Teaching Pride History

When I first started teaching at CCSF a young Korean student firmly told me that there were no homosexuals in his country. Just a few years later another Korean student, and his global classmates, were bringing photos to class from The Gay Pride parade. There has been an international cultural shift among young people and the conversation about LGBTQ identity has become more open. I have a male student who tells stories in class about his husband. And I also have other students who express a religious opinion that homosexuality is a sin. I know that I have LGBTQ students from across genders, across cultures, across class, across caste, and across abilities in my classes. I want them to know, without embarrassment, that they are seen and that they are safe in my class. 

The Gay Pride Movement is part of San Francisco's culture and people flock here from around the world to live in freedom. And so I have developed lessons, as part of my Civil Rights curriculum, on LGBTQ Rights as a Human Rights Issue. When approached this way, all students are able to connect to the universal desire to live in safety. And many look to the culture of their home country with new eyes and a fresh commitment to building LGBTQ movements there.

The NY Times did a beautiful series on Coming Out a few years ago, and my students were very moved by an interactive photo essay by John Albuquerque, a young man describing his life experience growing up gay in The Bronx. It is a very personal story and the students are moved by it. It easily led into a research assignment on the high rate of suicide among LGBTQ youth and best practices for preventing bullying and harassment. It made my students curious to know more about The Queer Resource Center on our campus and The SF LGBT Center in our city.

This set a frame for us, as a learning community, to explore LGBTQ protection as a commitment made by The United Nations. From there we explored some California history, studying Proposition 6 written in 1978 by State Senator John Briggs that would have prevented gays and lesbians from serving as public school teachers. And we studied the local boycott of orange juice in response to Anita Bryant and her proposal for a special referendum attacking LGBTQ rights. That gave us the foundation to understand the life and legacy of Harvey Milk, elected to the city's Board of Supervisors, who built coalitions across San Francisco communities to defeat John Briggs and Anita Bryant, activating a proud and resilient LGBTQ community where citizens could live without shame. There is so much rich history, from The riots at Compton's Cafe in San Francisco to Stonewall Riots in New York city, and beyond.

This weekend my city, San Francisco, celebrates its annual Pride Parade in style. The Rainbow Flag, a symbol of unity for the LGBTQ community was created here, and wherever you go this week you'll see this flag flying, as people from all over the world gather to celebrate the freedom to love. In this spirit of festivity,  as educators and lifelong learners, let's remember the vision, the courage and the love exemplified by those who fought for this moment of self-expression. Freedom of expression for LGBTQ folk is still a human rights issue and the safety of the LGBTQ community is still real. As educators and lifelong learner let's study this history, tell these stories in our classrooms with pride.

Photos of the Asian Art Museum and City Hall by Dayamudra Ann Dennehy. Flower Power street art by Megan Wilson.

Photos of the Asian Art Museum and City Hall by Dayamudra Ann Dennehy. Flower Power street art by Megan Wilson.