While everyday here at Back2Stonewall is about gay history. October is “officially” known in the United States as Gay History Month. (Later referred to as LGBT History Month as to give the focus of inclusion to all.)
The LGBT community’s history is the only community worldwide that is not taught in public schools (except California) or in religious institutions. So Gay History Month provides a venue for stories of events and role models which helps build the community and make a civil rights statement about our extraordinary national and international contributions.
So lets learn a little gay history about Gay/LGBT History Month and how and why it came to be in October and not June when we celebrate PRIDE and the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
In 1994 Rodney Wilson, a gay Missouri high school teacher, believed that a month should be set aside and dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history.
Wilson chose the month of October for two reasons.
1. National Coming Out Day already was established as a widely known event,
2. October 11, and October commemorated the march on Washington in 1979.
Wilson’s students at Mehlville High School in Missouri became real-life lesson participants in the civil rights fight when in 1994 during a showing of a film about Nazi Germany called The Holocaust, Wilson held up a poster showing emblems used to identify people in concentration camps. Wilson said to them: “If I had been in Europe during World War II, they would have put this pink triangle on me and gassed me to death, because I am gay.”
And thus Gay History Month was born.
Among the early supporters and members of the first coordinating committee were Kevin Jennings, then of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Kevin Boyer of Gerber/Hart Gay and Lesbian Library and Archives in Chicago; Paul Varnell, writer for the Windy City Times; Torey Wilson, Chicago area teacher; Johnda Boyce, women’s studies major at Columbus State University and Jessea Greenman of UC-Berkeley. Many gay and lesbian organizations supported the concept early on as did Governors William Weld of Massachusetts and Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and Mayors such as Thomas Menino of Boston and Wellington Webb of Denver, who recognized the inaugural month with official proclamations.
In 1995, the National Education Association indicated support of Gay/LGBT History Month as well as other history months by resolution at its General Assembly
Gay and LBT histories are fragile since many events were never officially documented by legitimate news sources and many stories are carried down through generations. Some truthfully and some embellished. But nevertheless our history is important. Because learning from our past is the only way to move forward in the future.