Grab Your Party Hats. It's LGBT History Month!
Happy October and LGBT History Month, friends!
Not to be confused with LGBT Pride Month in June, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month — or as it was originally called, Lesbian and Gay History Month — was first celebrated in October 1994.
LGBT History Month was founded by Rodney Wilson, the first openly gay public school teacher in Missouri. He believed that gay history and the evolution of gay rights — like the suffragette movement, slavery or the Holocaust — should be taught in schools. It was, in fact, during a discussion about the Holocaust that Wilson came out to his students at Mehlville High School. The lesson? That someone who was openly gay, as Wilson was, would have been imprisoned and murdered by the Nazis during World War II simply for their sexual orientation.
Wilson decided that not only should gay history be part of the high school curriculum, it should be celebrated, too. Inspired by Women’s History and Black History Months, Wilson made the case that October should be proclaimed Lesbian and Gay History Month. The first and second LGBT Marches on Washington were held in October in 1979 and 1987, and National Coming Out Day was traditionally held on Oct. 11. School would also be in session in October making it an ideal time to share the new curriculum with students.
Wilson may have spearheaded the effort to make LGBT History Month a reality, but he wasn’t it's only supporter. His idea gained traction with individuals from within the LGBTQ community, as well as groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Governors in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut supported the concept, as did a handful of mayors who recognized the month with official proclamations. Even the National Education Association officially indicated its support for LGBT History Month in 1995.
While it was originated as Lesbian and Gay History Month, the terms “bisexual” and “transgender” were soon added making it an all-inclusive celebration of gay history. Wilson noted that the intention of LGBT History Month was to encourage honesty and openness about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“LGBT History gave me a self-confidence as a gay person and strengthened my resolve to live, as honest as I could, an honest, open and integrated life,” Wilson said.
Today, LGBT History Month is more than just a celebration or chapter in a history book. It’s an opportunity to provide the context behind the LGBTQ+ movement, its leaders and icons and how best to support the LGBTQ+ community. It’s even recognized in six different countries, as well as several cities internationally.
LGBT History Month has grown over the last 27 years and is actively supported by the Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization. The Equality Forum coordinates many educational aspects of the month with film, radio, books and research papers.
Each LGBT History Month, the Equality Forum highlights 31 gay icons, shedding light on a part of history that until the 1990s, had been kept in the dark. In 2021, those icons include such names as Susan B. Anthony, W.H. Auden, Janis Joplin and Mary Trump, just to name a few.
To learn more about gay history and LGBT History Month, visit lgbthistorymonth.com.