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Local Column

Heimerman: LGBTQ teens want history told accurately, appropriately

Every once in a while, The Associated Press updates its stylebook with a change that makes me grind my teeth. See: “under way” becoming “underway”, and “over” becoming an acceptable alternative to “more than.”

I’m weird, so these changes bother me – mostly because they’re often made because the AP figures, “Well, everyone’s using these words improperly, so let’s just change our style.”

I predict it won’t be long until an important section is added to my AP style guide: a glossary of pronouns for the LGBTQ community.

In case you missed it, for me it was humbling to read Drew Zimmerman’s piece on LGBTQ education, our cover story for the Tuesday edition.

A bill is wending its way through the state Legislature that, if passed, will require schools to add LGBTQ into their curriculum.

I was humbled because Drew spoke with high school students who, when we planned the story, I figured would bang their drum as loudly as possible in support of the bill. They obviously support it, but these high school students, one of them not old enough to drive, want to make sure the content is incorporated appropriately.

After all, Louis Peckys, a 17-year-old junior, and Rebekah Larsen, a 15-year-old sophomore, are not defined by their sexuality. No more than we’re defined by the color of our skin, our political beliefs or whether we hear Laurel or Yanny.

Louis pointed out that the debate over whether J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, was gay shouldn’t overshadow his wealth of accomplishments.

Same goes for Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci and, of course, Harvey Milk, who tore down barriers by becoming the first openly gay elected official in California.

It’s impressive that teenagers who most certainly long for further acceptance are deliberate to point out that the fight for gay rights is one of many in which our society is embroiled.

Anyone who questions whether the LGBTQ population’s fight is one for civil rights needs to consider that laws have been passed prohibiting what people with alternative sexualities can or can’t do. That right there qualifies it as a civil rights issue.

So, in that vein, I support incorporation of LGBTQ education in public schools. It’s part of our history as a nation, and children who hit puberty and realize they’re different from their peers can benefit from seeing that they share common ground with important historical leaders who helped shape the world.

Similarly, we straight folks should know all of our history – all the facts and circumstances, and not just what a publisher decides to hand-pick, and what a school district in turn chooses to buy.

• Christopher Heimerman is the editor at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at

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