This article was published on October 1st, 2020
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” – Mahatma Gandhi
October is a special month for the LGBT community. It’s the LGBT History Month – an annual month-long celebration of LGBT history, history of gay and other civil rights movements.
The month also highlights and celebrates the achievements of 31 LGBT icons, individuals whose courage, commitment, and trailblazing lives serve as light posts to the rest of the community. These people have challenged and continue to challenge molds and gay stereotypes and offer visibility to the community.
LGBT History Month also coincides with some of the most important days on the LGBT calendar, including the National Coming Out Day, Spirit Day, Ally Week, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard, among others.
So, what is LGBT History Month, why does it matter, and what can you do to celebrate? Read on to find out.
A brief history of LGBT History Month
It only fits that LGBTQ+ History Month started with a history teacher.
Rodney Wilson, the first openly gay public school teacher in Missouri, conceived the ideas in 1994 and subsequently served on the first coordinating committee. He believed, rightly so, that a month should be dedicated to celebrating the rich LGBT history and the history we have made in the quest for equal rights.
Together with fellow teachers and community leaders, the team selected October to coincide with important dates for the LGBT community. The idea received a warm reception and massive support from the community, gay and lesbian organizations such as GLSEN, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and social and political figureheads.
In 2016 Equality Forum took on the mantle of coordinating LGBT History month events, including providing content, promotion, icon materials, and other resources for LGBT History Month.
Why is it important?
People without history are, to a large extent, lost. As George Santayana, the famous philosopher, said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
LGBT History Month reminds us of the long and sometimes difficult journey we have taken to where we stand today. It celebrates those individuals, our icons, who stood their ground and, in doing so, unleashed the freedoms we enjoy today.
The month’s celebration raises awareness on the brave activists that have fought for LGBT rights and equality over the years. It highlights the current struggles, such as transgender discrimination, and promotes diversity for the better good.
In raising awareness of LGBT identities and issues, LGBT History Month helps expand public understanding of the complexities around gender, sex, romantic and social orientation. It’s also an opportunity to teach the youth, at a critical point in their life, about sexuality, and that’s it’s okay to be different.
Key dates to remember during LGBT History Month
- Oct 11 – National Coming Out Day
- Oct 12 – The anniversary of 21-year old Matthew Shepard’s murder in 1998 sparked the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
- Oct 14 – Anniversary of the first march on Washington by LGBT people in 1979
- Oct 15 – Spirit Day: In support of LGBT youth
- Oct 15-19 – Ally Week
What you can do to celebrate
You can observe and celebrate LGBT History Month in several ways:
Celebrate the key dates
Each of the critical dates in the LGBT History Month revolves around specific aspects of LGBT life and community.
For instance, on Spirit Day, millions go purple to support LGBTQ youth and stand against bullying.
You can celebrate by going purple on the day. Whether through how you dress, your social media, or in your unique way. Additionally, take the pledge against LGBTQ youth bullying, spread the word, and donate to organizations that address issues for LGBTQ youth.
Read up on LGBT history.
Do you know about Stonewall and how it birthed the LGBT rights movement? Which landmark Supreme Court rulings expanded LGBT rights and changed the community’s trajectory? While at it, did you know that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka Ruthie Smalls, aka Notorious RBG) was the first judge on the Supreme Court to officiate a same-sex marriage?
October is the month to bone up on the colorful and fascinating history of the LGBT community. From the early days of Stonewall to where we stand and where we can go.
Check out the gay icon of the day.
Equality Forum releases a list of LGBT icons, each for a day of October. This year’s icons include Billy Porter, Megan Smith, Menaka Guruswamy & Arundhati Katju, and one of my favorites, Lil Nas X (yum). Check out their bios here.
Celebrate local gay icons
Charity begins at home. As you celebrate the national and international icons, look closer home. Celebrate the individuals work tirelessly in the community to promote inclusion, diversity, and taking a stand against bullying.
Volunteer and donate
LGBT History Month provides a unique opportunity to give back to the LGBT community. Volunteer at an LGBT organization. Donate to your favorite LGBT charity or organization. These organizations perform a critical role in advocating for the rights of all LGBT people and other marginalized communities. They are at the forefront of educating and protecting at-risk youth.
Promote LGBT History Month on social media
Finally, you can share aspects of LGBT History Month on social media. For instance, share the daily icon videos, visit and follow the icons on social media, or create an album of your favorite icons and share on social media.
History is essential, yet LGBT History is not taught at home or public schools or religious institutions. LGBT History Month provides the opportunity to highlight role models, icons, LGBT civil rights, progress so far, and how far we still have to ensure equal rights for all.