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Teaching LGBT history

When it comes to counting the contributions of LGBT people to society, one month is hardly enough



The LGBT history icons of 2011. (Poster courtesy Equality Forum)

October is once again LGBT history month, and once again, Equality Forum has chosen 31 brand new LGBT icons to highlight throughout the month.

Every year for the past six years, Equality Forum has chosen a new icon to focus on every day throughout the month of October. Their archives now contain the stories of over 186 LGBT icons from throughout history. Everyone from Alexander the Great to one of this year’s new entries, Lady Gaga.

That’s 186 stories to tell. 186 people who have changed the world in some way.

LGBT people have been making the world better, and contributing to their society in crucial ways for as long as civilization has been in existence.

Despite this, however, LGBT kids throughout the country are constantly told that they aren’t good enough, that they’re worthless, that they are abominations and aberrations. Due to terrible bullying and harassment — sometimes completely facilitated by the school culture and by the adults that should be protecting the kids — hundreds of transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay kids take attempt to take their lives every year. Many complete those attempts.

Just as we know LGBT people have contributed monumentally to society, we also know that many LGBT kids won’t survive childhood to make it to adulthood where they will truly flourish.

In California, the state legislature made this connection and have made an attempt to try and stem this tide. Recognizing that many bullied LGBT kids may not know about the wonderful contributions that LGBT people make to our world, the California legislature passed a law mandating the inclusion of information about LGBT people in the teaching of history. These are more often than not LGBT people that have been in our history books for generations. Now they’re bringing these figures out of the closet, to help give LGBT kids a sense of pride about being different, to counter the feeling of isolation and poor self-esteem they often receive in the four walls of a classroom.

However, either despite recognizing what this sort of law could do to curb suicide rates with bullied gay kids, or sadly perhaps even because of recognizing, the far right in California is gaining traction in an effort to add to next year’s ballot a measure to repeal the law. They’re nearing their signature goal, and if this repeal makes it to the ballot, it will be a hard battle to keep it, as the enemies of this law will surely choose messaging that scares parents into believing the law will “teach homosexuality.”

One can no more teach homosexuality than one  can teach heterosexuality. This is about fairness and accuracy in our classrooms. Accuracy is what we should be striving for in the first place. This law only encodes it.

In defiance of these enemies of LGBT openness, we’re joining with the Equality Forum in helping promote LGBT history this October. We’ve also got several other partners providing us with content throughout the month. Keep checking back to see what we’ll be bringing you.

Below is the press release from Equality Forum about the LGBT history icons. Tomorrow we’ll bring you the first installment from this year’s National Gay History Project in conjunction with our friends at Philadelphia Gay News. Please spread the world, and let’s celebrate our community’s history, strength and contributions.

LGBT History Month Starts Saturday

Featured Icons for October 1st to October 7th

LGBT History Month 2011 ( starts Saturday, October 1st.

LGBT History Month provides role models, teaches history, builds community, and celebrates our community’s important national and international contributions.

“LGBT History Month 2011 includes outspoken Lady Gaga, “Milk” screenwriter and Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal activist Dan Choi, national hero Daniel Hernandez Jr., internationally acclaimed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, first elected transgender judge Victor Kolakowski, Ugandan leader David Kato, singer Ricky Martin and satirist Wanda Sykes,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum and founder of LGBT History Month. “We can take real pride in the 31 Icons for 2011 and the 155 Icons from 2006 to 2010, all of whom are archived on the site.”

Each day in October, an Icon is featured with a free video, biography, bibliography, downloadable images and other educational resources. A free and easily embedded video player provides the Icon’s video, which is automatically updated daily starting Saturday.

Through a grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, LGBT History Month 2011 includes an internal search engine for all 186 Icons from 2006 – 2011. By clicking on “Icon Search” and choosing from over 200 tags, users will find links to all Icons in that category and their resources.

LGBT History Month Icons – Week 1

Kye Allums – Saturday, October 1st

Allums is the first openly transgender athlete to play NCAA Division 1 basketball.

