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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

A breakdown of LGBTQ+ History Month

Learn about LGBTQ+ History Month with Thomas Chen and Akie Kutsanai.
Thomas Chen
READING ABOUT PRIDE. There has been a display of LGBT centered book and authors the SPA library.


Chen: We all know about Pride Month. It’s a month of lively parades, parties, shows, and all kinds of activities celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. But have you ever heard of LGBT History Month? Founded in 1994 by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson, LGBT History Month is a month-long observance in October of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history. Why is it a separate month from Pride month? What do people do during this month? These are all questions people have. Hi, my name is Thomas Chen, and on this podcast episode, I interviewed English teacher Ms. Kutsunai, in which she shared her thoughts and opinions on LGBTQ+ History Month. Let’s begin!

Kutsunai: My name is Akie Kutsunai and my pronouns are she/they.

Chen: Okay, so first question, why is there a separate month for LGBTQ+ pride and history? And, what are the differences, and what is the history all about? What makes it special?

Kutsunai: So my first thought is that anytime we have set aside a month, or even like a holiday for a specific group, or to celebrate a specific person, it’s more with that idea of celebration in mind. And when we think of something like LGBTQIA+ History Month, or you know, Filipino History Month or something like this, some of that history is going to be unpleasant. And it’s going to be uncomfortable for people to learn about it, whether they’re in that community or not. And then similarly, with a holiday, you know, when we think about something like Dr. Martin Luther King was involved in a lot of very unpleasant marches and had a lot of violence that he had to deal with both personally and then speak to as part of the civil rights movement. But I think it is great to have this time to celebrate right? In that sense of things have been difficult, things have been hard. Here are some accomplishments, you know, that have resulted from this. And often, I really love that. And thinking, you know, Minnesota being a place that has voted to like, yes, we want to celebrate explicitly Indigenous Peoples Day. And that is something to sort of recognize this is something that has been traditionally overlooked, not necessarily not valued, but it may only have been valued within a specific community. And then to take that step back and say, No, this is actually important to everybody, right? And everyone gets a chance to learn about this and celebrate, and yes, there may be parts of this, you know, learning or celebrating that are either more or less accessible or comfortable. But it is still important for everybody to have that opportunity.

Chen: Okay, so what can students do to celebrate the history month? Or to learn about it? And yeah, how can they just like, build or form their own opinions during this time? And also, you know, become more understanding?

Kutsunai: I love this question. Because I think there’s a very big temptation, whenever there’s this type of a celebration, when you’re not part of that community, to feel like you don’t know what to do. You know, and that sense of, of course, you want to, you know, celebrate your friends and learn about things, but you’re not sure where to start. You don’t want to intrude, you know, or sort of overstep, and particularly with something that is very clearly centering history, right. So something like a pride celebration tends to be less historically focused, and more sort of, you know, like, here are people who are performers or who own a business or something like that. And that sense of very current versus the fact that we have a sort of deliberate pause to think about, well, what’s been going on historically. And we’re in a really great time, I think, for more popular history things. So there are so many, I mean, I’m a big podcast person. So there’s tons of podcasts, of course, but then also, there’s so many movies. There’s so many books that we have, and even I mean, my first thought was, with your question of, you know, how would you access things? Or where would you begin, is to go to the library, you know, talk with our librarians here, go to your local public library, there might be displays that are out, or you can just ask, you know, like, hey, I’m interested in this topic, could you get me started doing a search within the library system? I think there’s very much sort of a hesitation, which I appreciate that there’s a hesitation that you don’t want to turn to someone and say, you know, oh, you’re part of this community? Could you tell me where to begin? I do think that can be a valuable conversation. And even people within the community, and I’m thinking younger people might not necessarily know all the historical pieces. And they’re just thinking like, well, I’m expected to know this, but I don’t know where to start. And so sometimes something as basic as taking a little bit of a step back before you talk right to people that you know, kind of immediately. Do a little bit of your own research, doing some, you know, some credible sources doing some of your own exploration, I think can be really fun. And knowing that these are topics like I said earlier, that will be possibly a little bit harder to think your way through so it is still good. I’m thinking of you know, if you were to watch the movie “Pride”, which is about a historical, sort of the historical event that it builds up to comes at the end of the film, but it’s set during Thatcher’s Britain, when things are not going well for a lot of people, including the queer community in London. And so they get together. Some people in the film, this is very well depicted of, you know, in a show of solidarity, we should go and support some miners who are on strike, like, we know what it’s like to be harassed by the police and have our community be attacked. And so the movie is very much kind of how those two groups of people come together, and then it ends with this wonderful parade. There was a pride parade that did actually happen, where the miners then came in solidarity. That’s still kind of a rough movie, I think, for some people to watch, because there are arguments, there’s some police violence. So having something where it’s like, oh, yeah, I’m going to read something and think about it, but then talk to somebody about it or watch something together with your friends. And I think it is really important for people who are not just part of that one community to have that access.

