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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of LGBT Civil Rights Movement

The Start of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement

Gay equality activist Barbara Gittings picketing Independence Hall. Fifty years ago, heroic gay and lesbian activists from Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia held the first organized demonstrations for equality. Principal among them were Frank Kameny (from Washington) and Barbara Gittings (from Philadelphia)—the father and mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.

Called "Annual Reminders," the demonstrations were held each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969. When 40 activists picketed in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell on July 4, 1965, it was the largest demonstration for gay equality in world history.


Gay Liberation Front members marching on Times Square, Fall 1969.When the Stonewall riot occurred in 1969, the Gay Pioneers recognized it as the movement's Boston Tea Party. They discontinued the Annual Reminders and put all their energy into a first anniversary Stonewall march the following year. Between 2,000 and 5,000 men and women participated, walking from Greenwich Village to Central Park.

Remembered as the first New York Gay Pride Parade, the 1970 march inspired Gay Pride Parades across North America and around the globe.


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The Stonewall Riot

The Stonewall Inn in September 1969.On June 28, 1969 just after 3 a.m., a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located on New York City’s Christopher Street, turns violent as patrons and local sympathizers begin rioting against the police.

Although the police were legally justified in raiding the club, which was serving liquor without a license among other violations, New York’s gay community had grown weary of the police department targeting gay clubs, a majority of which had already been closed. The crowd on the street watched quietly as Stonewall’s employees were arrested, but when three drag queens and a lesbian were forced into the paddy wagon, the crowd began throwing bottles at the police. The officers were forced to take shelter inside the establishment, and two policemen were slightly injured before reinforcements arrived to disperse the mob. The protest, however, spilled over into the neighboring streets, and order was not restored until the deployment of New York’s riot police.

Protesters at the Stonewall Inn, June 1969.The Stonewall Riot was followed by several days of demonstrations in New York and was the impetus for the formation of the Gay Liberation Front as well as other gay, lesbian, and bisexual civil rights organizations. It is also regarded by many as history’s first major protest on behalf of equal rights for homosexuals.



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National LGBT Pride Month 2015

When was June signed into law as national GLBT Pride month? In 1989, Mayor Edward I. Koch was the first to issue a proclamation declaring the month of June as Lesbian and Gay Pride and History Month in New York City, home of the Stonewall Inn, in recognition of the Stonewall riots in 1969. In 1997, Clinton issued a proclamation for a national celebration of the contributions that lesbian, gay, and transgender people have made to America. On several occasions, the President of the United States has officially declared a Pride Month. First, President Bill Clinton declared June "Gay & Lesbian Pride Month" on June 2, 2000.

George W. Bush did not make any such proclamations. In fact, under his administration (2001 – 2009), various departments, particularly the Department of Justice, were barred from any sort of recognition or honoring of the contributions of homosexuals. Beginning in 2009 through 2014 President Barack Obama declared June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. At no point has Pride Month been signed into law and become a nationally recognized celebrated diversity month.

Sources: and

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Guides to Understanding Gender

Guide to Understanding Gender

Source: Sam Killermann,

The Transgender Umbrella

Source: Mel Rieff Hall,

decorative borderSix Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming Out

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1. Being Gay Is Only One of Your Many Attributes

When you come out, people change the way they view you. Perhaps you didn't seem gay before, but people will start to look at everything you do through a new lens. They'll start analyzing your actions, looking for long-existing signs of homosexuality, and start to act a little differently whether they accept you or not. Parents, especially, might think raising a gay kid changes a lot when, in reality, it doesn't. It helps to remind everyone that you haven't changed but rather decided to share something about yourself.

2. You Can't Predict Every Reaction

You can't know how people will react every time, or even most of the time. Put your effort into preparing for the various types of responses. Ask yourself what you'll say if someone hates you, if they love you unconditionally, or if they just don't care. Consider the reactions anyone could have and know how you plan to deal with it. You might toss that plan out in the moment, but you can come out more confidently if you have a strategy to handle the tougher situations.

3. You'll Have to Learn About Dating All Over Again

For the most part, gay kids don't get a sexual education. Until recently, nobody really talked about homosexuality as a possibility. Schools rarely teach anything on the subject of homosexuality and the internet rarely offers the best information. As a result, gay people tend to come out and start dating a bit later than everyone else. This causes a sort of regression in emotional maturity. All the lessons about dating, love, relationships, and sex have to be rebuilt when you come out. Those who come out at younger ages (around when their peers start dating) won't have this problem to a large extent. Those who do later in life have to regress back to adolescence and learn how to navigate their sexuality without many of the proper tools. If you fall under this category, you can't do much about it other than learn and stay patient with yourself. Remember you have a bit of a handicap when it comes to finding love and you'll mess up a lot. You'll feel at least a little immature and stupid, and that's because you will be. Give yourself time to learn.

4. It Doesn't Get Better Immediately

When you come out, life won't get better—it'll probably get worse. When you come out, you want it to bring you freedom but it often takes time before you get it. Teenagers living with their parents will suddenly have to obey a variety of new rules concerning dating. Adults may find themselves weighed down by too many possibilities. Regardless of when you come out, you won't necessarily know what to do next. That can lead to problems, mistakes, and ultimately a learning experience. Take it slow. If you rush right out of the closet and try to embrace your newfound freedom, you'll find it causes more problems than it solves. You may love too quickly and get hurt, or make poor sexual choices that can impact your health. Take the time to learn about what you want and try new things slowly. It does get better, but only with patience.

