SSU Professor Helps Bring LGBT History to Light With Groundbreaking Report

romesburg.jpgQueer history is about to see the light of day in California's K-12 schools. 

If SSU Women's and Gender Studies Chair Don Romesburg has his way, the story won't just include history-making heroes. 

Professor Romesburg has worked vigorously with other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) scholars to develop a new framework that weaves analysis of gender and sexuality as social and political forces throughout time.

Since May 2013, Romesburg has steered a rigorous effort to recommend revisions of the California K-12 History - Social Science Framework.

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, he and two co-editors released the groundbreaking report: Making the Framework FAIR: California History-Social Science Framework Proposed LGBT Revisions Related to the FAIR Education Act.

"Students can only truly understand families, communities, social practices, and politics, by understanding how they shaped and were shaped by same-sex relations and gender diversity--and how this changed over time," he says.

California made history in July 2011 when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. The legislation amended California's Education Code to require that the roles and contributions of LGBT people and people with disabilities be accurately portrayed in K-12 history teaching and instructional materials.

Upon what standards this inclusion would be based became an overriding question.

The report has input by 20 leading scholars of LGBT history with scholarship-supported justifications for all changes. Suggested resources for teachers are also included.

Making the Framework FAIR prepares students to understand LGBT people in relationship to society and history more generally, rather than as merely as a minority group or handful of exceptional heroes, said Romesburg.

If adopted by the California Department of Education, the revisions will bring its history components into alignment with the LGBT-inclusion requirements of the FAIR Education Act.
Hearings begin Sept. 17.

More information, including the downloadable report, can be found at

This summer, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network gave Making the Framework FAIR a test run with focus groups of K-12 educators across the state. Response in northern California was very positive, suggesting that revisions would be a relief, supporting work that teachers wanted to do but did not necessarily have the background to implement.

Themes and Topics for Revision

Grade 2:

LGBT families in the context of understanding family diversity as a contemporary and historical reality

Grade 4:

Central roles played by gender and sexuality in California's history as a site of rich, contested, and changing diversity

o How settlers and missionaries sought to impose European American concepts of gender and sexuality on Native American societies

o Possibilities and motivations for same-sex intimacies and gender diversity in frontier conditions and the Gold Rush era

o The role of gender and sexuality in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century migrant belonging and policing

o The crucial place of California and Californians in the development of the modern LGBT rights movement

Grade 5:

Variation over time, region, and culture in colonial American practices and laws with regard to gender and sexuality

o Native American gender and sexual diversity and European responses in the context of North American colonialism

o Regional diversity in family and community arrangements, gender roles and possibilities, and approaches to sexuality in law and practice, with attention to Puritans, Quakers, Southern settlers, and enslaved Africans

Grade 8:

Fundamental transformations in gender and sexuality in conjunction with nineteenth-century urbanization and industrialization

o Same-sex romantic friendship as an accepted cultural practice resulting from the separate spheres ideology and shifting gender expectations for women and men

o Roles of gender and sexuality in the practice and struggles over slavery and emancipation

o Interlocking ways that gender, sexuality, and race shaped Western expansiGrade 11: onism and the diverse possibilities it presented

o Evolving social and cultural expressions of intimacy between men and women (including same-sex relations) through urbanization and immigration

Grade 11:

The evolution of modern LGBT communities and identities

o Relationships formed in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century female worlds of settlement houses, women's colleges, and social movements

o Sexual and gender diversity in early twentieth-century cities and cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance

o The impact on approaches to same-sex sexuality, gender diversity, and cultural expression of 1920s changes in sexual and gender norms, including Prohibition, the rise of dating, and the emphasis on companionate marriage

o New possibilities in World War II for same-sex intimacy, community, and identity on the homefront and abroad

o The postwar creation of vibrant if persecuted LGBT subcultures

o The formation of open and expressive LGBT cultures and communities since the 1970s

o Contemporary diversity of LGBT people, families, and relationships

Twentieth-century persecution of sexual and gender minorities and the related growth of the LGBT civil rights movement

o The medicalization of homosexuality and gender diversity as pathological and the subsequent struggle against this perspective

o Systematic World War II attempts to eliminate gay men and lesbians from the military and the establishment of a regime of dishonorable discharge that denied many veterans their rights to benefits

o The Lavender Scare targeting gay men and lesbians, which developed in conjunction with the postwar Red Scare and exceeded its impact in both time and scope

o Homophile, gay liberation, and contemporary LGBT movements as part of the story of civil rights activism in the United States

o Anti-gay activism as part of the rise of the New Right

o AIDS as a medical, political, and social issue in U.S. history

o Court cases about same-sex sexuality and gender diversity demonstrating changes in policies and public opinion over time

For further information, contact Don Romesburg, Chair of Women and Gender Studies Department,, 415-850-8580.

ABOVE, Professor Don Romesburg at LGBT rally.  (Photo by Gerard Koskovich)  

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