Chen: Great, thinking about history, what are some key events, or key activists that inspire you or you look up to?

Kutsunai: So I think, you know, the first person I think of is going to be Bell Hooks, who is just such an extraordinary person, I am very much biased towards more academic kinds of things. So I really love, as an example, this is not in my subject area whatsoever. I really love number theory, I’m not good at arithmetic. And I’m not good with equations, you know, or sort of thinking through spatial things like geometry, but I love number theory. And so a lot of the people that I think of, when I think of, you know, this is a queer person that I would look up to, are going to be people like Bell Hooks, right, really advocating for what is going on with our identities internally, and then what is going on with our identities as we interact with each other, in an external sense, and how certain identities are going to both intersect, and then also compound things. I am not a disabled black person. So there are going to be a lot of things that I don’t have access to. The things that she’s describing, or maybe the things that she’s sort of working through theoretically, apply to people who are not me, but thinking through the ideas that she’s presenting how she really models being an academic. I’m thinking in particular, so when I was in graduate school, I really got very invested in Paulo Freire, who is a Brazilian pedagogue, big dea person. And Bell Hooks has this fantastic thing where she’s talking about, you know, I learned so much from him. And he really informed my teaching practice, which was his area of specialty, but then also like, as a Brazilian man, particularly someone who was very invested in the church. In Brazil, you know, being the Catholic Church has such a big presence in Brazil, there were points that were very difficult for the two of them to work together, in terms of colorism, in terms of misogyny, and her being able to look at that interaction and think through here’s how we were able to have really great productive dialogue and then here’s how his theories may fall short for someone like me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t interact with him and think about this. I just find that so incredibly, not just inspiring, but really kind of motivating, because it’s very difficult to sort of be moving through spaces that are very clearly not designed for you. But that is also just the way it is. Right, even if you are in the majority in some senses, you know, in a racial sense, or in a gender sense, there’s going to be other things that are not designed for you, whether it’s thinking of neurotypical design, or, you know, something has gone wrong, and you’ve broken your ankle, so yes, you are now disabled, even if it’s not a long term sense. Now you’re moving through a space, which is not designed for you. And I find Bell Hooks to just be so wonderfully clear in the way that she sort of parses her way through things.

Chen: Could you just explain who Bell Hooks is?

Kutsunai: Yes. So Bell Hooks is, there is a specific academic name for this, pseudonym, there it is. This is her academic pseudonym, I genuinely do not remember what her legal personal name is. But she decided to change her name as a reflection on her position, you know, as a black woman, and as someone who is part of a variety of historically marginalized communities, she was an academic. And, she was able to make her way through a lot of systems, not just like, as a student, but then, as someone who’s working as a professor, that were not welcoming to her. And, in many ways, you know, she’s very successful. I think her life was very difficult, both before she was sort of an established academic, and then afterwards in different ways. But she just has so much wonderful academic writing, and theory, also a ton of stuff on pedagogy, which is sort of the academics of how do we teach? And what do we teach? And for her, everything really comes down to not just love, in terms of recognizing the importance of other people, but listening. One of the things I take from that is, so it’s important for me to support my students as they’re sort of working through things. And that means not only are they the most important thing, but that I have to pay attention to them, in the way that I am asking them to think through these very big questions, and then they have to pay attention to themselves.

Chen: That’s it for this podcast episode. Thank you for listening, and make sure to use this as an opportunity to educate yourself on LGBTQ+ history.

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About the Contributor
Thomas Chen
Thomas Chen, Sports Editor
Hi, my name is Thomas Chen (he/him). I work as the Sports Editor for RubicOnline. This is my second year on staff. At school, I’m the Upper School Council treasurer and I'm also involved in the Asian Student Alliance. I love to figure skate and watch reality TV. I can be reached at [email protected].

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