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Opinion Columns

Opinion: When Colorado students learn about LGBTQ leaders, they will feel pride

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.

Fifty years ago, these transgender women of color fought back against the discriminatory practices of the New York City Police Department at the Stonewall Inn.

Their actions sparked an uprising, inspiring queer folks, drag queens, trans people and their allies to birth the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.

Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez

October is LGBTQ History Month, and a new law passed this year will help more Colorado students learn about Ms. Rivera and Ms. Johnson’s contributions.

As women of color serving in the Colorado General Assembly, we understand the power of honoring our legacy in order to forge our future.

Unfortunately, we also know too well the pain of learning a version of history that fails to include the accomplishments and contributions of diverse Americans. Sometimes that history was unintentionally omitted, but other times, voices were intentionally silenced.

Julie Gonzales

Knowing this, we teamed up to create a new opportunity for Colorado students to learn about the roles that people of color and LGBTQ people played in shaping our nation’s history, as well as the history of Colorado.

Multiple studies affirm that when students have role models who share their identity, they are positively motivated to work harder, aim higher and strive for excellence.

Our bill, HB19-1192, establishes the History, Culture, Social Contributions, and Civil Government in Education Commission, and empowers that commission to make recommendations to the Colorado Department of Education about curricula and resources to teach a more inclusive and accurate history in our state’s civics classes.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Will this change Colorado students’ lives? We believe so.

HB1192 creates a process to ensure that Colorado children learn about the contributions of national LGBTQ leaders like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, as well as Colorado leaders like our first openly gay Gov. Jared Polis, and our first transgender lawmaker, Rep. Brianna Titone.

We believe that when students learn about leaders who reflect their own identities, they will feel pride.

We also hope that when students learn about leaders whose identities differ from their own, they will spark curiosity and empathy, and understanding. It is precisely those values — pride, curiosity, empathy — that will help combat the increasingly overt examples of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia that we too often see.

When coupled with other pro-LGBTQ policies that banned the outdated and abhorrent practice of conversion therapy, and creating policies that made it easier for transgender and nonbinary Coloradans to have identity documents that reflect their authentic selves, we are working hard as allies to ensure that all Coloradans have the opportunity to live with dignity and respect, regardless of who you love or how you identify.


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