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A Quick Glimpse at LGBT+ History in the U.S.

Marchers+in+the+2013+Twin+Cities+Pride+parade+carry+rainbow+flags+as+spectators+watch+along+Hennepin+Avenue+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minnesota.
Marchers in the 2013 Twin Cities Pride parade carry rainbow flags as spectators watch along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Marchers in the 2013 Twin Cities Pride parade carry rainbow flags as spectators watch along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Tony Webster

Tony Webster

Marchers in the 2013 Twin Cities Pride parade carry rainbow flags as spectators watch along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Magnolia Mulqueen, Journalist

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Last month, October, was a month when people helped raise awareness for breast cancer and prepared themselves for Halloween with decorations and costumes, but was also the month when people celebrated LGBT+ history. That’s right, though many see October as exclusively about scary movies and pink clothes, it is actually been officially dubbed “LGBT+ History Month,” as of 1994, when it was founded by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri. Of course, LGBT+ History month is not to be confused with LGBT+ Pride month, which does not take place until June, and was not founded until 2002.

As much as I would love to recap all of Earth’s LGBT+ history, unfortunately I can not do that without writing a full set of LGBT+ encyclopedias, considering that LGBT+ people have existed since the dawn of human existence, not to mention all the animals who have shown same sex preferences, and really, it’s just not my place to write such a set of volumes. Thusly, for the sake of time and my sanity, I would like to just briefly highlight a few events and people featured in the LGBT+ History of America.

The first documented gay rights organization was founded in 1924 by Henry Gerber; it was called “The Society of Human RIghts.” Gerber was inspired by “The Scientific- Humanitarian Committee” in Germany, a group that at the time had been working diligently on reforms for the anti-gay laws in Germany. After filing for a charter as a non-profit organization in Illinois, Gerber took the role of Secretary, and John T. Graves, a black clergyman, signed on as president. This was the beginning of the LGBT+ rights movement in the U.S.

Sadly, little progress was made in this movement in the years following. In fact, in 1952 the American Psychiatric Association categorized homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance, grouped up with psychopathy, schizophrenia, and narcissistic personality disorder. By 1953 President Eisenhower banned gay people from working in the federal government, calling them a “threat to security.” Homosexuality wasn’t even decriminalized in a U.S. state until 1961, when Illinois became the first state to repeal their sodomy laws.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the movement really started rolling, when Marsha P. Johnson, a black, gay liberation activist and drag queen, threw the first brick at a police officer raiding the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York, kicking off the Stonewall Riots. After the riots, PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defence and Education) newsletters were published nationwide. A year later in New York, people belonging to the LGBT+ and straight/cisgendered allies alike all marched commemorate the one year anniversary of the riots. Not even ten years later, in 1978, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected into a political office, when he became San Francisco’s city advisor.

However, progress is hardly ever a forward climb. The LGBT+ faced far more adversity, especially in the 1990s when President Bill Clinton signed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defence of marriage act. Not to mention the endless stream of violence and hate crimes that the community has been faced with. Almost forty years after Milk was elected and nearly fifty years after Stonewall, same sex marriage became legal in every U.S. state in 2015, but it is still an uphill climb. Especially after the transgender military ban put into place under the Trump administration.

Remember, even though LGBT+ history month is over, it is always time to be an ally, to educate yourself on what you can do to help the LGBT+ community and how we can all work together to make the world a better place.

Henry Gerber, Founder of the first recorded LGBT+ Rights organization in the U.S.

Harvey Milk, the first gay politician elected to office.

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