Activist and author Robin Stevenson will speak to over 200 middle and high school educators at Illinois State University’s History Symposium on Feb. 7.
Stevenson’s response to the cancellation of her reading at a Wheaton elementary school went viral last October. The cancellation occurred because a parent opposed the inclusion of LGBTQ+ leaders in Stevenson’s picture book “Kid Activists: True Tales of Childhood from Champions of Change.”
Following the incident, Stevenson wrote “An Open Letter to Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200” in which she expressed her concerns regarding the school district’s cancellation.
“The district's decision to cancel my talk, which was actually focused on civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, came as a shock. However, this did end up leading to many important conversations and hopefully some positive changes will come from it,” Stevenson said.
In November, Stevenson said she met with district superintendent Jeff Schuler.
“I have not heard from the district since then, but I very much hope that the administration and staff are continuing to discuss the issues of equity and inclusion that this situation brought up,” Stevenson said.
“I know this situation caused a great deal of stress and pain for many LGBTQ+ people, and I hope that LGBTQ+ staff and students in CUSD 200 are feeling supported,” Stevenson continued.
At ISU, Stevenson will give a keynote lecture about her experience writing and teaching about LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms. She will also be hosting a workshop about queer history and a workshop about inclusion in education.
Illinois school districts are now required to include LGBTQ+ history in their curriculums, based on a new law signed by Gov. Pritzker last fall.
“I would very much hope educators would not oppose this because excluding a group of people from history means teaching a false, inaccurate version of history,” Stevenson said. “LGBTQ+ people have always been here, and have always contributed, and this needs to be acknowledged.”
Stevenson’s keynote speech “The History and Future of LGBTQ+ Pride” will feature her upcoming book “PRIDE: The Celebration and the Struggle.”
“I can't wait to see the book going out into the world, and I very much hope it will be a valuable resource for schools,” Stevenson said.
Despite her experience in Wheaton, Stevenson said she looks forward to meeting with educators from across Illinois this Friday.
“One of the things I have found over the last few years is that whenever I have encountered backlash for speaking about LGBTQ+ rights, it has been followed with an overwhelming wave of support,” Stevenson said.
“I try to keep this in mind: The voices that oppose equality are loud, often ignorant and sometimes hateful, but they do not represent the majority.”