is Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois.

Tags: LGBTQ, education, history