The History Month Project (October), now in its second year,
was designed to remember and honor the lives, values and
accomplishments of women and men with a same-sex orientation, many
of whom were for decades erroneously presumed to be heterosexual.
This project was endorsed this past July by the 2.2 million member
National Education Association. The resolution says that the NEA
"recognizes the importance of raising the awareness and increasing
the sensitivity of staff, students, parents and the community to
sexual orientation in our society. The Association therefore
supports the development of positive plans that lead to effective
ongoing training programs for education employees for the purpose
of identifying and eliminating sexual orientation stereotyping in
the educational setting."
Such programs, the statement says, should provide "accurate
portrayal of the roles and contributions of gay, lesbian and
bisexual people throughout history, with acknowledgment of their
sexual orientation" and "support for the celebration of a Lesbian
and Gay History Month as a means of acknowledging the contributions
of lesbians, gays and bisexuals throughout history."
I like the idea of acknowledging the contributions of
individual lives, and not just the lives of persons such as those
already mentioned who have achieved national acclaim, but the lives
of ordinary citizens as well. Every one of us, regardless of the
circumstances into which we are born, touch in profound ways
thousands of other lives during the course of our brief existence
on this planet.
One such person came into my life a couple years ago. I came
home from work one day to find a package on my doorstep. Upon
further inspection I discovered that the parcel contained a
60-year-old copy of "The Well Of Loneliness" by Radclyffe Hall. I
was familiar with the volume. It is essentially about the
difficulties of being lesbian during a time (1929) when the lives
and value of women, particularly lesbian women, were not
recognized, understood or honored.
The accompanying note read, "Dear Ms. Strongheart: Permit me to
apologize for the condition of this book. It's been around for a
long, long time, as have I. I am an avid reader of your column. Let
me explain my reason for sending this to you. It has literally been
my Bible all my life, and I must have read it a thousand times.
Having reached a time of life when I am disposing of some
possessions, I pondered about this book. I know of no one in my
circle who would appreciate it. I assume you might. (Signed) Yvonne
I looked up the sender of my cherished gift in the phone book
and gave her a call. A voice deepened by decades of cigarette
smoking answered the phone. …