New MCPS LGBTQ+ Studies course makes history

The+student+members+of+MoCo+Pride+pose+for+a+group+picture.+They+have+been+working+hard+all+year+to+create+the+country%27s+first+high+school+LGBTQ%2B+Studies+curriculum.

Courtesy of Uma Fox

The student members of MoCo Pride pose for a group picture. They have been working hard all year to create the country's first high school LGBTQ+ Studies curriculum.

By Trevor Gardemal, Social Media Manager

Over the past few years, MCPS has made efforts to diversify their curriculum. These changes include the introduction of books written by women and people in color into English curriculums, and the introduction of history courses beyond what is normally taught. In 2021, MCPS will extend this to members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Uma Fox, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, has been working to develop the up and coming LGBTQ+ Studies course with the help of her organization, MoCo Pride. The course will cover LGBTQ+ history, art, culture, current issues and more. 

Fox founded MoCo Pride when she noticed a lack of formal spaces in which LGBTQ+ youth voices were included. The group decided to lobby for an LGBTQ+ Studies course at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

“One of the first things that I heard from students was ‘what are we going to do about a curriculum that doesn’t represent us and doesn’t have us included in it?’” Fox said.

The idea to create a LGBTQ+ Studies course has been in the works for some time. Many colleges currently offer it, but MCPS will be the first public school system to offer the course.

“It started with some students at Wootton last year, who, during the MCPS LGBTQ+ forum, voiced their support for something like an LGBTQ+ Studies class, and then once Moco Pride was founded it sort of became the implementer and the executive for it,” Fox said.

Senior Maeve McGhee, a member of the community, has noticed an overall lack of representation in her courses.

“From what I remember in US History, we barely covered the AIDS crisis or the Gay Rights movement and sort of just lumped it together with the trend towards Progressivism in the last couple decades,” McGhee said. “I feel like it wasn’t really given appropriate attention.”

This is an opinion shared by many students within the county. However, Fox is optimistic that the class will lead to positive change.

“The understanding that we have to understand our history and culture and how that’s going to inform the ways we actually advocate for ourselves and advocate for our community has really helped us frame this,” Fox said.

However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for MoCo Pride. Since the announcement of the course earlier this year, people have been very forthcoming with their opposition. 

“Like any progress, there comes inevitable counter conflicts to it, and so we’ve already seen comments on various news sources about the course, saying things about it being socialism,” Fox said. “There’s always going to be things, but I think it really is the time for us.”

Students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community also have concerns.

“I feel like that in terms of media, education and pop culture, we tend to look back at these things and kind of erase the fact that a lot of LGBT movements were started by people of color or transgender people,” McGhee said. “I would hope that MCPS would not subscribe to that, but we just have to wait and see.”

Thankfully, the course is being written and developed by people close to the cause, including LGBTQ+ teachers and allies who have generously volunteered the time. The students in MoCo Pride then review the course and provide feedback for the writers.

The course writers aren’t the only people supporting the cause.

“I’d really like to commend the Montgomery County community for offering its support during this process,” Fox said. “We’ve had so many students reach out to us to get involved. We’re working on creating resources for students who cannot take the class, but still want LGBTQ+ education.”

Overall, Fox sees the introduction of the course as positive change. Implementation will begin in Spring 2021.

“Just like we have Latin American history and studies and African American history and studies, this is a culture with its own identity and I think it’s imperative for us to understand that in a cultural context and for us to understand it in a community context,” Fox said.

MoCo Pride is accepting new applications until June first. Apply at Bit.ly/mocoprideapplication.