John Ashbery – Sunday, October 2nd

One of the most successful poets, Ashbery has won almost every major literary award, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Alison Bechdel – Monday, October 3rd

A celebrated cartoonist, Bechdel is the author of the long running comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For.

John Berry – Tuesday, October 4th

Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Berry is the highest-ranking openly gay federal employee in U.S. history.

Dustin Lance Black – Wednesday, October 5th

A screenwriter, director and producer, Black received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for “Milk.”.

Keith Boykin – Thursday, October 6th

A political commentator and a New York Times best-selling author, Boykin is a veteran of two presidential campaigns.

Rita Mae Brown – Friday, October 7th

A novelist and a screenwriter, Brown is best known for her semi-autobiographical lesbian themed-book “Rubyfruit Jungle.”

October LGBT History Month Icons

1st Kye Allums – Athlete
2nd John Ashbery – Poet
3rd Alison Bechdel – Cartoonist
4th John Berry – Government Official
5th Dustin Lance Black – Screenwriter
6th Keith Boykin – Commentator
7th Rita Mae Brown – Author
8th Dan Choi – Activist
9th Aaron Copland – Composer
10th Alan Cumming – Actor
11th Denise Eger – Rabbi
12th Lady Gaga – Singer
13th Michael Guest – Diplomat
14th Neil Patrick Harris – Actor
15th Daniel Hernandez Jr. – Hero
16th Langston Hughes – Author
17th Frida Kahlo – Artist
18th David Kato – Ugandan Activist
19th Michael Kirby – Supreme Court Justice
20th Victoria Kolakowski – Judge
21st Dave Kopay – Athlete
22nd Ricky Martin – Singer
23rd Amélie Mauresmo – Athlete
24th Constance McMillen – Youth Activist
25th Ryan Murphy – Writer/Director
26th Dan Savage – Journalist/Author
27th Amanda Simpson – Government Official
28th Wanda Sykes – Comedian/Actor
29th Lilli Vincenz – Gay Pioneer
30th Virginia Woolf – Author
31st Pedro Zamora – AIDS Activist, MTV Personality

Equality Forum (, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus, coordinates LGBT History Month worldwide, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents annually the largest national and international LGBT civil rights summit.



Veterans with substance use disorders need our help

Many return home to face a new battle with addiction, trauma



(Photo by SCPhotog/Bigstock)

On Memorial Day, millions of American families honored the memory of the men and women who lost their lives fighting in one of the nation’s wars. It can be challenging for families who have recently lost a loved one.

We must also never forget the countless veterans who made it home but are now fighting a new battle with substance use or mental health disorders. Unfortunately, suicidal ideation is all too common and fueled by drug addiction.

It can be a particularly challenging problem for U.S. military self-identified as LGBTQ. A health survey released by the RAND Corporation found 6.1% of people in the U.S. military identified as LGBTQ. Suicide risk within this community varies considerably depending on the intersection between sexual identity and other aspects of identity.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 3.9 million veterans nationally have a substance use disorder or mental illness. Unfortunately, substance use disorder significantly increases suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common among veterans ages 18 to 49.

“Early intervention is critical, and it saves lives. Yet, it is also important for families to know where to look and how to find help when needed,” said Michael Leach of

Numerous causative factors lead to substance use among veterans. For instance, many veterans struggle to adjust to civilian life. They may experience financial hardships, difficulty finding employment, or accessing benefits.

Many other veterans battle mental and emotional health problems. This can often be compounded with physical injury or chronic pain leading to pain medication use. Untreated trauma, for example, leads to drug and alcohol use to cope with unwanted feelings.

Outside of the usual resources provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA facility locator, other options may include:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides specific resources for LGBTQ veterans;
Helpful hotlines include the Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, option 1 and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443;

SAMHSA has a treatment facility locator where veterans can find specific treatment options.

