In 1994, Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, believed a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history, and gathered other teachers and community leaders. They selected October because public schools are in session and existing traditions, such as Coming Out Day (October 11), occur that month.
Since then, that group has become Equality Forum, a national organization that annually selects 31 LGBT Icons, living or dead. Selection is made based on each individual’s achievements in their field of endeavor, status as a national hero or for significant contribution to LGBT civil rights. Equality Forum solicits nominations from regional, state, national and international organizations, activists, and the public.
Among this year’s Icons are Josephine Baker, Brian Bond, David Bowie, James Buchanan, Chaz Bono, and James Obergefell. An icon will be celebrated each day in October on the Equality Forum web site and in participating educational institutions.
“The LGBT community is the only community worldwide that is not taught at home, in public schools or in religious institutions” says the organization’s web site. “LGBT History Month provides role models, builds community and makes the civil rights statement about our extraordinary national and international contributions.”
Their web site offers tools and suggestions for students, educators, GSAs, schools and colleges to celebrate the community’s accomplishments, from LGBT History exhibits and speakers to classroom initiatives and administration buy in.
Locally, Old Dominion University’s Office of Intercultural Relations has assembled a month-long schedule of events which includes Student Ally Training, a screening of The Same Difference with filmmaker Nneka Onuorah, LGBT Open Mic Night, and a visit to LGBT Center of Hampton Roads.