October 3, 2011 at 8:15 am EDT | by Phil Reese
Teaching LGBT history

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 (www.lgbtHistoryMonth.com) 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 (www.equalityforum.com), 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.


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