This Saturday marked the beginning of the 17th annual celebration of LGBT History Month, a time dedicated to recognizing important moments in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Encompassing a number of historically important days, this October is set to remind both the LGBT and wider communities of important roles LGBT people have taken in creating the social, legal, and political worlds we live in today. GLAAD encourages media outlets to use this opportunity to explore the place of LGBT people in society and the changes they are making in their communities.
LGBT History Month was created in 1994 by a high school history teacher in Missouri called Rodney Wilson. The month, which garnered early support from organizations such as GLAAD and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), was initially chosen to include the by-then well-established National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and the anniversary of the first march on Washington by LGBT people in 1979 on Oct. 14. The month now also includes Spirit Day on Oct. 20, on which people around the country wear purple in support of LGBT youth; Ally Week, a week in which allies against LGBT bullying are celebrated; and the anniversary of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard's murder on Oct. 12, 1998, which sparked the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
During the early years, the celebration was largely marked by a call to action and commemoration. But since then, LGBT History Month has blossomed into a national coordinated effort to highlight exemplary role models from the LGBT community. Since 2006, this push has so far been led by LGBT rights and education organization Equality Forum.
On the celebration’s website this year (and every year since they took charge), Equality Forum is highlighting a new LGBT icon every day with a video, biography, images and bibliography describing the person’s significance. So far, Kyle Allums — the first openly transgender athlete to play NCAA Division I college basketball — poetry great John Ashbery, and cartoonist Alison Bechdel — who won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book in 2007 — have been reviewed. Over the six years that Equality Forum has been doing this, they have amassed the biographies and stories of more than 175 LGBT people who have made a difference to the community and the world. See a sample belowY1BcmXAif8U.hk3e4_496X8
GLSEN, the Anti-Defamation League and StoryCorps also released a new resource last week for middle and high school teachers that seeks to integrate LGBT history into the curriculum. ‘Unheard Voices’ provides a five lesson plan for teachers to use that is built around brief audio interviews with nine historically important LGBT figures.
GLAAD applauds these efforts and asks supporters to celebrate LGBT history by engaging with the stories of LGBT figures in the media.