By Beth Clark • October 01, 2018
LGBT History Month began with Missouri high school teacher Rodney Wilson, who believed that LGBT history is American history. He committed to establishing a month devoted to celebrating gay and lesbian history and educating others, and in 1994, other teachers and community leaders joined him in making it a reality. They chose October because public schools are in session at that time and it encompassed Coming Out Day on the 11th.
GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Education Association, and other national organizations endorse LGBT History Month. Since 2006, Equality Forum, an education-focused international LGBT organization, has been providing its content, promotion, and resources.
The overarching goal of LGBT History Month is to provide role models, help build connections, and highlight the contributions of the LGBT community worldwide. As part of that effort, LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of the 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender icons listed below by featuring one each day. (Follow the reveal here.)
In communities all over the globe, members are taught their history at home, in public schools, and in religious institutions. The LGBT community is not one of them. For LGBT youth in particular, that can be isolating and confusing, and school can be a nightmare for those who are the targets of verbal or physical harassment and until recently, they had nowhere to turn for support. Thanks to a mostly unseen rescue attempt by a small group of teachers who pushed to make schools safer for at-risk students, that’s changing. The Safe Schools movement’s success also bolstered a greater acceptance of LGBT individuals throughout society.
371 BCE: An elite army of 150 male-male couples called the Sacred Band of Thebes was created and remained undefeated for decades.
1924: The first documented gay rights organization, the Society for Human Rights, was founded in 1924 by Henry Gerber of Chicago.
1963: Gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington, the highlight of which was Dr. Martin Luther King’s "I Have A Dream" speech.
1978: The rainbow flag was created by Gilbert Baker as a symbol of pride and hope following Harvey Milk's assassination.
1997: Ellen DeGeneres comes out via her television show character.
History matters, but so does the future...where you're from and where you've been can help clarify and define who you are and where you're going. For the gay rights movement, the fight for true equality will be long, but not impossible to win. In "It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality", LGBT advocate and author Michelangelo Signorile has advice for the LGBT community and its supporters on what it will take to get to victory.
Founded in 1988 by psychologist Dr. Robert Eichberg and co-director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Jean O'Leary, National Coming Out Day celebrates coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or as an ally. It can take a tremendous amount of bravery to come out, but with it comes the freedom of living opening, and every person who does becomes a new advocate for equality.
Coming Out Reads:Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey by Betty DeGeneres
For more coming out guides and support, visit the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Day resources page.