Families also play a vital role in supporting a loved one struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s OK to express concern about their substance use. Speak to them openly and honestly about it and help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion for what they are experiencing. Remember, substance use disorders are treatable.

When families and communities come together, amazing things happen. Veterans with substance use disorders need our help; it’s never too late to offer a helping hand.

Veronica Raussin is a Community Outreach Coordinator for, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol and drug use.

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Non-alignment or hypocrisy: South Africa’s non-alignment costing Africa’s human rights discourse

Country must take stronger stance against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law



LGBTQ and intersex activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. South Africa must take a stronger stance against the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

In the past several months, South Africa’s foreign policy has been in the spotlight for essential and existential reasons that significantly impact geopolitics and the continent’s stability. 

The foreign policy for South Africa discussion document by the Department of International Relations highlights the “advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy” as the pillars on which South Africa’s foreign policy rests. This document emphasizes the role that South Africa is expected to play in the “promotion of human rights and democracy.”

Minister Pandor echoed this document in her 2022 end-of-year remarks

“We will continue with our unwavering position to advocate for a balanced Sustainable Development Program within the human rights framework as underlined in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA). In this regard, South Africa will be one of the chief proponents of a balanced agenda of the HRC, which reflects, among others, the primacy of achieving the realization of the right to development as well as moral human rights issues such as the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.” 

South Africa has long been known for its commitment to human rights and its leadership in the fight against apartheid. However, its foreign policy continues to be viewed as ambiguous and nonresponsive to developments in African affecting the growth of the continent.

In 2021, President Ramaphosa — as chair of the SADC Organ Troika — committed to a national political dialogue in Eswatini to resolve the political killings in that country. However, the South African government has never followed up or called on the Eswatini government to adhere to its commitment, even as renowned human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was mercilessly assassinated in January 2023. At the very least, this has not been seen publicly, which would be comforting to those political activists and citizens constantly living in fear in Eswatini. 

On May 29, the president of Uganda enacted the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. The new law is a throwback to colonization, where religious fanatism was the basis for the persecution and killing of many Africans. While Africa seems to take the posture of “fighting against imperialism,” it is saddening that this law is the brainchild of American zealots funding hate across Africa, whether it is in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi or Namibia. These zealots, the Fellowship Foundation and many others, are well coordinated in their attacks on the judiciary and the African human rights framework, backed by the 75-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

In an era where Africa is seen to be taking a stance against imperialism, I shudder to contemplate that hate may be the only imperialist agenda Africa is not actively standing up against. We know the history of petty offences like homelessness and loitering, sedition laws, and anti-LGBTI laws. These are remnants of colonization to keep Africa inferior and the colonial masters superior. Today, the hate continues through repressive and backwards sentiment being paraded as religious values. Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law criminalizes what it calls “aggravated homosexuality” with the death penalty. It would be hard to imagine what “aggravated homosexuality” even means. 

This is another opportunity where South Africa’s posture and foreign policy must be spotlighted. With the growing conversation about the ICC arrest warrant of President Putin, South Africa has reiterated its foreign policy as non-alignment and non-interference. 

However, when the question of human rights and democracy is at play, all must take a stand. This law has been widely criticized by human rights organizations and the international community for violating the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals and hindering the fight against HIV. It further impedes what Minister Pandor called the “balanced agenda of the HRC,” which speaks to sustainable development within the human rights framework. 

It should be worrying if South Africa continues to maintain a policy of non-alignment and non-interference in the face of the new law in Uganda. While this policy may have its merits, it raises questions about South Africa’s commitment to human rights and its role as a leader in Africa. A foreign policy that neglects the promotion of human rights and democratic principles is hypocritical. On the one hand, South Africa is seen as a leader in promoting LGBTIQ+ rights and has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world regarding protecting the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals. However, on the other hand, it has failed to take a strong stance against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law, which is a clear violation of human rights.

By maintaining this policy, South Africa is essentially condoning Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law and undermining the fight for human rights in Africa. This is particularly concerning given South Africa’s leadership role in the African Union and its commitment to promoting human rights and democracy.

