For the month of October, LGBT History Month is used to recognize historical icons that have had impact on the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights over decades of history as well as members of the community that have made great contributions towards humanity in general.
LGBT History Month is not to be confused with LGBT Pride Month in June, which was started to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
In 1994, Rodney Wilson, a teacher at a Missouri high school, believed that a month should be devoted to the learning and celebration of LGBT history and chose October for two main reasons.
The first is that school would be in session, providing schools with the opportunity to connect with students about this specific history.
The second is due to existing traditions such as National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and planned around the first two marches on Washington for lesbian and gay rights back in 1979 and 1987 in the same month of October.
National Coming Out Day specifically coincides with the 1987 march on Washington and on the same day years prior to the establishment of the national holiday, thousands marched to protest against Ronald Reagan’s lack of acknowledgement pertaining the AIDS crisis and the criminalization of sodomy acts between consenting adult men.
There are several moments in history that are important to recognize for the month, including the Stonewall riots in 1969 following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn.
These pockets of history are sometimes brushed under the rug due to the notion some people still hold that topics pertaining to the LGBT are perverse in nature and due to being buried in past prejudice, refuse to include it in the conversation of the past.
Another reason for this month lies in the need for role models to be shown to people who have never heard of them before.
Visibility in the media is an important topic when it comes to minority groups. From Moonlight, a movie about a young gay and black man growing up in Miami, winning an Academy Award in 2016 to artists like Lil Nas X breaking down cultural barriers as a black gay man in country music.
This also includes the importance of acknowledging historical figures that were part of the LGBT community, such as Alan Turing who broke the Enigma Code the Nazis used in World War II.
The representation of these and other figures can help those facing oppression due to LGBT status find inspiration to continue and do great things.
Sam Hennegan, president of EIU Pride, said that there will be events planned for this month.
“We will be doing the Big Gay Panel on October 23,” she said.
Hennegan described it as a panel with several different people in the LGBT community and furthermore they will, “be trying to get one person from every letter in LGBTQPIA+.”
Hennegan also said she feels that the Eastern community is mostly inclusive, but not completely.
“When it comes to the campus environment it is relatively inclusive,” she said. “I feel safe on campus, but there are still stares and people will talk. But all in all I feel accepted by those I surround myself with.”
Helena Edwards can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]