LGBT history should be taught in City’s schools: Dromm

Councilman Daniel Dromm announced Tuesday he was introducing a resolution to add LGBT history to the city schools curriculum. He is joined by fellow openly gay Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. Behind them, advocates hold images of tennis player Billie Jean King, writer Gertrude Stein and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Photo courtesy Daniel Dromm
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City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) announced Tuesday he was introducing a resolution calling for the city Department of Education to integrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical figures into the general school curriculum.

“We need to teach the truth and not whitewash history,” Dromm said. “And the fact of the matter is that we haven’t been teaching the truth about LGBT people at all — ever.”

The resolution calls for the department to implement a curriculum and buy text and trade books that would include watershed moments in the history of LGBT people and would acknowledge the sexuality of LGBT historical figures. Dromm, who is openly gay and a former teacher, said this resolution would call for a curriculum similar to the one passed statewide in California this summer and one taught in colleges across the country.

“I think this should be a tremendous help to youth, to all youth when it comes to understanding gay people,” Dromm said.

The councilman said the curriculum would integrate important moments in the LGBT struggle for civil rights.

“The Stonewall Rebellion, for example, that’s never spoken about in classrooms,” Dromm said, referring to the 1969 demonstrations against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

When it comes to historical figures, Dromm said this resolution would not highlight LGBT historical figures at the expense of other figures throughout history, but would discuss the sexuality of figures already in the curriculum.

He said when students are currently taught about Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Whitman and Billie Jean King, their homosexuality is never discussed. He said given that the city has schools named after da Vinci and Whitman, and the USTA’s tennis stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is named after King, it is important that students learn the entire truth about them.

“We all know gay people, we all know gay heroes, but we don’t necessarily know that they’re gay,” Dromm said.

To those who would say the sexuality of historical figures does not matter, Dromm compared it to discussing a U.S. president’s First Lady when talking about his life, and said a straight person’s relationship with their partner often reflects how we think about them.

“This should just come as a natural,” Dromm said.

Dromm said with many countries and New York state recently approving same-sex marriage, what we teach children should reflect the changing world.

“We need to acknowledge that reality as well and we need to acknowledge how we’ve gotten to this point,” Dromm said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 2:49 pm, October 13, 2011
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