South Africa’s foreign policy regarding Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law raises questions about its commitment to non-alignment and human rights in Africa. While non-interference may have its merits, it should not come at the expense of human rights and the fight for equality and justice. 

South Africa must take a stronger stance against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law and work towards promoting human rights and democracy in Africa.

Melusi Simelane is the Southern Africa Litigation Center’s Civic Rights Program Manager.

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Republicans prove how vile and frightening they can be

Attacks will continue if we don’t defeat right-wing figures everywhere



Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Day after day we see Republicans trying to outdo each other in how vile and frightening they can be. From the fight over the debt ceiling, to their presidential primary, they continue to try to take the nation backwards. 

In the debt ceiling fight, they clearly say, “We will protect the wealthy in our country at all costs, and instead will cut, or eliminate, programs to help the poor.” The far-right wing crazies like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), are threatening their own speaker, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), with the loss of his job if he doesn’t go along with what they want. Now that a deal has been cut, we will see how they, and left-leaning Democrats who have been putting pressure on President Biden to reject all Republican demands, will vote. These are facts of life in our nation today. Any person with a shred of decency should be embarrassed. I don’t envy President Biden for what he has to do to keep the nation from defaulting on its debts. The political reality is that he had to give in on some issues. Democrats should not fault him, but rather blame Republicans. 

It is scary when you see what Republicans are doing around the nation with regard to abortion rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights. One recent example being Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proudly signing the bill making abortion only legal until six weeks. There are women who don’t even know by then they are pregnant. Also, it’s time men start understanding how this impacts them. Women need to remind the fathers what their responsibility will be if they both aren’t ready for a child but are forced to have one.

One ignorant parent in Florida complained, and according to politico was able to have “A Miami-Dade elementary school limit some access to Amanda Gorman’s presidential inauguration poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ complaining that it contained indirect “hate messages.” This is insanity and the clear result of Trump’s impact on the culture of the nation. He made it OK to once again have hatred spewed from the public square, frightening decent people. 

Like the threats against Target. CNN reported the company was “removing some products that celebrate Pride month after the company and its employees became the focus of a “volatile” anti-LGBTQ campaign. The company told the Wall Street Journal that people have confronted workers in stores, knocked down Pride merchandise displays and put threatening posts on social media with video from inside stores. Some people have thrown Pride items on the floor, Target spokesperson Kayla Castaneda told Reuters. CNN went on to report “Prominent right-wing activists, Republican political leaders, and conservative media outlets, have focused their attention on a women’s swimsuit that was described as “tuck friendly” for its ability to conceal male genitalia. Misinformation spread on social media that it was marketed to children, which it was not.” Again, insanity, promoted by the right wing. The people doing this should be arrested and prosecuted.

It only gets worse as Republican candidates running for president try to outdo each other with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, trying to improve their poll numbers. DeSantis can tout his “don’t say gay legislation.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a Black man, who says the country is not racist, touts his opposition to marriage equality. Then there is Mike Pence who will quote the Bible to you, claiming it tells us how terrible it is to be gay. 

The Daily News recently reported “Following last year’s more than 220 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across the country, a poll by The Trevor Project found 71% of LGBTQ youth — and 86% trans and nonbinary youth — said they were negatively impacted by the flurry of proposals to restrict their rights.” They went on to report, “As of May 23, more than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country, according to the Human Rights Campaign. More than 220 of those specifically restrict the rights of transgender and nonbinary people. These are all Republican bills.

This will continue unabated if we don’t defeat Republicans everywhere. In sharp contrast, Democrats in the Maryland legislature, led by Delegates David Moon (D-Montgomery County) and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore County) and State Senator Howard Lam (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties), managed to repeal the states sodomy law and pass gun-control measures.

Republicans will continue to carry out their agenda of hate across the nation unless we say with our votes, “We won’t take this anymore.” The United States is better than this and we will show the world we will not tolerate hate; we will fight it.  

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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