Growing up, I was fortunate to learn about the rich history of men and women who made a difference in the world throughout the centuries. My school made sure to teach us about extraordinary women like Sally Ride, Florence Nightingale and Eleanor Roosevelt. I lived in Prince George’s County, a predominantly black area of Maryland, so I was lucky to learn about inspiring figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Sojourner Truth and more in my formative years.
Unfortunately in the 1990s, when I grew up, American society was just starting to get the message that being gay was OK, so none of my teachers acknowledged LGBTQ history. It wasn’t until I was 16 years old, working part time at a public library and doing my own research that I found out writers like Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and James Baldwin were gay. I had learned much about them in my English classes, but I guess my teachers decided to skip that detail.
LGBTQ people have existed throughout history and made tremendous contributions to American culture, yet no one talked about them in school, and there were hardly any books available highlighting the brave queer and trans people who paved the way for the rest of us. If I had known about them, I might not have suffered through years of alienation, confusion and self-hatred. I would have learned to love and embrace my true self sooner.
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