Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is the only minority worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools or religious institutions.
As Ned Weeks, the lead character in Larry Kramer’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play “The Normal Heart” observes in his impassioned monologue:
“I belong to a culture that includes Marcel Proust, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, Alexander the Great, so many popes and cardinals you wouldn't believe… did you know that it was an openly gay Englishman who's responsible for winning World War II? Why didn't they teach any of that in schools?”
What Ned Weeks couldn’t envision back in the early 1980’s when the play was set was that in July of this year, the California State Board of Education would vote unanimously on a new History-Social Science curriculum that includes “a study of the role of contributions” of minority groups, including “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans”, making California the first state in the country to teach LGBT history in public school classrooms.
It’s a start, but it certainly isn’t anywhere close to where we need to be in terms of teaching about the remarkable contributions of LGBT people.
That is why this October we proudly celebrate LGBT History Month with 31 Icons from all walks of life, including LGBT heroes, leaders and icons from around the globe. This year’s list features a former U.S. president, James Buchanan, as well as General Tammy Smith, the first out lesbian Military General, transgender rights activist, Janet Mock and immigration rights activist, Jose Antonio Vargas.
LGBT History Month provides role models, builds community and makes the civil rights statement about our extraordinary national and international contributions. A diverse set of role models mark this year’s list of 31 Icons. Icons like gender bender rock star, David Bowie, trailblazers Kay Lahusen who helped give birth to our country’s LGBT civil rights movement, and international LGBT Icons such as Indian and Israeli Gay Pioneers Ashok Row Kavi and Uzi Even. Each of the 2016 Icons have provided contributions to the LGBT movement in their own, influential way.
Achieving full marriage equality in 2015 was a pivotal point for the LGBT community. However, this was just the beginning and our work towards equality, awareness and acceptance must continue for millions of lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender Americans around the country.
It’s been a big year for LGBT equality, and LGBT history, in particular.
In July of this year, the military lifted one of its last remaining obstacles to truly inclusive service by allowing transgender Americans to serve openly and honestly, alongside their gay and straight counterparts. During this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, LGBT issues took center stage both during the convention with a host of LGBT speakers, as well as adoption of the most-inclusive platform in the history of either major political party.
President Obama also made history earlier this year by designating the Stonewall National Monument, the first-ever national monument dedicated to the LGBT civil rights movement in the United States. The monument marks the historic site of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City where in June 1969 LGBT people rioted against policy brutality and harassment.
As the fight for equality and acceptance marches forward, it’s imperative we take time to acknowledge and learn about the contributions we’ve made to the fabric of societies throughout the world. True equality means being able to fully participate in all aspects of a society, and a big part of that participation is in the recognition of the role we’ve played – and continue to play – in shaping world history.