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Teaching LGBT Rights

The history of equal rights for members of the LGBT community is something often overlooked in classroom curriculum. With the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, it is important to look back at the men and women who fought for equality, especially right here in Philadelphia. Events, such as Reminder Day, are examples of how we can remember the contribution of men and women in the community who fought for their rights as citizens.

Utilizing local historical narratives of social activists will allow students to understand the struggle for equality as well as the importance of promoting social justice. There is a rich history of political and social activists in Philadelphia and learning about these individuals will make the topic relevant for students. For example, the John Fryer Papers, here at HSP, are a unique example of one of the most significant moments in the history of the Gay-Rights Movement. Fryer helped persuade the APA to remove homosexuality from the list of diseases recorded in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM II).

The lesson in this unit will focus on the speech Fryer made as Dr. Henry Anonymous and why it is an important primary source to include within classroom curriculum.


20th century

Community and Public Service


Government and civics



Big Ideas

US History

Essential Questions

How can the story of another Pennsylvanian, past or present, influence your life?

How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to American society?

Background Material for Teacher

  1. Dr. John E. Fryer, his obituary in the NY Times

  2. The John Fryer Papers and the Dr. Anonymous Affair, HSP blog post on the Fryer Collection

  3. Honoring John Fryers Legacy, an article honoring his legacy in the psych community

  4. John E. Fryer, an obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer

End of Unit Assessment

Assign each student a person from the LGBT community to research. Make sure students understand their individuals contribution in the fight for equality. You may use this list as a guide.


Plans in this Unit

Dr. Henry Anonymous

Grade Level

High School

About the Author

Alicia Parks

Education Manager

Attention Teachers!

Let us know how you used this plan and be featured on our site! Submit your story here.

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