Friday, October 05, 2007

October = Gay History Month
(Don't Tell HRC, GLAAD, NGLTF)

If you've forgotten that October is Gay History Month, you are forgiven for this memory lapse because there is no official effort by our national advocacy organizations to commemorate our history this month.
Thanks to one individual, openly gay high school history teacher Rodney Wilson from Missouri, Gay History Month began in 1994 as a way for gays and our allies to learn about important historical people and events that have shaped the gay community.
From at least 1997, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD, was the primary sponsor of this important month and they devoted staff time and organizational resources to engage the community in activities during October.
While it is certainly laudable of a gay advocacy group to publicize Hispanic History Month like this, with a gay angel, it shocks me that GLAAD went to all this effort for their Spanish public service announcement and omitted any reference to October also being Gay History Month. Maybe we should widely revive our history month, if only to remind our professional advocates of their own history.
Just think: GLAAD could have fed two birds, the gay and Hispanic communities, with one seed, the PSA, if they had remembered October is both gay and Hispanic history month.
Is any gay organization putting resources into making this year's Gay History Month a reality? Yes, just one local group, the Equality Forum in Philadelphia. For the second year in a row, they've created a fantastic multi-media web site, highlighting a daily hero or heroine each day of the month.
Where are our leading advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, on our history month this year? I can't find any news releases at the HRC and NGLTF web sites regarding our history month, but I did locate information from HRC, two releases actually, about their support for Black History Month and a statement from NLGTF in observance of Women's History Month.
I'm all in favor of gay groups participating in and promoting other communities' history months, but I'd also like the groups to devote some of their resources and staff time to our own history month.
And there is simply no comparison with how our brothers and sisters across the pond celebrate Gay History Month in the United Kingdom, which is during February. Over in England there is a full calendar of events and lectures that took place this year, which frankly, puts the paucity of similar happenings in America to absolute shame.
I'd like to point out that this October marks the 20th anniversary of our community's historic and ground-breaking March on Washington in 1987, an occasion that in and of itself was monumental, but which also saw the birth of the AIDS memorial quilt, the Names Project, and National Coming Out Day. The 1987 march also planted the seeds for the explosion of ACT UP chapters across the country.
On a much sadder note, October is also the month in which gay US Navy sailor Allen Schindler was brutally murdered by other sailors in a toilet in Sasebo, Japan. Many feel Schindler's senseless killing brought to light the horrific conditions many gays faced in the armed services.
If we gays can't rouse ourselves and push our own national groups to remember and celebrate our vast history in October, don't expect the rest of society to take much time and effort and learn about where we've come from during this month.
Gay History Month -- an idea that should be fully embraced, promoted and celebrated!


Unknown said...

Well said, Michael. Thank you for remembering for us.

Anonymous said...

Glad you reminded us of our past.