LGBT History Month originated in the United States and was first celebrated in 1994. It was founded by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson. Among early supporters and members of the first coordinating committee were Kevin Jennings 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. In 1995, the National Education Association indicated support of LGBT History Month as well as other history months by resolution at its General Assembly.
October was chosen by Wilson as the month for the celebration because National Coming Out Day already was established as a widely known event, on October 11, and October commemorated the first March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation by LGBT people in 1979. LGBT History Month is intended to encourage honesty and openness about being LGBT.
While it was first known as Lesbian and Gay History Month, the coordinating committee soon added “bisexual” to the title. It has subsequently become known as LGBT History Month. The event has received criticism from, for example, the Concerned Women for America and others who believe it to be a form of indoctrination.
On June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month”. President Barack Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month 2009 on June 1, 2009.
Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus, undertook responsibility for LGBT Month in 2006. Each day in October, an Icon is featured with a video, biography, bibliography, downloadable images and other educational resources at www.lgbthistorymonth.com.
In 2011, Equality Forum introduced an internal search engine for all Icons from inception in 2006 to present. By clicking on “Icon Search” and choosing one of hundreds of categories such as African-American, Athlete, California, Germany, HIV/AIDS, Military, Religion, Transgender, Youth; visitors to the site will be provided with links to all Icons in that category.
In 2012, for the first time, two American school districts celebrated LGBT History Month; the Broward County school district in Florida signed a resolution in September in support of LGBT Americans, and later that year the Los Angeles school district, America’s second-largest, also signed on.
The anniversary is celebrated with parades, events, parties and other happy events. But in the midst of this celebration, we must keep in mind that it has also been over 30 years since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Many great advances have been made against the disease but men who have sex with men (MSM) (which includes men who identify as gay, straight or bisexual) need to continue to be mindful of these sobering facts from the CDC:
- In 2010, 61% of HIV infections diagnosed among adults and adolescents were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact
- In 2010, the estimated number of new HIV infections among MSM was 29,800, a significant 12% increase from the 26,700 new infections among MSM in 2008.
- In 2010, the greatest number of new HIV infections (4,800) among MSM occurred in young black/African American MSM aged 13–24. Young black MSM accounted for 45% of new HIV infections among black MSM and 55% of new HIV infections among young MSM overall.
- Since the epidemic began, an estimated 302,148 MSM with an AIDS diagnosis have died, including an estimated 5,909 in 2010.
Men who have sex with men of all ages and races have been more severely impacted by HIV/AIDS than any other group in the U.S. Use of drugs, such as Crystal Meth, Special K, E pills or alcohol has been linked to high risk sexual decisions such as unprotected anal sex (bare backing) with casual and multiple partners.
So go out and have fun, but remember HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases have not gone away and it is just as important as ever to wear a condom and be protected. Know your HIV status, get tested – it’s FREE. Call LIAAC at 1-866-236-3448.