February 1st marks the start LGBT History Month, which is a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. It is observed during October in the United States, to include National Coming Out Day on October 11. In the United Kingdom, it is observed during February, to coincide with a major celebration of the 2005 abolition of Section 28, which had the effect of prohibiting schools from discussing LGBT issues or counselling LGBT or questioning youth.
LGBT History Month originated in the United States and was first celebrated in 1994. It was founded by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson. Among early supporters and members of the first coordinating committee were Kevin Jennings of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Kevin Boyer of Gerber/Hart Gay and Lesbian Library and Archives in Chicago; Paul Varnell, writer for the Windy City Times; Torey Wilson, Chicago area teacher; Johnda Boyce, women’s studies major at Columbus State University and Jessea Greenman of UC-Berkeley. Many gay and lesbian organizations supported the concept early on. In 1995, the National Education Association indicated support of LGBT History Month as well as other history months by resolution at its General Assembly.October was chosen by Wilson as the month for the celebration because National Coming Out Day already was established as a widely known event, on October 11, and October commemorated the first March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation by LGBT people in 1979. LGBT History Month is intended to encourage honesty and openness about being LGBT.While it was first known as Lesbian and Gay History Month, the coordinating committee soon added “bisexual” to the title. It has subsequently become known as LGBT History Month. The event has received criticism from, for example, the Concerned Women for America and others who believe it to be a form of indoctrination.
On June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month”. President Barack Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month 2009 on June 1, 2009. Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus, undertook responsibility for LGBT Month in 2006. Each day in October, an Icon is featured with a video, biography, bibliography, downloadable images and other educational resources at http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com. In 2011, Equality Forum introduced an internal search engine for all Icons from inception in 2006 to present. By clicking on “Icon Search” and choosing one of hundreds of categories such as African-American, Athlete, California, Germany, HIV/AIDS, Military, Religion, Transgender, Youth; visitors to the site will be provided with links to all Icons in that category. In 2012, for the first time, two American school districts celebrated LGBT History Month; the Broward County school district in Florida signed a resolution in September in support of LGBT Americans, and later that year the Los Angeles school district, America’s second-largest, also signed on.
LGBT History Month was instigated in the UK by Sue Sanders and Schools Out and first took place in February 2005. The event came in the wake of the abolition of Section 28 and is intended to raise awareness of, and combat prejudice against, an otherwise substantially invisible minority.The first celebration of the month in 2005 saw the organization of over 150 events around the UK. The organization’s website received over 50,000 hits in February 2005. The organization received a new logo designed by LGBT typographer Tony Malone in 2006, he has also ‘modified’ the logo for 2007. In 2007, Tony Malone’s first concept became the corporate logo for the national committee and each year started to receive its own mark.
The initiative received government backing from the deputy DfES and Equalities Minister Jacqui Smith, although some sections of the press argued against its political correctness, and pointed out that the sexuality of some historical figures is more a matter of speculation than fact. Supporters of the event countered that it is important to challenge heterosexist attitudes in society. LGBT History Month is intended to be an annual event in the United Kingdom taking place every February to coincide with a slower month in the schools calendar.The DfES promised funding for LGBT History Month for the first two years to help get the event off the ground. It is now quite well established and has garnered support from other sources. Long standing sponsors include the Metropolitan Police Service, the Metropolitan Police Authority, Amnesty International and the Crown Prosecution Service.The original patrons of the Month were Cyril Nri, Sarah Weir and Ian McKellen, to be replaced in 2009 by Cyril Nri, Angela Eagle, Labi Siffre and Ian McKellen.
In 2004, the first ever pre-launch event was sponsored by Southwark Council and took place at Tate Modern, the following year, the pre-launch was at the Metropolitan Police’s Empress State Building. In 2006, the TUC offered Congress House and in 2007, the event took place in the hall at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Through the years many speakers have spoken at the events. These include Ian McKellen, Stella Duffy, Allan Horsfall, Linda Bellos, Baroness Scotland and Barbara Follett.On 5th March 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosted a reception at Downing Street to mark the Month and in Scotland LGBT History Month was celebrated as an LGBT community event, receiving support from LGBT community history projects such as Our Story Scotland and Remember When.For 2007 and 2008, the Scottish Executive also provided funding for a post at LGBT Youth Scotland to bring LGBT History Month into the wider community, including schools and youth groups