Why LGBTQ Education Is Important
Pride & Education
Why (and how) to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ issues
It is officially the rainbow season. Right now, businesses, neighbors, and friends are showing their support — or their own Pride— by putting up Pride Flags, wearing their rainbow gear, or attending various Pride events.
However, Pride is more than a fun and colorful celebration; Pride is a reminder of the decades of both painful and beautiful work Queer people have done and the continued work we have to do. We still have a long way to go to finally reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We have to make sure, both as Queer people and allies, that our support and work do not become performative or narrow. We have to collectively make sure that the historically underrepresented, silenced, or erased people (i.e people of color, transgender and nonbinary, asexual, and disabled people) are prioritized and brought to the front of the movement. We have to make sure the movement is continuously moving away from and questioning the oppressive social systems that harm everyone; otherwise, it will falter.
Education is fundamental to the continued growth of the movement. There must be education on LGBTQ+ history and the transformative people within it, on collective care and trauma healing, and on access to health care. People must listen to what Queer people need, and learn how to break down sociocultural norms and expectations that harm Queer people and obstruct people’s ability to see us as transformative, belonging people.
Allies as well as Queer people are responsible for this education. Queer people should be listening to other queer people, and learning about our history and our collective power. Allies should be listening to Queer people's needs and experiences (but not demanding or expecting our instruction), confronting homophobia, transphobia and cissexism, advocating for policies protecting the LGBTQ+ community, and working to create more inclusive spaces.
The following are four great books to start or further your education. There is an emphasis on gender— specifically, transgender and non-binary experiences. Transgender and non-binary people are historically underrepresented or silenced in the mainstream LGBTQ+ movement. As a non-binary person, I really believe we, as trans and non-binary people, have a lot to offer in overall gender and sexuality education. Our distinct experiences, which are discussed in the following books, reveal unique approaches to not only the evolution of the LGBTQ+ movement, but the betterment of society, in general.
Although individual education and exploration in human sexuality and LGBTQ+ issues is important, I firmly believe community education is more pivotal. We have to be able to openly talk amongst ourselves and collectively question, eliminate, and rebuild social and cultural systems which form our perceptions of gender and sexuality. We have to collectively investigate our individual and interpersonal relationships with gender and sexuality to create lasting change. In Fine: A Comic About Gender, author Rhea Ewing interviews cisgender, transgender, and non-binary people about their experiences of gender and sexuality. They ask about what gender versus sex means to each person, what femininity or masculinity means to them, how these forces impact their mental health, and how each person interacts with social and cultural gender expectations. Although these are individual interviews, the comic format of the book, featuring Rhea's interjections of their own experiences, feels like a safe, transformative community conversation. I recommend this book as an easy, intimate, and fun way to explore both your personal relationship with gender and sexuality and the potential for community exploration.
Pride and the current LGBTQ+ movement would not exist without the painful, dangerous, yet beautiful work of activists over the decades. Unfortunately, under the capitalized, mainstream Pride representation and the continued suppression of historically marginalized people in the queer community, the names and work of many activists have been buried. Stonewall, which is considered one of the most important events the in LGBTQ+ liberation, was spearheaded by transgender people and people of color, such as Silvia Rivera, Martha P. Johnson, and Ernstine Eckstein. The Stonewall Reader is a collection of activists’ first accounts and LGBTQ+ literature and media prior to, during, and following Stonewall. This is an intimate look at the work and experiences of everyday activists that have been sanitized, whitewashed, or forgotten in the movement. The Stonewall Reader is a necessary book for both Queer people and allies.
Another book on LGBTQ+ history and the activists spearheading the movement is Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution by Susan Stryker. This is chronological account of Transgender history from World War II to the early 2000’s. Stryker covers the evolution of transgender terminology, the interaction between physical and mental health institutions and Transgender people, the growth of grassroots organization and activism, and the backlash Transgender people have experienced within the LGBTQ+ community. Transgender History applies to both the transgender specific experience, and the tangential non-binary experience.
A personally important topic in my Queer experience, in regards to healing and community care, is anarchism. Anarchy gets a bad reputation, mostly because it has been severely misrepresented, particularly in mainstream media. The reality is that anarchists are not causing havoc for havoc’s sake. We aren’t mindlessly destroying things to just destroy; in fact, violence of any kind is a very small, nearly negligible part of being an anarchist. Anarchy is first and foremost about collective care. It is about challenging all of the social and cultural systems that harm people and limit our capabilities, both individually and collectively, to care for each other and communicate non-violently. Anarchy is about healing trauma and creating growing space. Anarchy is about evolution.
Anarchy is also a salient part of the Queer community at large. To many, being queer is not just about not being heterosexual or cisgender. Being queer is also about turning dominant, mainly hetero- and cisnormative beliefs and structures, inside-out. It is about using our experiences to expose where change is needed and explore new social and cultural possibilities—for everyone. Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire is a collection of theoretical, philosophical, and personal writings on anarchic “queering.” The book covers economics, disability discussions, politics, relationships, social structures, sexual ethics, and more. Queering Anarchism is about questioning and changing gender, sexual, economic, and interpersonal norms. It is about listening to Queer voices for an answer on bettering humanity.