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  • Morgan Messick

LGBTQIA+ History Month: A Celebration of Love, Resilience, and Diversity

“Queerness matters because it is a matter of life and death.” - Mihee Kim-Kort, Author of Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith

History is one of life’s greatest teachers, providing a lens through which we can examine and dissect the events that have shaped humanity, helping us to better understand the present and prepare for the future.

Recognizing the essential role of history, modern educators have made this subject a required course for young students - one can not expect to graduate unless they’ve developed a thorough and tested understanding of war, politics, religion, and technological innovation.

However, one significant aspect of history that often goes unrecognized is queer history. That’s why we now observe October as LGBTQIA+ History Month - a time to recognize, appreciate, analyze, and celebrate the sacrifices and events that have shaped our resilient community.

A Brief Overview of LGBTQIA+ History in America

LGBTQIA+ history is a story of resilience, courage, and progress brought about by many different people and events. Here are just a few of the most significant moments and figures that you should know about:

The Stonewall Riots of the ‘60s

The Stonewall riots of 1969 are widely considered the beginning of the LGBT rights movement in America. In June of that year, a group of LGBT individuals, led primarily by trans women of color, fought back against the police raids at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City.

This event ignited a series of protests and demonstrations that paved the way for the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement.

Strides Towards Progress in the ‘70s

There are a few noteworthy events that happened in the 1970s. For starters, this decade saw the very first gay pride marches take place in different cities across the United States, like San Francisco and West Hollywood, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Then, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off of its list of mental disorders, acknowledging that being gay is simply a natural variation of human sexuality.

In 1974, Elaine Noble made history as the first openly gay person elected to the state legislature. She served two terms in office. And in 1978, the very first Rainbow Flag was raised during the Gay Freedom Parade.

The HIV/AIDS Epidemic of the ‘80s

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s was devastating for the LGBT community. These diseases disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men, and there was widespread discrimination and stigma. However, the LGBT community fought back against this discrimination and advocated for better healthcare and support for those affected by AIDS/HIV.

Today, advances in research and medicine have made it possible for people living with HIV/AIDS to lead long and healthy lives.

Tragedy Strikes in the ‘90s

In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law which permitted queer individuals to join the military so long as their sexual orientation and gender identity were not openly disclosed.

President Clinton later signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This law prevented same-sex couples from accessing federal benefits and recognition.

It wasn't until 2013 that DOMA was struck down by the Supreme Court, allowing same-sex couples to marry across the United States.

But perhaps the greatest of these tragedies occurred in 1998 when Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked, tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die because he was gay. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later.

This brutal murder quickly became known as one of the most infamous anti-gay hate crimes in America.

The 21st Century Transformation (2000-2021)

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. The landmark decision resulted from a lawsuit brought by seven same-sex couples and paved the way for marriage equality in the United States.

Then, in 2009, following the tragic death of Matthew Shepard, a federal law called the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act” was passed. This new legislation aimed to address bias crimes targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.

In 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law introduced by President Bill Clinton in the ‘90s was repealed by President Barack Obama, allowing LGBTQIA+ individuals to serve openly in the military without discrimination - a major turning point for queer servicemen and women.

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state. However, in 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the 2008 decision and ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, opening the door for same-sex marriage in California once again.

Harvey Milk was a gay rights activist and politician who became the first openly gay elected official in California in 1978. Milk was assassinated in the year following, but his legacy continued in the 2000s when he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Barack Obama.

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states with its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

This ruling was the result of decades of activism and legal battles and represented a major victory for LGBTQIA+ rights.

In 2017, President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. This sparked widespread outrage and legal challenges, with many arguing that the ban was discriminatory and unconstitutional. In 2021, the Biden administration reversed the ban and opened the doors for transgender individuals to serve openly in the military once again.

History in the Making: A Look at Modern-Day Events

While there have certainly been strides made toward equality in recent years, there are still many ways in which LGBTQIA+ individuals face discrimination. The federal government has yet to enact legislation that protects LGBTQIA+ individuals from discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, and healthcare.

Furthermore, transgender individuals continue to face high rates of violence and discrimination, with many states still not offering legal protections for them.

With that said, there have been some notable steps taken towards equality in recent years that should be celebrated. For example, the passing of the Equality Act in the House of Representatives which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations.

While it still has yet to pass in the Senate, the fact that it made it through the House is a sign of progress toward achieving equality for all.

The Biden administration has, thus far, been instrumental in dismantling discriminatory legislature passed by former politicians, and there are now several members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community serving in government.

It’s also worth acknowledging the increasing visibility of LGBTQIA+ individuals in pop culture and media. From TV shows, books, and movies starring queer characters to actors and musicians like Lil Nas X coming out publicly, LGBTQIA+ individuals are now able to share their stories and experiences with a wider audience.

This representation is crucial for breaking down stereotypes and promoting understanding and acceptance.

Hope For A Better Tomorrow

There is still much work to be done to achieve true equality for LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities, but we remain optimistic about the progress that can be made. By continuing to advocate for change and promoting inclusivity, we can ensure that future generations will benefit from our efforts.

To stay informed about important events in the LGBTQIA+ community and the state of current affairs, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog.

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