By Rachel Gobep
The 17th annual celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month began Oct. 1. In recognition of the month, LGBTQ+ members at Youngstown State University shared their thoughts and experiences in the community.
Megan List, an assistant professor of teacher education, is openly transgender and said she believes that LGBTQ+ issues need to be a focus throughout every person’s education and people need to learn about the individuals who have influenced culture.
“I don’t just exist during the month of October,” List said. “I am a person every day of the year.”
At this point in time, LGBTQ+ History Month is important, said Brian Wells, an academic advisor and lead coordinator for YSU’s Safe Zone training program.
“I would love to get to a point in our culture where it’s not necessary, but we’re not there yet,” Wells said.
Wells said there are a lot of prominent figures in history who have been members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Until those examples and those prominent members of our society as a whole over the course of history are just incorporated into being regular examples in our history books, then something like this is very important,” Wells said.
Marissa Snyder, a political science student at YSU, said she believes LGBTQ+ History Month is important to provide visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.
“The first step towards humanizing someone is providing representation of them throughout society, and that includes a month to embrace and learn LGBTQ+ history and culture,” she said.
List was hired as the interim director for the Women and Gender Resource Initiative on Sept. 1, making her the first transgender director at YSU.
The women’s center does not have a set completion date and is in the early stages.
List said she has a hard time looking at herself as a person of influence at YSU, even if she is. She said her visibility gives her the opportunity to help and support others in the community.
“I’m not trying to make the world better for me, I’m trying to make the world better for my family, my students and for other trans individuals,” she said.
She taught an LGBTQ+ issues in history and popular culture class at YSU for the first time in the spring 2017 semester and will be teaching it again in the spring 2018 semester.
“For a very long time, non-heteronormative viewpoints have been ignored in the curriculum.
We have this straight washing of history, where we pretend like queer individuals all of a sudden just popped up,” she said.
Throughout the class, List said she explored the historical and present day LGBTQ+ issues in society and portrayal in popular culture.
List said her class examined movies such as “Bee Movie” to analyze gender relationships and LGBTQ+ culture.
For example, Jerry Seinfeld’s character is a worker bee, but worker bees are female, she said.
“We have this thing where reality dictates that this character has to be a woman, but because our culture is a masculine-dominated culture, Jerry Seinfeld gets to play the main character,” List said.
Snyder said she believes LGBTQ+ history should be taught within public school history curriculum.
According to GLAAD, which is an organization committed to issues in the LGBT+ community, LGBTQ+ History Month was created in 1994 by Missouri High School history teacher Rodney Wilson.
GLAAD stated that Wilson believed a month should be dedicated to the teaching and celebration of LGBTQ+ history.
The month includes National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and the anniversary of the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 14, 1979.
The Human Rights Campaign stated that National Coming Out Day serves as a reminder that one of the most basic tools for the LGBTQ+ community is the power to come out.