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Reflections On GLBT History Month

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October is known, in the LGBT -- or GLBT-- community as LGBT History Month. Rodney Wilson, a teacher in Missouri, decided in 1994 that there should be some way of celebrating and teaching gay and lesbian history. GLBT history is the only history, of a minority group, that I never learned about in high school. To clarify, because of all the attention that is placed on June and July for pride events, I had assumed up to the age of 20 that June and July was it.

I've never had to worry about coming out to my family or friends. I am in a geographical area that respects human rights, GLBT rights, and was a leader in both civil unions and same-sex marriages. I've never grown up in a time where I could be arrested for my sexual orientation or that I would run the risk, from my family, for being disowned because of whom I loved. I have never run the risk of being arrested for entering a gay bar or having to go through what the community did in the late 1950s and 1960s, pre-Stonewall. While political figures are still private about their own sexual orientations, they are at least "allowed" to be gay without worry of blackballing.

Before Generation Y great strides have been made for me to be able to even write this blog, starting with Stonewall, a riot in New York City on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village. It was a riot that changed everything. Back in the '60s police would routinely raid bars that were popularly known as homosexual hangouts. They would separate the biological males and females. To be considered a male or female, in some cases, you needed to have a certain amount of that sex's clothing. If you didn't, you would be considered a transvestite and get arrested. In this particular instance the patrons fought back. There are some theories why; the two most popular theories are that the patience of the LGBT community had run out, and another popular theory is that the death of Judy Garland a few days earlier had lit a fuse.

These theories started a great growth in a culture's history. The culture began to be more apparent and take strides to be heard, following in the footsteps of the civil rights movement for African Americans and protests against the Vietnam War. The first gay pride parade happened in 1970, which now happens every June; the march starts on Fifth Avenue and down Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Inn stands. This united front that can still be seen today with the recent passing of gay marriage bill in New York.

Icons and single words can be placed on the GLBT community, both good and bad, but equally important, rainbow flags have, over the years, come to represent the community. A lesser-known symbol is the upside-down pink triangle, used in concentration camps to mark gay prisoners (lesbian prisoners were given a black triangle, which stood for anti-social women); it is now used as a sign of respect for those who died during the Holocaust.

AIDS, although taught in health and sexual education courses, has never been labeled anything other than a virus in my generation. AIDS, historically, has been used to discriminate against the GLBT community. Despite losing leaders of the community, there have been strides made that could equal the progress that happened after Stonewall. The NAMES Project Foundation was created and is the caretaker of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt, which anyone can donate to, is a representation of those who have died from HIV. If you get a chance, see one of the pieces of the quilt; to see something that loved ones have worked to put together and is a living memorial is indescribable.

Generation Y is developing its own history. We are standing up for what we believe in. We have a unique chapter with a new atmosphere of openness and acceptance, along with some negative undertones from new ways of bullying. My generation is both seeing how relationships can be valued as much as heterosexual relationships. My employment has never been dependent on which gender I live with or have intimate relationships with. I have been able to put same-sex partners on my insurance. In some states, however, we are seeing the same argument that Anita Bryant put out in the 1970s, but this time against gay marriage.

My generation is slowly, but surely, embracing other people's choices. We have seen a number, small but still important, of teenagers who took their lives. Despite the efforts to make "no tolerance" rules, they are not enforced or don't even exist in every high school. The community is seeing more of an effort to be accepted as a bipartisan effort through the It Gets Better project.

GLBT History Month is needed. It needs to be taught because this is a living example of how it gets better, how the community pulls together.