by Rodney Wilson, founder of LGBTQ+ History Month USA
It might seem like a monumental task but starting a national LGBTQ+ History Month is easier than one might think.
I was a new secondary teacher in the early 1990s when I recognized that the lives and histories of LGBTQ+ people were being left out of history. The textbook I used in my American history class, for example, made no reference to LGBTQ+ events or people on any of its 800 pages. Nothing. And that’s why I decided that the United States needed a (what I called at the time) Lesbian and Gay History Month.
These are the steps that turned that fantasy (as it seemed at the time) into a reality:
1. In January 1994, I wrote up a two-page proposal: What a History Month is; how a History Month works; what a History Month can do for the omitted group; and which month worked best in the academic and annual calendar (October, in the USA). I concluded the proposal with a call for endorsements to make October 1994 the first-ever LGBTQ+ History Month in the USA.
2. This proposal was sent, via postal mail, to every then-known LGBTQ+ organization in the United States and to prominent LGBTQ+ historians.
3. To my surprise, institutional and individual endorsements quickly came rolling in. From the endorsees, I pulled together a representative national coordinating council to plan, organize, and implement the first annual event that October.
4. A small curriculum packet was created, publicity press releases were issued, each of us on the national council worked hard to advance the idea nationally; additionally, some local coordinating councils were organized to plan events in specific cities (in St. Louis, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio, for example).
5. In October 1994, we had achieved coverage in the LGBTQ+ press, including a couple of page-one stories; and, thanks to national council members, proclamations from the governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Oregon; and the mayors of Boston and Chicago. In just ten months, Lesbian and Gay History Month (now LGBTQ+ History Month) found a place on the national calendar of the United States.
Yes, it was a lot of work by a lot of people. But even in a pre-Internet age (I didn’t even have an email address at the time) over a short period — from the writing of the proposal in January until that October – LGBTQ+ History Month USA came into existence.
In this high-speed Internet age, things happen much more quickly. In 2022, an organizing committee of six took just seven months to launch LGBTQ+ History Month Italy and a committee of four in Cuba launched the first national History Month in Latin America, with just four months of planning.
If you believe your country needs an LGBTQ+ History Month, gather half a dozen committed helpers, pick the month that is both within the academic calendar and, if possible, has a meaningful callback to an event in the LGBTQ+ history of your nation, and write a proposal. Sometimes, it can be just that easy to call something into existence!
Rodney Wilson has been a teacher since 1990. He is the first out-gay public-school teacher in Missouri, the founder of the world’s first LGBTQ+ History Month, and the co-founder of the International Committee on LGBTQ+ History Months. His experiences as an openly gay and embattled schoolteacher are told in the doc-short Taboo Teaching: The Story of Missouri Teacher Rodney Wilson.
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