Brief History of LGBTQ Rights and Social Movements
In just about every documented culture, there are instances of homosexuality and LGBTQ members. While not all cultures have been accepting, past or present, this is nothing new, and there is nothing shameful or wrong about it. According to the American Psychological Association “In the United States, there were few attempts to create advocacy groups supporting gay and lesbian relationships until after World War II. ” Historically speaking, homosexuality had for an extended period of time been considered to be a mental disorder and it was not until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM.
Further protections from discrimination were put into action with the civil rights movements of 1965, where official laws against discrimination were enacted. The first major gay rights demonstrations where held in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings were responsible for organizing these groundbreaking events.
Many consider the Stonewall Riots to be a pivotal turning point in achieving true change for LGBTQ rights. This event occurred on June 28, 1969 and is commemorated in present day Gay Pride and LGBTQ events and marches every June. The 1960’s and decades prior were quite intolerant of the LGBTQ community as a whole. Many in the community found refuge and acceptance at gay bars. However here, LGBTQ members were still not entirely safe. According to History.com “New York State Liquor Authority penalized and shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBTQ individuals, arguing that the mere gathering of homosexuals was “disorderly.”
According the US Census Bureau “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.”
On the day of the riot, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police. Outraged and fed up with harassment, patrons and local residents retaliated. Six days of protests ensued. The Stonewall Riots are considered to be a major catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States. Today many LGBTQ groups are actively trying to achieve acceptance and equality.
Other Noteworthy Moments in History
– 1924: The first gay rights group is established. World War I veteran Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago. The group was the first gay rights group in America, and its newsletter, “Friendship and Freedom,” was the United States’ first recorded gay rights publication.
– October, 2009: The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act becomes a law. President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The act was named for two men who were murdered in hate crimes — Matthew Shepard because he was gay, and James Byrd, Jr. because he was black. The new law expanded previous hate crime legislation to officially categorize crimes motivated by actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability as hate crimes
– July, 2015: The military will allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the military. The U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, announced that the military would lift a ban that prevents transgender Americans from serving in the country’s armed forces. This rule went into effect, but now-President Donald Trump rescinded this right, again banning transgender people from the military as of April, 2019.
Mental Health and LGBTQ Community
Suicide is a major concern among our youth population and we need to ensure that citizens and officials are doing what we can to work together to prevent such tragedy. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 48,000 people. According to the National Institute of Mental Health suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10-34.
According to the CDC “A study of youth in grades 7-12 found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers. Some risk factors are linked to being gay or bisexual in a hostile environment and the effects that this has on mental health.”
Those identifying as LGBTQ often face increased instances of discrimination, stigma, and feelings of shame or confusion that can lead to a decline in mental health and an increase in mental health issues including depression and suicidal ideations. Due to things like stigma and a lack of understanding or openness surrounding discussions about gender and sexuality, it can be difficult for LGBTQ persons to seek adequate guidance, support, or assistance for mental health struggles. This may include fear of discrimination, lack of access to LGBTQ informed providers, or lack of access to quality and affordable care.
Recent statistics show that 4.2% of Adult Marylanders are LGBTQ. 5% of the Maryland workforce identifies as LGBTQ, and 20% of the Maryland LGBTQ population are raising children.
Youth identifying as transgender are four times as likely to experience depression than their heterosexual peers. Stigma and discrimination of members of the LGBTQ youth community cause them to be more at risk of facing struggles with their mental health. Twenty eight percent of LGBTQ youth report feeling depressed in comparison to twelve percent of non-LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth are two times as likely to have suicidal ideations and four times more likely to make a suicide attempt compared to heterosexual peers. LGBTQ youth who are rejected by their families are 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide as those who do not experience rejection.
According to the Trevor Project 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth. 46% of LGBTQ youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past 12 months. 29% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away. 61% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being prevented or discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. 86% of LGBTQ youth said that recent politics have negatively impacted their well-being.
If you or a loved one need mental health assistance and identify as LGBTQ please see our list of resources here. You matter.
