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October Awareness: National LGBT History Month

Ashley Masse, Contributing Editor

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Milestones marking the movement for LGBTQ+ acceptance in the United States are nationally recognized by the celebration of LGBT History Month in October. According to the WGBH Educational Foundation, major gender acceptance achievements have been occurring as early as the 1920s and benefit the 9 million people in the US who identify and express themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The timeline roughly starts in December of 1924, when the Society of Human Rights is founded in Chicago by Henry Gerber. This is the first and oldest gay rights organization known in the US, and is credited for publishing the first American literature for homosexuals, Friendship and Freedom. After brief success, the organization disbanded due to political constraint.

This project was picked up again in November of 1950, when gay rights advocate, Harry Hay, founded the first continual gay rights organization in the US, the Machete Society. Its focus was on changing the public’s negative perception of homosexuality.

This negative opinion was cited as beginning when the American Psychiatric Association filed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder in April of 1952. This misjudgment raised objection from many professors for lack of scientific evidence; however, it took twenty-one years to get the organization to remove homosexuality from its mental illness files.

President Dwight Eisenhower highlighted the peak of anti-homosexual campaigns when he signed an executive order in April of 1953, which banned gay individuals from working in the federal government because of their “risk to security”.

The treatment of gay and lesbian individuals caused huge backlash. One of the most influential protests was the Stonewall Riot in June of 1969, which was provoked when police raided the popular gay bar, Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village. The officers were trying to “clean up” the neighborhood by arresting gays, but residents of the Inn fought off the police in a three day struggle where thousands of protesters took a stand.

Christopher St. Liberation Day would be annually celebrated after June of 1970, which marked the date of the Stonewall Riot. This holiday organized America’s first gay pride parade which took place in the streets of New York and Central Park.

Tides began to change for the LGBTQ+ community when the Democratic Rules Committee declared it would no longer discriminate against homosexuals in July of 1980. The Democratic Party went on to be the first influential political party to endorse a homosexual rights platform.

A huge success occurred in March of 1992, when Wisconsin became first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In the next decade, the movement for the equal treatment of homosexuals would continue to direct all forces toward Congress and the federal government, trying to get legislation passed that would protect their rights. With much controversy and debate, legalized same-sex marriage and federal acceptance of sexual/gender individuality were granted across the nation in June of 2015.

Now with the foundations laid by past pioneers, the LGBTQ+ community will continue to fight to make today’s society a safe place for all aspects of human identity. As humankind nears widespread compassion toward this side of humanity, it is with great favor that members of the community and allies look back upon the brave people who pioneered the way towards equality and freedom. Members of the community should feel pride towards those being recognized for their sacrifices and celebrated for their courage during National LGBT History Month this October.

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