Growing up I went to almost every kind of school available: Catholic, Montessori, Public, Performing Arts Magnet, and Private. Nowhere in my five schools or types of education did I learn about Pink Triangles. None of my curricula included anything about the murder of homosexuals in the Holocaust. It wasn’t until I heard about the gay bar Triangles in Danbury, CT (now closed) and asked someone about the name that I was taught about Pink Triangles.
I was shocked. I had learned about the Holocaust every year. I felt like we read a Holocaust book or memoir every year in English class. Nowhere in “Night” or “Boy in the Striped Pajamas” or “The Book Thief” or “Man’s Search for Meaning” or “Maus” or “The Diary of Anne Frank” did they mention anything about murdering gay people. My teachers never mentioned it either. Maybe one time a passing “Others like homosexuals, disabled, or gypsies were also killed,” but here they would use racist terms and not even explain the plight of these groups.
Never was a Pink Triangle mentioned, not once. Once I got over the fact that my curriculum had a huge gap in it I moved past the shock and on to anger. Why was I never taught about this? Why was a genocide against homosexuals removed from my education?
This hole in my curricula has gotten me rather upset, and has made me look back critically on what I was (and wasn’t) taught about queer people in history. I never learned about Ancient Greek homosexuality; I never learned about sodomy laws; I never learned about molly houses; I never learned about Oscar Wilde; I never learned about the Labouchere Amendment; I never learned about Harvey Milk; I never learned about Stonewall.
Nowhere in my education was I taught that being queer was “bad.” However, my educators didn’t actually answer the question of whether or not it was bad, they simply ignored queer people and their history altogether. All of my schools thought they could just not teach anything about queer people; they thought this was ok, that it wouldn’t cause any debates but also wouldn’t be seen as homophobic.
But they were wrong. To ignore a part of history is to silence a voice, to delegitimatize experiences, and downplay the significance of events. LGBTQIA+ history is full of strife and struggle, it should not and cannot be ignored. It must be taught. It is part of the history of humanity. Schoolchildren need to understand that struggles of the oppressed. They need to learn not only about Yellow Stars but about Pink Triangles, too.