LGBT+ Pride Month
How do you recognize LGBT Pride Month? Maybe you discuss it in your workplace or home, but what else? It’s intimidating to ask questions about sexuality and orientation so first things first, what does LGBT stands for? There are many sexual orientation and gender identity terms used in this community. Today we’ll be representing four of them. Let’s break down the acronym:
L: Lesbian, a woman attracted to other women.
G: Gay, A man attracted to other men, or a person who is attracted to the same sex.
B: Bisexual, a person attracted to both their own sex and the opposite sex.
T: Trans, people who identify as the opposite of their assigned birth gender. Trans people may or may not undergo gender reassignment surgery to live physically the way they feel mentally.
Terminology is constantly evolving, but one thing remains unchanged-- the LGBT community is reflective of America.
As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, it’s important we take a look at the trials and struggles that came before national recognition. In June of 1969, violence against LGBT Americans reaches an all time high after police use excessive violence to raid the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. Enduring an onslaught of hate speech, imprisonment, and assault, the bar patrons demand to be
recognized and respected.
The spirit spreads to other LGBT groups and communities. One year later, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first ever LGBT Pride March takes place in New York City. The March rewrites a dark day in history into a triumphant celebration. Communities across the nation join in and LGBT festivals begin to receive historical documentation. This leads high school history teacher Rodney Wilson to form the official committee to name June LGBT Pride Month in 1994.
Is bravery in your job description? It is for political pioneer Tammy Baldwin. She runs for the Wisconsin Senate seat in 2012, a first for an open lesbian. Although met with slander and denigration from her first day on the campaign trail, Baldwin maintains that elected politicians should reflect America’s diversity.
She says, “There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it's now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s the way things are.” Advocates cheer months later as Baldwin becomes the first openly gay senator in U.S. history.
Sgt. Leonard Matlovich
Who was your childhood hero? Sgt. Leonard Matlovich joins the Air Force in 1952 to follow in the footsteps of his hero-- his father. But he’s forced to conceal his sexual orientation due to a U.S. military ban on gay servicemen. Matlovich braves the war in Vietnam for three tours, and earns a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Despite two decades of exemplary service, he is dishonorably discharged in 1974 for publicly “coming out”. In an effort to make the armed forces inclusive to gay soldiers, he challenges the military in court, and changes the course of gay rights for those in service.
A young Jason Collins dreams of holding an NBA Championship trophy. At seven feet tall he’s made for the game. Fearing that his sexuality may hurt his success, he hides that he’s gay. Drafted into the NBA in 2001, Collins conceals this part of himself for over a decade.
As the public eye veers onto his personal life, Collins takes the risk and officially “comes out” in the 2013 May edition of Sports Illustrated . This makes him the first openly gay active athlete in the four major North American Sports, a brave step toward inclusivity in sports nationwide.
Have you ever dreamed of being an actor? From a young age, Laverne Cox sets her sights on Broadway and the Silver Screen. For years she struggles with niche rolls and harsh rejection, facing adversity as a transgender woman but gets her big break in 2012.
Cast as the first transwoman of color in the TV show Orange is the New Black, her outstanding performance in a breakout role leads Cox to diversify gender representation on a national stage. And in 2014, she becomes the first transperson to ever receive an Emmy nomination.
It’s 1936. Gender orientation isn’t up for debate and George Jorgensen is a woman trapped in a man’s body. Adopting the name Christine, Jorgensen travels to Denmark for a controversial sex-change procedure not available in the U.S. It takes official approval by the Danish government for the operation to move forward.
Christine writes to her parents: "Nature made a mistake which I have had corrected, and now I am your daughter." Her transition humanizes the gender struggles of other Americans and launches a national discussion about gender identity.
Would you camp in the middle of a snow-storm? If you’re eight year old Ann Bancroft, you can’t wait to help pitch the tent. Raised in Minnesota in the 1960s, Bancroft’s love for braving the elements turns into more than an overnight trip.
Decades later, she leads the first women-only expedition 700 miles across the South Pole, wiring trip details to media sources along the way. But her team, comprised of lesbian explorers, are deemed too controversial for media coverage. This injustice leads her to form the Ann Bancroft Foundation, documenting the excellence of LGBT wilderness explorers, trudging a path for future adventures.
In 1940s Alabama, Barbara Gittings can’t wait to get to school. Despite being one of the best students in her class, she’s denied admission to the National Honor Society for “homosexual inclinations”. Gittings searches for answers, but libraries offer no books on homosexuality. This sparks a new dedication to education and gay rights.
Her biggest contribution? A successful lobby of the American Psychological Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness-- a huge step forward for the gay community. For her brave leadership and determination for the cause, Gittings’is dubbed the Mother of LGBT Rights.
So each year, we dedicate LGBT Pride Month to the individuals who give new meaning to bravery. By recognizing their orientation and identity, we’re able to celebrate the differences that make our country great. Please join our journey to recognize the success of a few path-making LGBT Americans, who through their courage, have energized others to be their authentic selves.