Today is the first day of the 26th annual LGBT History Month dedicated to recognizing important moments in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Encompassing a number of historically important days to the LGBT community, October is set to remind both the LGBT and wider communities of important roles LGBT people have taken in creating the social, legal, and political worlds we live in today.
LGBT History Month was created in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri. The month-long event quickly garnered early support from organizations such as GLAAD and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). It was initially chosen to include the by-then well-established National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and the anniversary of the first march on Washington by LGBT people in 1979 on Oct. 14.
The month now also includes Spirit Day on October 15, on which people around the country wear purple in support of LGBT youth; Solidarity Week, a week in which allies against LGBT bullying are celebrated; and the anniversary of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard’s murder on October 12, 1998, which sparked the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
During the early years, the celebration was largely marked by a call to action and commemoration. But since then, LGBT History Month has blossomed into a national coordinated effort to highlight exemplary role models from the LGBT community. Since 2006, this push has so far been led by LGBT rights and education organization Equality Forum.
On the event’s website, Equality Forum is highlighting a new LGBT icon every day with a video, biography, images and bibliography describing the person’s significance. Over the years that Equality Forum has been doing this, they have amassed the biographies and stories of more than 250 LGBT people who have made a difference to the community and the world.