Discrimination against LGBTQ
Discrimination against the LGBTQ population has been a long standing concern. Some of the most widespread historical instances of stigma and discrimination were the Aids Epidemic “During an October 1982 White House press briefing. Conservative journalist Lester Kinsolving questioned Larry Speakes, President Reagan’s press secretary, about the president’s reaction to AIDS, which was then affecting some 600 people. When Kinsolving mentioned the disease was known as the “gay plague,” the press pool erupted in laughter.” (History.com)
LGBTQ members also faced discrimination in the military. Homosexuality was grounds for removal from service, a practice dating as far back as the Revolutionary War.
According to History.com In 1993 “Clinton announced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which permitted gay Americans to serve in the military as long as they remained closeted. The policy, enshrined in a federal statute passed by Congress the same year, went into effect in February 1994.” There have however recently been policies put in place that have caused discrimination in the military to continue.
Discrimination still occurs in a variety of places, including the medical field, schools, family structure, and the workplace. To view an extensive list of laws and bills (current and proposed) affecting the LGBTQ community please visit this link. To learn more about detailed discrimination and protection on a state by state basis, please view this map and this map.
It is worth noting that there is great discrimination among the aging LGBTQ population as well.
LGBTQ+ Intersecting with BIPOC and Racism
Though little research exists, perhaps due to racism within academia and its impact on hindering grant research, Black, indigenous, and people of color find the challenges of being in the LGBTQ community even greater than their caucasian peers. Though there is little academic research to support it, anecdotal and observational evidence support that BIPOC people that are queer have far fewer media representation than people that are white or white and LGBTQ. BIPOC people tend to have greater rates of depression, suicide, homelessness, and instances of violence committed against them.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “At this moment, transgender women of color are living in crisis. Over the past several years, more than 150 transgender people have been killed in the United States, nearly all of them
black transgender women.” They go on to say that records of violence and murder against transgender people have sky rocketed in the last 4 years. An astounding 84% of transgender people that have been murdered were people of color, and 80% of them women. These numbers are believed to be underreported due to improper identification of transgender people.
Steps can be taken to change these patterns. Increasing conversations within families and communities, limiting discrimination with governmental policy, and improving gun-control laws can fight the widespread violence and mental health issues BIPOC face in the LGBTQ community.
For more information on fatal violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming community in 2020 please read this article.
People You Should Know!
Christine Jorgensen: One of the first publicly known people to have sex reassignment surgery.
Leonard Matlovich: A technical sergeant and Vietnam War veteran who received the Purple Heart and was the first gay man to come out in the military. He did so while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Sylvia Rivera: A transgender activist, Stonewall leader, founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, and contributing member to the foundation of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.
Gertrude Stein: American writer & poet, famous for writing honest and candid portrayals of lesbian relationships.
Gilbert Baker: Helped define the LGBTQ movement as the designer of the rainbow flag. The flag was first unveiled at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978 and has become a universal symbol for the community.
How to be an Ally
There are many ways to be an ally. Speak up, understand your own biases or lack of knowledge, learn, share, listen, get involved….For more information on how to be a LGBTQ ally including the things below visit GLAAD.
- Be a listener.
- Be open-minded.
- Be willing to talk.
- Be inclusive and invite LGBTQ friends to hang out with your friends and family.
- Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
- Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
- Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
- Defend your LGBTQ friends against discrimination.
- Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
- If you see LGBTQ people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at glaad.org.
The Trevor Project
Counselors available by text, online chat, or phone number for any person of the community experiencing a crisis. They take over 100,000 calls, chats, and texts per year. Their campaign, 50 Bills 50 States, is the largest campaign in the world endeavoring to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy in every state of the nation and countries around the world. The Trevor Project engages in legislation, litigation and public education to end these dangerous and discredited practices.
Build organizations, engage leaders, supporting students through scholarships, and advancing equality using macro-level tactics in public education and with legislation.
Pride Center Maryland
It Gets Better
Relatable stories that let others know they are not alone. They also host online events frequently that have uplifting speakers and talk about safety, current issues, etc.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline