US History: What is Commonly Taught and Thought

WHAT IS COMMONLY TAUGHT AND THOUGHT

from Transgender History by Susan Stryker

The impact of separatist Puritans establishing the first colonies and serving as the ground from which our democracy rose cannot be underestimated. Their beliefs, thinking and practices initiated the original culture for European Americans here.

Laws against same-sex love were proposed in 1636 and were repeatedly put on the books, reinforced and adjusted as colonization spread across the land. The first laws explicitly against cross-dressing began in 1696.

Trans activist and educator Susan Stryker created a chart that shows the spread of legalized homo/transphobia across America throughout the 1800s into the 1900s in the form of anti-cross-dressing laws in her book, Transgender History/ The Roots of Today’s Revolution.

Perhaps one of the lasting and strongest echoes of the past can be seen in our country’s development of what AN AMERICAN MAN is supposed to be. Most of the founding fathers were not the kind of people who could personally, aggressively colonize the country from the advanced civilizations of hundreds of tribes of indigenous people living here. An exaggerated stereotype of the MANLY MAN was concocted and fused with the idea of America. This MAN could.

In many ways, this ideal was the antithesis of the founding fathers’ kind of character and served as a socio-cultural tool to distance themselves from a refined English culture, while instigating a fighting work force among the common man. It is conjectured that the perpetuation of legislation against same-sex love and cross-dressing were in part necessary to maintain pressure and value of this MANLY MAN stereotype.

There is some evidence among queer scholars that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, all experienced same-sex attractions.

Context:

origins of the beliefs about boy and girl from the children's book, The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez
from The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez

It’s important to remember at the beginning and development of the United States the kind of thinking and culture that were present, because it was within this frame that our society began to grow and express itself.

For early politicians, the two most important pieces to address in the American psyche were the need to justify and maintain the colonization of the Americas from advanced indigenous peoples, and the desire to separate and stand apart from old England. They had to create and hold a distinct and wholly American identity based on the kind of person necessary to colonize and dominate what they considered a wild territory. Plays, literature and lectures conjured and confirmed the MANLY MAN persona, with one of the main characters in the first American play named Colonel MANLY.

Historians like Moore and Bronski acknowledge not only the power/ privilege framework of Western colonization, but include the intrinsic need for a ‘scapegoat’ to maintain this kind of social structure. Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans and queer/trans/intersex people were among those considered dangerous and polluting to American society.

Impact:

Medicine, education, social norms, economic and political structures, legal systems, personal liberty, equity and expression, EVERYTHING has been impacted by the kind of cultural environment that our country developed in regarding gender and sexuality. These two aspects of human expression and experience touch everyone in some way and consequently deeply affect personal thinking and being in a community.

When communities are scapegoated and marginalized because of gender and sexuality to maintain privilege and power, the very fabric of society becomes dependent on perpetuating negative perceptions of those communities. A patriarchal society born of aggressive and dominating colonization is predisposed if not specifically scaffolded with misogyny, homo/transphobia and racism. This served as fertile ground for the kind of government we are still negotiating as marginalized Americans to grow and spread.

On LGBTQI2S+ Community:

When communities are scapegoated and marginalized because of gender and sexuality to maintain privilege and power, the very fabric of society becomes dependent on perpetuating negative perceptions of those communities.

This environment specifically punishes, ostracizes, invisiblizes, silences, disguises, and so on…our communities through history. This hides the contributions many from our community made to our country making it challenging to find the stories and lives about historical LGBTQI2S+ people.

More importantly, in a homo/transphobic culture negative messages, not historical contributions are meant to be internalized by Americans, especially LGBTQIA2S+ ones. This perpetuates the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental trauma of real people being scapegoated in our society. It also clearly marks who it is appropriate to lash out at and not be punished.