With the passage of the California FAIR Education Act in 2011, educators laid the groundwork for an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum. This summer NEA members who advocated for the passage of FAIR were among the select group of committee members who reviewed and decided whether publishers made the grade for LGBTQ inclusive content in their textbooks.

“We fought so hard for the FAIR Education Act, but when we won no one really knew how to implement it. It’s not like we had a list of all the lesbian, gay and transgender people throughout history that should be included right away. That is why it was so important to me to be a part of the team reviewing the textbooks that will help guide an inclusive curriculum. To be honest, I was such an advocate that I was shocked that I got picked for a committee,” said C. Scott Miller, California Teachers Association (CTA) member and liaison to the Equality California Board.

California is the first and only state to mandate that students be taught about the contributions of LGBTQ people in social sciences classes. That means the educators in the state will play a vital role in driving the creation of LGBTQ curricula for K-12 classes in California and potentially around the country.

CTA members who participated in the process recognized the responsibility they shouldered in creating this curriculum and discussed the rigorous review. Miller explained, “On one section we sent three pages of changes. Content on Sally Ride, Ellen DeGeneres and Billy Jean King failed to prominently note that they were lesbians, and honestly LGBT people of color were difficult to find.”

Another CTA and review committee member, Kelly Villalobos, offered this perspective from her committee, “One of the discussions we had on our panel had to do with the amount of inclusion of LGBTQ people. We were concerned with the low numbers. Someone on our panel asked, “If the script was switched and we were looking at the representation of people of color and we only saw a few people of color throughout the textbooks, would we be ok with it?” We absolutely wouldn’t be ok with it.”

Following the summer review process, state officials voted to approve the first revised K-8 textbooks to include the LGBTQ material in November 2017.

“The whole idea was to make sure that LGBTQ kids see themselves in the social science books. People just like them made history. It’s good for them, it’s normalizing and reduces bullying. It’s really good for everyone,” said Miller.

While Villalobos felt like there was still room for improvement in what the publishers offered, she added, “What is thrilling though, is that this is a start of a new era. Ten years from now they will be much better. We have to start somewhere and I am glad that day has come.”

Want to connect LGBTQ historical figures to your Black History Month lessons? Find model lessons from our partner Teaching Tolerance right here.