LGBT History Focus of New Children’s Book

Gay and lesbian perspectives and role models are often missing in history lessons. Author Jerome Pohlen wants to change that. He is a former engineer and elementary school science teacher-turned-author. He has a new book called "Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights with 21 Activities for Kids."

"This is for ages 9 and up," said author Jerome Pohlen. "There's really no non-fiction book out there for children on this topic."

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As to why Pohlen wanted to focus on LGBT history, he explained that there are lots of headlines in the news, but little context.

"There are stories all the time about same-sex marriage, the situation in Indiana, Kim Davis, and with all of these, there's no context," he said. "It soundslike same-sex marriage just appeared out of nowhere, and actually it's been going on within the gay and lesbian community – or they've been pushing it – since the early 1960s.

"When I was growing up in the '70s in Colorado and the early '80s, I would have loved to have role models," he said. "To know that the first woman astronaut in space was a lesbian would have been empowering to me, and to many gay, lesbian and queer youth."

Read an excerpt of  the book.

California Hall

On January 1, 1965, San Francisco’s California Hall was lit up like a Hollywood movie premiere. Elegantly dressed couples walked in past the bright spotlights. Some smiled and some posed for the cameras, though many were secretly terrified. The photographers weren’t with the press, they were from the San Francisco Police Department, the same people who had brought in the lights. And the paddy wagons. And the riot gear. The cops wanted this New Year’s Day Mardi Gras Ball—a fundraiser for the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH)—shut down. Immediately.

Inside the hall, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin worked the front table, checking tickets and welcoming guests. Every fifteen minutes or so the police barged through doing “fire and health inspections,” they said. For many of those attending, a good number of whom were local ministers and their wives, it was an eye opener. Did gays and lesbians have to put up with this harassment all the time?

After several of these “inspections” the lawyers for CRH decided to block the officers. “That’s enough!” Herb Donaldson and Evander Smith said. “If you want to come in, you’re going to have to get a search warrant.” The police just arrested the two lawyers instead. (Four other people were also arrested that night.)

Donaldson and Smith were taken to the station, booked, and released on bail before the party ended. When they got back to California Hall they witnessed police officers with movie cameras marching across the dance floor, filming everyone. Around 11 PM, police declared the fundraiser over and pushed everyone to the exits. 

The next morning CRH called a press conference at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. All dressed in their Sunday best, seven ministers blasted the actions of the police department. In time they would launch Citizen Alert, a 24-hour phone hotline to report police misconduct. 

When the lawyers’ case went to trial, the police department testified first. The judge wasn’t impressed. “It’s useless to waste everybody’s time following this through to its finale,” he announced, then ordered the jury to declare the CRH lawyers not guilty. They didn’t even get a chance to present a defense. Case dismissed!

The events at California Hall were reported in newspapers across the United States. Soon gays and lesbians everywhere were thinking, Hey, maybe I should move to San Francisco.

(c) 2015, Jerome Pohlen

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