LGBT History Month 2016


During the 1970s, a variety of political groups were active in the springs of the Gay Liberation Movement. Lesbians were dissatisfied with the significant emphasis placed on just gay liberation, so they became active in spreading awareness for lesbian rights through feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women. In 1972, the first outwardly gay male was officially made minister in the United Church of Christ; there was a steady acceptance of gay men and lesbians in the religious area. Though there was societal improvement in welcoming the LGBT community, the tensions between LGBT people and supporters and the government were still present.  For example, Barney Frank and Elaine Noble were the first out LGBT candidates to be elected and a march for gay rights took place for the first time in Washington D.C. in 1979.

The coalition between the men and women of the LGBT community was strengthened as both groups vehemently demanded for greater medical funds to treat the AIDS epidemic within the gay male populace throughout the 1980s. A second march for the gay rights took place in 1987 in Washington D.C., with the participation of about 1 million gay rights supporters. One year after the second pro-gay rights march in Washington, National Coming Out Day was made official on October 11th; the anniversary of the second march. Jean O’Leary, head of National Gay Rights Advocates at the time, and Rob Eichberg, founder of The Experience, were the originators of this national day. Eichberg and O’Leary had the objectives of National Coming Out Day being a time to celebrate those who have come out across the country.

The idea of LGBT History Month was first introduced by Rodney Wilson, an openly gay history teacher, in 1994.Wilson decided that October was a principal time to bring attention to LGBT history because celebrations of other diverse groups did not overlap with this month and it is the month that two massive LGBT marches took place in Washington, in October 1979 and 1987. Wilson and Johnda Boyce, a women studies graduate student as well as one of Wilson’s closest friend, collaborated to create the proposal and mailed it to a variety of groups, including possible supporters and historians, throughout the United States.

The Gerber/Hart Library and Archive in Chicago was one of many to see the proposal; this library was established in 1981 on the basis of maintaining resources regarding LGBT information. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers’ Network (GLSEN) also received a copy of the proposal. Eventually, a LGBT History Month Coordinating Committee was formed and in the committee stood Wilson, Boyce, Kevin Jennings, who founded GSLEN, Jessea Greenman, from UC Berkley, Torey Wilson, a history teacher from Chicago, and Kevin Boyer from Gerber/Hart.  Shortly after the LGBT committee was assembled, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were the first states to officially proclaim October as LGBT history month.  Despite the fact that the LGBT community experienced extreme backlash in the mid-1990s, the celebration of LGBT history month expanded throughout the United States during the next ten years and there is greater attention and acceptance paid to LGBT members as awareness continues throughout the nation.


Please visit the Library  for an exhibit of books and movies available for checkout with an LGBT theme.


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