45% of young LGBTQ+ people seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021. This is in large part due to the stigma that can be associated with our LGBTQ+ identities, including questioning the appropriateness of LGBTQ+ inclusive state standards, and exclusion of related topics in schools.
Last week I gave a public comment at the Colorado State Board of Education meeting about the public health evidence for including LGBTQ+ history and identities in elementary state standards. In 2019 the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 19-1192 during the legislative session requiring that the Colorado Social Studies Standards include diverse histories including:
“The history, culture, and social contributions of American Indians, Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Individuals within these minority groups, the contributions and persecution of religious minorities, and the intersectionality of significant social and cultural features within these communities.”
The Board of Education is currently considering the adoption of these standards, and I believe it is critical for our community to understand the potential impact of requiring the inclusion of intersectional LGBTQ+ history in all grade levels, both as a social scientist and a community member.
We know that the risk for negative outcomes like substance use and death are increased when children do not see themselves reflected in the world around them, including in the history books they read at school. Research and past evidence show that LGBTQ+ youth are at increased risk for negative mental, behavioral, and physical health outcomes which lead to low learning outcomes. Data from reputable sources like the United States Department of Education, the National Education Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychology Association and many more state that in order to improve the mental, behavioral and physical health of LGBTQ+ youth, there must be opportunities for them to feel affirmed and safe in our communities. In fact, according to the Trevor Project, the largest survey of LGBTQ+ young people in the US, LGBTQ+ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ+ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than those who did not.
In 2022, we are seeing unprecedented efforts to undo the gains that have been made for LGBTQ+ people in this country. In the first six months of the year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already identified over 130 bans, filed in more than 30 states, that limit the way LGBTQ+ students can participate in society. Laws that target schools make it impossible to teach the truth of our history by building a culture of fear for our teachers, negatively impacting our students access to equitable learning spaces.
Florida’s recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a prime example of this. Among other things, the bill makes it possible for parents to sue teachers that mention gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K-3. Executive action by Governor Greg Abbott of Texas designates life-saving gender-affirming care as child abuse, adding to the expectations for mandatory reporting for teachers. In our own state, the Colorado Board of Education is currently considering if LGBTQ+ history will be removed from the state standards for grades four and below.
As an LGBTQ+ person, and someone actively working in the community to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ young people, I have had the unique opportunity of hearing how the current climate is impacting them.
I want to tell you about Julia, a biracial queer teen who just graduated from high school. Julia is a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. She recently stood in front of the Colorado Board of Education to share her truth – that not seeing LGBTQ+ people in her elementary curriculum was detrimental not only to her capacity to learn but also to her mental health and identity formation. Julia’s testimonial is only one example, but it stands as a powerful reminder of why the inclusion of intersectional LGBTQ+ history in the social studies standards is so important.
It’s easy science, and I’ve been studying this exact thing for the last 10 years. Intersectional LGBTQ+ inclusive social studies standards at the elementary level would support the mental health of all children by improving the culture of schools to be affirming of LGBTQ+ identities, model respect and kindness for other people regardless of difference, and ultimately help the children of Colorado live longer, happier, healthier fulfilling lives for all students.
Do you want to make sure LGBTQ+ history is included in the state social studies standards? Please write to the Colorado State Board of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org and affirm the social studies standards.
…………………Dr. Jax Gonzalez, MA, MEd
(This letter to the editor was written as a personal statement, and does not represent the views of their place of business)
Disclaimer: The opinions and alleged facts expressed in “letters to the editor” are not necessarily a reflection of the official policy or position of any staff member or contributing writer or that of the Lyons Recorder. The material has not been researched or confirmed by the newspaper staff.