LGBT History Month: The History and Importance

In October we’re not only celebrating the month of Halloween, the birth of Hillary Clinton and the resurgence of Pumpkin Spice Lattes – we’re honoring members of the LGBT community with the beginning of LGBT History Month.

If you’re like me and love learning about history and the stories of those who helped shape it – you’re going to love LGBT History Month.

LGBT History Month started in 1994 to recognize members of the community and the history of the gay rights movement. Each day of the month, a new member of the community, or as commonly referred to during the month, an “icon” will be highlighted.

Nolan Petersen, Board Member with Iowa City Pride, said LGBT History month has always been a opportunity for him to learn more about where his community has come from.

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Iowa City Pride logo

“I always learn something new – something about my community’s history that wasn’t told before because it was lost or forgotten until a new voice spoke up,” he said. “And I get to see the blending of generations, as we all come together to share in our common narratives, and learn about the road that lies behind us, as well as the road that extends before us.”

In order to learn more about LGBT History Month, we need to go back to 1994. So get on your overalls and put your hair in a high pony tail – we’re going back in time.

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Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, came out to his class in 1994 in an effort for his students to understand the oppression gay people faced during the Holocaust. He told his students he would’ve been killed if he had lived through that horrific period of history.

He decided he wanted to educate more than just his classroom on LGBT rights so he dedicated a month to those within the LGBT community. The effort was recognized and endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. It became nationally recognized in October by the United States and the United Kingdom to coincide with the existing tradition of Coming Out Day on October 11th.

Petersen agrees that education is an important part of LGBT History Month because it gives those within and outside the community a chance to recall a history that is often pushed to the side or erased entirely by the mainstream narratives of the US majority.

“We can remember those activists who have died, the thousands of lives lost in the AIDS crisis, the murders and suicides of the marginalized and hurt, as well as the triumphs we have seen before, during, and after Stonewall. Our history is not taught in schools, so it is up to our community to teach it to the masses.”

 

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