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Celebrating LGBT History Month

As our community continues our journey for full equality, it is important we remember these moments in our history to reflect on the progress made and the work which remains ahead.

Celebrating LGBT History Month

by Thomas Lopez

Since 1994, LGBT History Month has given the LGBTQ community an opportunity to reflect on important milestones and trailblazers that have shaped our community.  I shared in a Let's Talk About Gay Stuff podcast episode last year the history of LGBT History month - how every October we remind ourselves of moments of celebration and awareness in our rich history, including our remembrance of the Marches on Washington in 1979 and 1987 to showing our visible support with events such as National Coming Out Day and now Spirit Day.  As our community continues our journey for full equality, it is important we remember these moments in our history to reflect on the progress made and the work which remains ahead.

LGBT History Month started one January with the passion of a teacher named Rodney Wilson, who saw it appropriate to recognize, study, and celebrate the history of our community. Wilson leveraged the frameworks of African American History Month and Women's History Month to inform his vision, and he worked to gain the support from an number of equally dedicated people.  With more resources powering the effort, Wilson and the team earned the backing from a number of the leading influential lesbian and gay organizations of the time.  By October of that year, the community was celebrating its first Lesbian and Gay History Month.  Pockets of supporters held events across the country, including lectures, conferences, film festivals, and curriculums celebrating and remembering our community's history. 

The following year, LGBT History Month was receiving mainstream news coverage.  The celebration had briefly received the support of the National Education Association (NEA).  That is, of course, until the anti-LGBT backlash grew so strong against the NEA that they were sadly forced to withdraw a formal endorsement for any history month celebration, including African American History Month and Women's History Month.

Since that time, what was once referred to as Lesbian and Gay History Month, is now a fully realized concept celebrated as LGBT History Month across the globe.  It is a time distinct from Pride Month, to allow for focus, study and celebration of our rich history, our progress in the LGBTQ community, and our impact on society in general.

As we close-out this year's LGBT History Month and near the end of an emotional year, let us be guided by the work achieved by our siblings who came before us.  In their work and sacrifice, we learned our victories are not won in one election or earned in one year.  Rather, they fought tirelessly for decades for equality and visibility at a time when people could be fired instantly for being out of the closet, and when it was illegal to dress how one identified, have sex with someone of the same sex, and marry someone of the same sex. 

With potentially challenging times ahead, we must be motivated to be visible to our family, friends, business partners, and customers.  They must see who we are and that we matter.  They must know that when we march in the streets and celebrate our history, we are asking not for special rights, only the same rights and protections that every other citizen is granted. We are fighting so that our rights cannot be taken away be a court ruling or because of what political party is in power.

Yes, we have much to overcome, and yet still we have so much opportunity ahead of us.  As we work to realize full equality for our community, let us be inspired by our history.  Let us embody the spirit of our siblings who fought before us and stand united, armed with grit, persistence, and a sense of purpose.

Thomas J Lopez is a Board Member of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and Founder of EconomiWorks and ListenWerks, which produces Let’s Talk About Gay Stuff, a podcast about LGBTQ+ history.

We are proud to have EconomiWorks and ListenWerks as Chamber members.

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