As an embattled group, my community often needs to “circle the wagons” in order to reinforce morale and muster strength to ward off attacks from hostile individuals and organizations. This month is one of those times that happens each year. Like most peoples, we like to look back on our vibrant, rich history. It’s a history filled to the brim with struggles and joys.
Many LGBTs and other people wonder why LGBT History iscelebrated in October and not during LGBT Pride Month, in June? The answer is really simple. In early 1994, St. Louis, Missouri area high school history instructor Rodney Wilson wondered why there was no gay/lesbian history month at all. After all, there are other history months like African-American History Month or women’s history month.
Most of the other months of the year were already spoken for. Pride Month was written off because nearly all schools are out of session for Summer in June. October seemed like the practical choice, based simply on these considerations. What clinched October was that National Coming Out Day is October 11th plus October is when the anniversaries of the first and second Gay Community Marches on Washington fall. The first march happened in 1979 and the second in 1987.
Wilson consulted and collaborated with his college friend, Johnda Boyce, a graduate student in Women’s Studies at Ohio State University. The two friends sent out proposals to various organizations, advocacy groups, allies, historians, and possible supporters across the US.
One of the proposals went to the emerging GLSEN the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers’ Network. Another recipient was the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives in Chicago, Illinois.
GLSEN’s Kevin Jennings joined Gerber/Hart’s Kevin Boyer. Those two met with Jessea Greenman from UC, Berkeley; suburban Chicago history teacher, Torey Wilson; Boyce; and Rodney Wilson as the very first Gay-Lesbian History Month coordinating committee.
The movement gathered steam after official proclamations of Gay and Lesbian History Month were announced by the governors of Oregon, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Alphabet soup community organizations quickly jumped on board. They included: GLAAD, NGLTF, GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign, and Gay & Lesbian Americans.
The Gay-Lesbian History Month committee mailed packets of study suggestions and advise to high schools, colleges, and community groups by request, only, and after a $5 fee was paid. Conferences and film festivals took place during the first GL History Month celebration, in 1994. Unfortunately, controversy reared its head, as well. Some parents organizations opposed the history month displays, others approved.
After the GL History Month Committee lobbied for national endorsement of the event, the usual cast of anti-gay culprits began scare campaigns against the idea. Beverly LaHaye’s “Concerned Women for America” and Phyllis Schlafly’s “Eagle Forum” purchased newspaper advertising that condemned the National Education Association in its efforts to promote Gay-Lesbian History Month.
Despite the strong negativity, Gay Lesbian History Month rapidly grew and expanded by unsolicited general public requests. The name of the history month event changed first with the addition of “B”, then later, the “T” as the gay and lesbian community grew more inclusive and became the LGBT Community.
These days, public libraries, community organizations, colleges, universities, and several high schools officially celebrate LGBT History Month.
The Blue Jay of Happiness sometimes ponders this meaningful idea from Viktor Frankl: “Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self.”