5. Coming Out Never Ends

People in your life change and you have to keep telling them who you are. The need to come out never stops. If you stop, you put yourself back in the closet. If you move to a new city, get a new job, or just meet a bunch of different people, your sexuality disappears if you don't share it. That makes it easy to get back into the habit of hiding who you are. You don't have to advertise your sexuality. And, you may always have a difficult time sharing. But you still have to do it.

6. You'll Realize You Should've Done It Sooner

Before you come out consider the possibility that people you love may react negatively. We love to romanticize the idea of important people sticking around. In some cases they do, but friends can also be fleeting. If you look, you'll find people who support you and love you. As life goes on, you'll find more. You'll your embrace freedom. You'll have the opportunity to love and learn who you really are. It looks scarier from the inside, but when you come out you take the first step towards accepting yourself.

Adam Dachis for Lifehacker

decorative border The State of Same Sex Marriage as of January 6, 2015

map of marriage quality as of january 2015Source: Mark Berman, The Washington Post

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The Top 5 LGBT Issues for 2015

1. Safety and violence.

A 2013 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that LGBT people of color were nearly twice as likely to experience physical violence as their white counterparts. Transgender women made up 67 percent of anti-LGBT homicides in 2013, according to the Anti-Violence Project.

2. Marriage equality.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states, where roughly 60 percent of the country’s entire population live. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments in three challenges to bans to same-sex marriages in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

3. LGBT youth homelessness.

Queer youth make up an estimated 40 percent of homeless young people in the United States. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that roughly 550,000 people up to 24 years old are homeless over the course of a year.

4. “Quality of life” laws.

In most states, running away from home is considered a criminal offense. Police also use condom possession as evidence of prostitution for transgender women at higher rates than other groups. Roughly 300,000 gay and transgender youth are arrested or detained each year, of which more than 60 percent are black or Latino. While queer and transgender youth make up only 5 to 7 percent of the country’s overall youth population, they make up 13 to 15 percent of young people who are either detained or imprisoned.

5. Conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy” is a process designed to turn homosexuals straight. Therapy techniques include hypnosis, electric shock therapy and inducing of vomiting at the sight of homoerotic images. While “conversion therapy” has been discredited by nearly every professional medical and psychological organization in the country, ultra-conservative therapy groups are thriving. Recipients of conversion therapy report higher rates of depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem.


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The Rainbow Flag and the LGBT Movement

The rainbow flag, commonly the gay pride flag and sometimes the LGBT pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. It has been in use since the 1970s. The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride in LGBT rights marches. It originated in California, but is now used worldwide.

Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978, the design has undergone several revisions to first remove then re-add colors due to widely available fabrics. As of 2008, the most common variant consists of six stripes, with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as it would be in a natural rainbow.


original rainbow flagThe original gay pride flag flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. It has been suggested that Baker was inspired by Judy Garland's singing "Over the Rainbow" and the Stonewall riots that happened a few days after Garland's death (she was one of the first gay icons). The flag also strongly resembles the ribbon colors of the WWI Victory Medal, though no connection is evidenced. Another suggestion for how the rainbow flag originated is that at college campuses during the 1960s, some people demonstrated for world peace by carrying a Flag of the Races (also called the Flag of the Human Race) with five horizontal stripes (from top to bottom they were red, black, brown, yellow, and white). Gilbert Baker is said to have gotten the idea for the rainbow flag from this flag. The flag consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors:

1978-1979 version of pride flagAfter the November 27, 1978, assassination of openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased. To meet demand, the Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric consisting of seven stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet. As Baker ramped up production of his version of the flag, he too dropped the hot pink stripe because of the unavailability of hot-pink fabric. Also, San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling a surplus stock of flags at its retail at which Gilbert Baker was an employee.




present-day pride flagIn 1979 the flag was modified again. When hung vertically the center stripe was obscured by the post itself. Changing the flag design to one with an even number of stripes was the easiest way to rectify this, so the turquoise stripe was dropped, which resulted in a six stripe version of the flag — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. In 1989, the rainbow flag came to nationwide attention in the United States after John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to prohibit him from displaying the flag from his West Hollywood, California, apartment balcony.




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Thoughts About the Movement

“The arc of American history almost inevitably moves toward freedom. Whether it's Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, the expansion of women's rights or, now, gay rights, I think there is an almost-inevitable march toward greater civil liberties.” James McGreevey, politician and first openly gay governor in the United States

“Gay rights is just a matter of time. Look at the polls. Worrying about gay marriage, let alone gay civil unions or gay employment rights, is a middle-age issue. Young people just can't see the problem. At worst, gays are going to win this one just by waiting until the opposition dies off.” Gail Collins, journalist and first woman to serve as the editorial page editor for the New York Times

“One thing the gay rights movement taught the world is the importance of being visible.” Charles M. Blow, journalist and visual op-ed columnist for the New York Times

“Really, when it comes to gay rights, there's two wars going on. The first war is political. But the culture war is over.” Dan Savage, gay activist and author who began the It Gets Better Project