Students in Illinois would learn about the significant historical events and contributions by LGBTQ people under the Inclusive Curriculum Bill recently introduced in the Illinois legislature. The Senate passed the bill on May 2, and the House of Representatives will consider it next.
The Inclusive Curriculum Bill, SB 3249 and HB 5596, is sponsored by State Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago and State Rep. Anna Moeller of Elgin. The bill is an initiative of Equality Illinois and the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. The bill is supported by dozens civil rights, health, civic and educational organizations, including Adler University.
To learn how this bill could benefit students and the broader community, we talked to two of our faculty members: Steven Migalski, Psy.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, and Peter Ji, Ph.D., Core Faculty in the Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology Program.
What do you think the impact this bill, if enacted, would have on LGBTQ youth?
Dr. Migalski: LGBTQ history has been systematically and uniformly silenced in previous decades. This bill will hold a mirror up to LGBTQ youth, metaphorically speaking, and reflect back the legitimacy of gay and lesbian people throughout our history. It will demonstrate for young people that they are not alone now, and they are connected to rich history that is hard and difficult, but beautiful and glorious. LGBTQ people have contributed so voluminously to our culture but many youth do not know how.
Dr. Ji: This bill will help normalize the LGBTQ experience. Students will see that in history, LGBTQ people can be found everywhere. We should take every opportunity to promote the idea that you can be anyone you want to be and in any profession.
Society often dictates to LGBTQ kids that their sexual identity is primary, but it really exists alongside their other actions and interests. Unfortunately for LGBTQ kids, there’s always the possibility that they’re scanning the settings they’re in to see if it’s safe to be who they are and who it’s safe to talk to. With this bill, they will see their teachers bring up LGBTQ history and be willing to talk about it. It will promote safety and more opportunities to talk about themselves and their experiences.
What can children who do not identify as LGBTQ learn from this curriculum?
Dr. Migalski: For youth who identify as heterosexual, they can learn about LGBTQ history and hopefully become a community of advocates if they see or hear unsavory behavior toward their LGBTQ peers. Younger students who have not identified their sexual orientation can learn about the contributions of LGBTQ people and know that whether they grow up to be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or non-binary, that is OK.
Dr. Ji: We don’t have an inborn ability to talk about gender and sex identity. We need external symbols, language, and materials to help us gather our voices. The bill will help people by promoting language about LGBTQ history and culture.
Why do you think it is important to talk about the whole lives of people who made history?
Dr. Migalski: People are interested in relational history because we are relational beings. At the same time, being LGBTQ is more than who we choose to be amorous with. We are LGBTQ when we’re watching a film, reading a book and speaking to neighbor. Society should appreciate that we are full human beings; we are intellectual, artful, and more, just as heterosexual people are.
Dr. Ji: We need visible role models out there, to show us what is possible. The first black mayor, the first female ordained priest, the first black baseball player—these are historic milestones. This bill will promote more milestones for LGBTQ people. It also promotes conversation among students about what the lives of those LGBTQ people must have been like. Their lived experience may have been difficult. These are hard, but good, conversations to have.
How does supporting this bill align with Adler University’s values and mission?
Dr. Migalski: Supporting this bill is definitive to our mission because it gives legitimacy to something that is a core social justice issue in Chicago and Illinois. The University for decades has been committed to LGBTQ issues because that commitment is consistent with our mission.
Dr. Ji: Alfred Adler talks about not just helping yourself but being interested in others, and that includes connecting with people with other identities. That makes us all feel safer and it opens up possibilities, which is always good for mental health. Our mental health is better when we feel whole, when all parts of us get properly noticed.
This bill also promotes social justice through access. We need more people from more walks of life in all professional areas. Where could we be now if there were people with LGBTQ identities in more professions?