Invisible history and the California FAIR Education Bill

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/73/Bent_2007_poster.jpgOften on this blog I will allude to what to me are familiar pieces of literature or facts about the history and context of the lives of LGBTQ people.

I make these references and allusions to harken to an expansive LGBT human history.

I also make them because they are the thoughts that spring to my mind when events happen to queer lives today.

I make them to allude to the fact that the patterns, the social practices, the structures that come together to crush the lives of queer people are not new… are not accidental… and are murderous in their full intent.

These patterns of silencing and erasing queer histories are meant to rid our world of queer lives.

And so this past week I twice referred to “Bending” history to include LGBTQ lives.

Since those two postings it has been brought to my attention that this allusion is missed by most people – ironically – for the very reason something like the FAIR Education Bill is necessary.

So because this history can be erased as quickly as it can be written down, let me explain my particular use of this reference.

When I suggested that it is time to Bend history – I was thinking of the historical play Bent.  And both the topic of this play as well as the hidden historical knowledge revealed through the production of this play for me alludes to the current educational practice of silence and neutrality with regard to queer lives.

The production of the play Bent both revealed the story of the Nazi attempt to erase all gay lives as well as the academic erasure of this history of a people.

And I find both practices equally murderous in their intent.

Here is how wiki introduces the story behind the play Bent:

Bent is a two-hour 1979 play by Martin Sherman. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, and takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives.

The title of the play refers to the slang word “bent” used in some European countries to refer to homosexuals. When the play was first performed, there was only a small trickle of historical research or even awareness about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. In some regards, the play helped increase that historical research and education in the 1980s and 1990s.

In two short paragraphs some wiki writer has summed up my experience of the brutality of both overt and covert anti-gay practices.  One can imprison and execute gays — or one can simply erase the entire history of oppression and suggest that this uncomfortable knowledge does not exist or is ‘inappropriate.’

Both moves serve precisely the same function.

So as I track the movement of this little social studies bill in California, as I read articles with these sorts of quotes justifying the intentional suppression of history:

This is teaching children from kindergarten on up that the homosexual, bisexual, transsexual lifestyle is something to admire and consider for themselves,” Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a group advocating against the bill, told FoxNews.com.

Thomasson said teachers should teach about homosexuals’ historical accomplishments but should not be forced to mention their sexual orientation.

“Teach them about the good behavior, the noble things that people have done, but you don’t have to go into what they do sexually… True history focuses on the accomplishments of people; it doesn’t talk about what they did in the bedroom.”

I am struck once again by the patterned and systemic erasure of queer lives.  Acknowledge the existance of these American people – just please “straighten” them out when you talk about them. Because really what did the private behavior in the bedroom have to do with those holocaust prisoners lives?

Oh, right. Everything.
So queer it, bend it, gay it up – I don’t care what we do.
It is quite simply time to teach the U.S. history of oppression and the struggle for liberation of all of the people in the margins.
We are America.
And ours are also the stories of human struggles and of victories. Stories of a will to be that would make any social studies curriculum come alive.
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