By: Christina Gordon, Senior Director, ACT Center for Equity in Learning
October marks the 17th annual LGBT History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions LGBTQ Americans like Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Ellen DeGeneres, Audre Lorde, and Bayard Rustin have made to the fabric of our society. And, as a part of LGBT History Month, today marks Spirit Day, a way to support LGBTQ students – who, according to GLAAD, “disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities.” In fact, GLAAD also reports that 85 percent of LGBTQ students report being verbally harassed, and nearly 58 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in their school because of their sexuality. What better reason to show your support? You can participate in Spirit Day and show solidarity by “going purple” – by signing a pledge, showing support on social media, or by wearing something purple.
Spirit Day isn’t the only way to participate in LGBT History Month. Earlier this month marked National Coming Out Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the LGBTQ community, empowering them to live openly and honestly. This month also provides an opportunity to acknowledge and applaud the many accomplishments of the LGBT community. In fact, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey notes that teaching LGBTQ history “can mean feeling safer at school and hearing homophobic and transphobic remarks less frequently.” Still, schools aren’t all teaching LGBTQ history, despite the benefits it can have for students. According to an article in U.S. News, “About 63 percent of students said they’ve never learned about LGBT people, history or events at school.” This means we’ve got a ways to go until the month – and LGBTQ history – is fully represented in schools.
Groups like GLSEN and HRC have resources for schools and students to mark the month. One way to explore LGBTQ history is through GLSEN’s timeline, here. And you can get great tips from GLAAD about how to support LGBTQ students during Spirit Day, LGBT History Month, and beyond. And if you’re an interested ally, PFLAG has great resources for keeping schools safe for LGBTQ kids.
LGBT History Month has a little something for everyone, and is the perfect way to learn something new in support of the LGBTQ community. Dive in!