Professor discusses education, gay rights

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History must include ‘issues of gender identity and sexuality.’

By Cynthia M. Herrera

Americans could use a history lesson on the roles of gays and lesbians in society, a U.S and world history professor said Thursday during his “Gays in America” lecture in the chemistry and geology building.

Jonathan Lee said even President Barack Obama received such an education. In his inaugural address Obama referred to the Stonewall riot, which Lee said the president was unaware of in 2004. The riot took place at a gay bar in New York City, where patrons fought back against a police raid.

“Barack Obama will be remembered as the gay rights president,” Lee said.

Lee said he has never hidden his own sexuality but he doesn’t advertise it either.

He has worked at this college since 1997. However, about four or five years ago, he noticed it had changed, he said.

He began to overhear students making negative comments about homosexuality, which made him feel less accepted, even though students did not know he was gay.

The audience consisted of students, faculty and Robert Ziegler, former president of this college. Lee told them “we need to include issues of gender identity and sexuality because it’s just better U.S history to do so.”

He asked audience members to share their thoughts.

“If we want to learn history, we should learn all of it,” Deanna Calderon, biology freshman, said.

“It shares the struggles of people’s voices that were oppressed and the process and strength it took to overcome and become recognized,” said Rene Orozco, liberal arts sophomore and former president of the Gay Ally & Lesbian Association.

The lecture also included important events that have affected the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community but are rarely taught in history classes.

Before 1869, there was not a term for sexuality, and after 1869 the term homosexuality in scientific use meant that the person had an illness or perversion afflicting entire groups, Lee said.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed the term homosexual from its list of mental disorders.

Lee used a quote from the report, “Making the Framework Fair” by the Committee on LGBT History: “American history cannot be comprehended without understanding the changing concepts of sexuality and gender.” This report is based on California changing its K-12 social science curriculum and incorporating LGBT history.

The lecture also covered the issue of same-sex marriages.

“It’s amazing what has happened in my lifetime,” Lee said. “I never thought I’d have the right to be married. I still don’t, but I will soon.”


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