San Francisco high school launches LGBTQ studies course

by Gregory Tomlin |

(San Francisco Unified School District)A poster celebrating gay pride as part of the health initiative in the San Francisco Unified School District. The district is launching a first-of-its-kind LGBT Studies course next year, exploring the impact of gays and lesbians on American culture and world history. According to the school district, 28 percent of the students at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School for the Arts, where the course will be offered, identify as LGBT.

SAN FRANCISCO (Christian Examiner) – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies programs are not unheard of in major American universities, but now the school board for the San Francisco Unified School District has approved an LGBTQ study program for one of its high schools, CBS's San Francisco affiliate has reported.

The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School for the Arts will offer the LGBT Studies course next year as a semester-long program, the first of its kind in the country, followed by an Ethnic Studies course in the following semester.

(San Francisco Unified School District)A poster promoting gay pride as part of the health initiative in the San Francisco Unified School District. The poster was one of three posters in the campaign, celebrating the homosexual lifestyle. Other posters praised LGBT unity and promoting the LGBT "family."

According to the school district, the course will address current LGBT initiatives as well as the history of the LGBT movement that has fundamentally altered American society.

Lyndsey Schlax, who will lead the program at the school, said in a video on the school's Facebook page the program will "explore the American experience through a lens that usually isn't discussed in a traditional history classes. LGBT Studies will explore the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, agender individuals across the United States and across the world."

"Intersex" is a term used to describe those born with both female and male biological characteristics. "Agender" is a new, self-imposed term used by individuals in the LGBT community who do not wish to be identified as male or female.

Schlax said in the video students will be dealing specifically with things like the establishing of enclaves, the experience of gays in the military, the end of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, the overturning of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the Supreme Court's decision on the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

"We'll look at what it's been like for gay men, what it's been like for lesbian women, what it's been like for transgender people," Schlax said.

According to Schlax, the course will also focus on advocacy for LGBTQ issues and, she said, "we'll be doing it at a watershed moment – so much is changing for America, and the world, for LGBT individuals."

(San Francisco Unified School District)A poster promoting gay pride as part of the health initiative in the San Francisco Unified School District. The poster was one of three posters in the campaign, celebrating the homosexual lifestyle. Other posters praised the LGBT "family" and encouraged students to wear their LGBT status proudly.

Schlax reportedly developed the curriculum for the course with gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was a disciple of Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay politician. Milk, a city supervisor, was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone by a disgruntled former city employee in 1978, although Schlax told Christian Examiner in a Facebook message June 27 this is incorrect information CBS has been asked to correct, but has not corrected.

"[Cleve Jones] agreed to come in to speak to the students one day, and that's all," Schlax said in the message. "The curriculum is being developed with the help of the SF LGBT Center, Erik Martinez of Lyric, Barbara Blinick of SFUSD, Nan Boyd of SFSU and Ardel Thomas of City College."

According to the television report from the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, fully 28 percent of the students at the performing arts high school where the program will be offered identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

According to Matt Haney, vice president of the school board, that makes San Francisco schools, in general, and the high school, in particular, the best location for the program.

"If there's anywhere that this course should be offered, it should be San Francisco," Haney told the San Francisco Examiner. "San Francisco in many ways is the international capital of the LGBT community and has tremendous history, contribution, resources and organizations that we can draw on in offering this course."

In May, Christian Examiner reported that Gallup had released figures showing that, as a percentage of the total population, San Francisco has the largest LGBT community among metropolitan areas in the country at 6.2 percent, beating out even New York City.

In 2010, the San Francisco Unified Public School District approved a resolution to broaden its services to LGBT students through the creation of a course on LGBT literature and history, but those courses were offered as extracurricular activities outside of the schools. The school district also claimed to have focused on health issues related to LGBT students, but district resources available appear promotional in nature and contain actual little information about student health and wellbeing.