Since 1994, October has been officially recognized as LGBT History Month in the United States. This celebration is dedicated to amplifying the voices and accomplishments of the LGBTQ community in American history which, unfortunately, go largely unnoticed in the classroom and the public square. LGBT History Month combats this phenomenon by selecting 31 icons, one for each day, who have helped to shape American society and culture in the past and present. These are artists, politicians, activists, soldiers, business executives, celebrities, and more who have paved the way in often oppressive spaces so that today's LGBTQ youth can have role models and rights that their forerunners did not.
I was born in 1997, 3 years after the foundation of this holiday. Yet, in researching LGBT History Month, I learned how much we still push this vital history aside. In looking back at my time in school, I realized that I didn't have one lesson on LGBTQ history. I didn't learn about the Stonewall Riots. I didn't learn about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We only discussed the physiological aspects of the HIV/AIDS virus in class. We didn't even discuss the legalization of gay marriage in the year it happened in my sociology class.
This should not continue to be the experience for today's youth. LGBTQ history has impacted and continues to impact all of us. We need the diverse voices of LGBTQ young people in order to build a more equitable world. But most of us aren't educators or guardians of LGBTQ youth. With this article, I hope to provide basic information and strategies that can help you to start your journey as an ally to LGBTQ youth, no matter your position.
In my journey as an ally, the most helpful thing I've ever done is probably just listening. And I certainly have a lot more listening to do. One of the primary goals of LGBT History Month is to get the stories of this community's challenges and accomplishments heard. And our responsibility is to listen.
LGBT History Month was started by a Rodney Wilson, Missouri school teacher in 1984 for two reasons. First, he recognized that LGBTQ communities didn't have an organized way to teach their history, as parents, schools, and existing institutions weren't equipped or interested. This left youth without guidance and support in understanding and accepting their sexual orientation and gender identity. It also left them without role models in the public square. We hear often for race and gender that when young people see influential members of society who look like them, they are more confident to go after similarly ambitious and diverse goals. The same is true for the LGBTQ community.
Second, Wilson recognized that LGBT history is a vital part of the story of American history. In the same way that we learn about Martin Luther King and Cady Stanton as leaders of the civil rights and women's suffrage movements, we should learn about Marsha P. Johnson as a leader of the Stonewall uprising. All of these movements have made pivotal contributions to the shape of American society today.
Spread the Word
Now, nearly 40 years later, LGBT History Month is celebrated in October in connection with National Coming Out Day on the 11th. Throughout the month, an icon is selected each day to represent a historical achievement by a member of the LGBTQ community.
You can help to spread the word about these accomplishments by following along and sharing about the icon of the day. Repost their stories on your social media account. Maybe share about the impact that the LGBTQ community has had in your area. The best way to be an ally is to use your platform and influence to amplify the words of LGBTQ people in your life.
Social media isn't the only way to share, however. Be honest about what you do and don't know in discussion with friends and family. Ask to learn more about LGBTQ history, and share the knowledge that you do have. In your workplace, ask for diversity and inclusion training. If you are in a position of leadership, compensate diverse employees or organization members for time evaluating and developing training or materials that address topics of injustice or inclusion. All of us have a voice, and we can all use it to open the door for positive change.
Shop and Save Lives
So, you've listened and you've talked, but sometimes words simply aren't enough to help people who need immediate support. The sad truth is that LGBTQ youth are at an extreme risk for bullying and depression in school. (give the stat). These students don't have time to wait for cultural views around sexual orientation and gender identity to change. Their wellbeing is at risk now.
This month Lucia's is donating a 10% of our sales to The Trevor Project and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network). The Trevor Project offers counseling for suicide preventing in LGBTQ youth. GLSEN is dedicated to creating safe and uplifting learning environments for LGBTQ youth. They fund research on educational best practices, provide support to teachers and students, and lobby for legislation that protects the rights of LGBTQ students. By shopping with a purpose, you can be sure that your dollars do no harm to marginalized communities. In fact, they will go toward promoting equality in our local school system.
You can also take political and social action against injustice. LGBTQ history is still happening today, and all of us have the opportunity to be part of it. The Equality Act has yet to go through the Senate, meaning the the majority of states still have no protections against LGBT discrimination in the workplace, in the home, or in provision of goods. Write your senator, petitioning for them to pass this act. Find or start a local action that raises awareness around this legislation.
In Lexington, you can partner with PCSO (Pride Community Services Organization) and their various committees, such as the Gay Straight Alliance. As an LGBTQ community member, you can find resources and support through their various services, and as an ally you can gain insight into the needs of our local community.
Only by acknowledging, understanding, and taking responsibility for history around LGBTQ oppression can we move forward into a future that avoids continuing our mistakes. I hope that this month you are able to take one of the actions suggested in this article. Together, we can shift the culture toward acceptance and celebration of diversity in all areas.