LGBTQ in America – The Journey Thus Far

To many Americans, the focus on LGBTQ issues has come in a rush over the last few years, with greater visibility of struggles and much public discussion of issues that were rarely ever acknowledged by society before.  And while many are still working to fully understand the differences between “L/G,” “B,” “T,” and “Q,” a greater general awareness of gender and sexuality matters has recently begun entering the American consciousness.  But, activism in this area has actually been alive and well for many decades.  As a recent CNN.com article outlined, LGBTQ rights organizations began forming as early as 1924.

As awareness increases, so does the demand for more information to support the study of LGBTQ issues.  But because non-traditional sexuality and gender considerations were severely stigmatized until very recently, most libraries find themselves with very little depth in their collections and resources devoted to helping people understand and research topics in this area.

Gale’s Archives of Sexuality & Gender, the largest collection of resources available to support the study of gender and sexuality, was introduced earlier this year to address this dearth of information.  This rich archive helps scholars and others make new connections in LGBTQ history and activism, cultural studies, psychology, health, political science, policy studies, and other related areas of research.

The first release in this landmark collection, LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940, Part I, features unique, fully searchable primary sources on social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ communities around the world – comprising some 1.5 million pages. Rare and unique content from newsletters, papers, government documents, manuscripts, pamphlets, and other types of primary sources sheds light on the gay rights movement, activism, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and more. Truly global in scope, it features historical documents published in more than 35 countries, with over 15 languages represented.

To ensure quality and relevance, material selection is guided by an advisory board of leading scholars and librarians in sexuality and gender studies.

The Path to Today: A Brief Timeline

While there are hundreds of milestones in LGBTQ history, we’re highlighting a few here and linking to sample content you’ll find in Archives of Sexuality & Gender (ASG).

1950:  The Mattachine Society is formed by activist Harry Hay and is one of the first sustained gay rights groups in the US.  The Society focuses on social acceptance and other support for homosexual people.  Sample of related Gale content:  Coordinating Council Minutes of the Mattachine Society.

1969:  Police raid the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Protests and demonstrations begin, and it later becomes known as the impetus for the gay civil rights movement in the United States. Sample of related Gale content:  news article from Come Out newsletter with coverage of the event.

1974:  Kathy Kozachenko becomes the first openly LGBT American elected to any public office when she wins a seat on the Ann Arbor (MI) City Council.  Sample of related Gale content:  article by Kathy Kozachenko published in Gay Liberator (August 1974).

1974:  Elaine Noble is the first openly gay candidate elected to a state office when she is elected to the Massachusetts State legislature.  Sample of related Gale content:  article by Elaine Noble published in Focus (September 1974).

January 9, 1978:  Harvey Milk is inaugurated as San Francisco city supervisor and is the first openly gay man to be elected to a political office in California. Sample of related Gale content:  article about election in GALA Review (1978).

1978:  Inspired by Harvey Milk to develop a symbol of pride and hope for the LGBT community, Gilbert Baker designs and stitches together the first rainbow flag.  Sample of related Gale content:  interview with Gilbert Baker in Montreal-based Etre (August 2003).

October 12, 1979: The first National Conference for Third World Lesbians and Gays convenes in Washington hosted by The National Coalition of Black Gays and aimed to shed light on underrepresented members of the LGBT community.  Sample of related Gale content:  article from Gay Community News (October 14, 1979).

October 14, 1979:  The first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights takes place. It draws an estimated 75,000 to 125,000 people marching for LGBT rights.  Sample of related Gale content:  article from Mom Guess What (November 1979).

March 2, 1982:  Wisconsin becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sample of related Gale content:  article from Lambda News (February 19, 1982).

December 1, 1988:  The World Health Organization holds the first World AIDS Day to raise AIDS awareness.  Sample of related Gale content:   article from Ottawa-based GO/Info (November 1988).

November 30, 1993:  President Bill Clinton signs a military policy directive that prohibits openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the military, but also prohibits the harassment of “closeted” homosexuals. The policy is known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Sample of related Gale content:  article from The Wisconsin Light (June 10-23, 1993).

September 21, 1996:  President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act, banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage and defining marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”  Sample of related Gale content:  article from Boston-based Newsweekly (September 22, 1996).

May 17, 2004:  The first legal same-sex marriage in the United States takes place in Massachusetts.  Sample of related Gale content:  article from St. Louis-based Vital Voice (April 9-22, 2004).

October 28, 2009:  President Barack Obama signs the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.  Sample of related Gale content:  a blog post by Jesse Lee (October 28, 2009).

June 26, 2013:  In United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that legally married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits. The high court also dismisses a case involving California’s Proposition 8. Sample of related Gale content: the actual legislative proposal repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. 

June 26, 2015: The Supreme Court rules that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. The 5-4 ruling had Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority with the four liberal justices. Each of the four conservative justices writes their own dissent.  Sample of related Gale content: the actual Supreme Court decision ending state same-sex marriage bans.

The next step

Help students, educators, and researchers discover a vast resource of rare and unique resources that document LGBTQ history through newsletters, government documents, manuscripts, pamphlets, and other primary sources. Take the next step to bring resources to your library community and request a trial of LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, Part I of Archives of Sexuality & Gender.

For more information and to request a trial visit:  gale.com/LGBTQ for academic libraries or gale.com/LGBTQPUB   for public libraries.

Stay tuned for more LBGT History Month posts all month long!

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