GLAAD described LGBT History Month as…
…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.
Though the month can be and is observed by many people in the community, it was conceived in 1994 by a teacher who thought the community’s history need its own month. As such, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has described the month as…
…an opportunity for educators to teach students about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, history and events, which plays a significant role in creating positive school climates for LGBT students.
How did October become LGBT History Month?
According to an op-ed in The Advocate in 2015, the idea began in January 1994 when Missouri teacher Rodney Wilson suggested to some friends that “that LGBT history — like women’s history and African-American history — needed a month devoted to its study.” There was a desire to have this month fall in the academic year, which ruled out June, which is when many cities celebrate Pride events. Other months had already been claimed by other communities. October, though, was free. And for a month aimed at observing history, it seemed fitting to do it in the same month as National Coming Out Day, which itself was a nod to previous LGBT history.
So how did Wilson’s idea become widespread?
He and his friend Johnda Boyce reached out to groups and organizations all over the country. As they picked up supporters, they formed a committee to oversee the project. The Advocate explained:
For $5, the committee mailed out packets of material with history month curriculum suggestions for secondary schools, colleges and universities, and community groups. Packet after packet after packet were mailed out of Gerber/Hart library. That first October, Jennings’s GLSEN sponsored a history conference in Boston attended by 200 educators and keynoted by Eric Marcus, author of Making Gay History. The history department at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, where Wilson was a graduate student, sponsored a month-long LGBT history film festival. News stories started to appear; a few teachers had their history month displays taken down by school districts; some parents approved and many others did not. But many schools, colleges, and universities ran with the idea, and October was cemented in the community’s mind as LGBT History Month.
In 1996, the National Education Association faced criticism for having endorsed the month, prompting the organization to remove references to any history month. But universities and groups continued to join the observance, and in 2006, LGBThistorymonth.com was created. The Library of Congress even mentions LGBT History Month on its website.
Why is it called LGBT History Month and not LGBTQ+ History Month?
According to The Advocate op-ed, the focus was initially on gays and lesbians only. The addition of the “B” and “T” did not come until later. For many, “LGBT” is an umbrella term that also includes people who are queer, questioning, intersex, and beyond.
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