Recalling and Recognizing: Celebrating LGBT2Q+ History Month

An illustration of a perosn in a wheelchair holding up the pride progress flagWritten by: Shaowda Salehin, 4th Year English + Biology 

Photo by: Vollgas Studio on Adobe Stock

LGBT2Q+ month is celebrated every October; it is a time to celebrate all of the fantastic achievements of LGBT2Q+ leaders, trailblazers, and the LGBT2Q+ people in your life. For a long time, same-sex relationships were criminalized in Canada – and across the world. It wasn’t until May 1969 when Pierre Trudeau’s government passed Bill C-150 that gay sex and same-sex relationships were decriminalized in Canada. Since then, the LGBT2Q+ community in Canada is still fighting to ensure LGBT2Q+ freedoms and rights! Canada has a deep LGBT2Q+ history. It took years of fighting and advocating to reach the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario on June 10th, 2003, and the federal legalization in 2005. During this month, we look to learn about the major events in LGBT2Q+ history in Canada and across the world, and recognize all the stories of perseverance and heroism against prejudice.

The Creation of LGBT2Q+ History Month:

Rodney Wilson, an American school teacher is credited with the creation of the month in 1994, when as a teacher at Mehlville High School in suburban St. Louis, he came out to his history class. When he came out, he was the only open K-12 teacher in the state! What started as a lesson to his class turned into a month of celebration and education of LGBTQ2+ history. Inspired by Women’s History Month and Black History Month, he worked with national organizations to develop a gay-friendly curriculum for educators.

Notable LGBT2Q+ History in The U.S:

The year 1962 was a great feat for the American government, as Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality, and years later, the state of Connecticut followed suit and did the same. Also in that year, a documentary on homosexuality appeared on TV.

The Stonewall Inn police raid is recognized as a pivotal moment in American LGBT2Q+  history simply because of its massive impact on the lives of LGBT2Q+ persons, this moment caused the surge of the Gay Civil Rights movement. The Stonewall Inn rebellion occurred on June 28, 1969, against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. The uprising had lead members of the village to create extremely influential demonstration groups for years after, and in 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in Chicago, LA, New York, and San Fransisco. The bravery and persistence of the Stonewall activist groups marked history and changed the lives of LGBT2Q+ for Americans, Canadians, and other countries following suit.

Trans people in America have also had to fight for their rights, and continue to do so today. One of the main fights the trans community faces is to have proper documentation of their name and gender. This fight began for trans folks in America in 1966 with Mtr. of Anonymous v. Weiner, a legal case concerning a person who wanted their birth certificate name and sex updated after receiving gender-affirming surgery. Changes to passports, licenses, birth certificates, and other official documents have remained a fight all the way through to 2010 when the State Department in the U.S. allowed applicants to select their own sex/gender, no matter their physical traits.

Notable LGBT2Q+ History in Canada:

In the 1980s, Canada experienced their own Stonewall - The Toronto Bathhouse Riots. On February 5th in 1981, Toronto police arrested almost 300 men in raids on four bathhouses. Bathhouses were places where gay men went to be with other gay men. The use of bathhouses as a place for gay men to meet dates back to the 15th century, and can even be traced to records of homosexuality in Greece during the 6th century.

The following day, after the police had arrested these men, a crowd of around 3,000 people took to the streets and marched on the 52 Division police precinct and Queen’s Park. Raids like this that fought for equal treatment and rights continued over the next 20 years in Canada, including a 2002 raid on a Calgary bathhouse. And, in Toronto, where the relationship between the queer community and the police was especially charged, the raids led to a police sweep of the Pussy Palace, a women-only event (for both cis and trans women) organized by the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee, in 2000. Two undercover female police officers were sent inside the event space to investigate the event, then later in the night, five male police officers started searching the club, including private rooms. This raid, which was a violation of the attendees' rights, freedoms, and privacy, resulted in a lawsuit and LGBT2Q+ focused training programs for the Toronto Police.

In Canada, multiple gender identities are recognized. Notably, the term Two-Spirit (niizh manidoowag) originated in Winnipeg, Canada in 1990 during the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference. The Two-Spirit term is free of the gender constraints of femininity and masculinity - the belief is to have a third gender. This allows Indigenous LGBT2Q+  people to live without Westernized impressions of gender and sexuality.

Be an Ally:

While we celebrate the history and achievements of LGBT2Q+ people, we should also work to be better allies to the community. Here are a few things you can do to be an ally and a friend to the LGBT2Q+ community!

  1. Speak up: if you hear an anti-LGBT2Q+ comment, speak up against bias, hate, or ignorance!
  2. Support LGBT2Q+ businesses: this month, and all the time, try to support your fellow LGBTQ2+ business owners.
  3. Stay educated: try to stay up to date on news and terminology - gender and sexuality are fluid concepts that keep changing! For example, if you don’t know about some different gender identities, do some research and stay informed!

The history of LGBT2Q+ people is rich; filled with trailblazers and everyday people who sacrificed their lives and safety for the freedom of others. LGBT2Q+ is also filled with blooming hope for a better and more inclusive world for all. We can learn from LGBT2Q+ activism that aimed to help people come together to fight for the rights of marginalized groups. Happy LGBT2Q+ History Month, Mustangs!

Check out more LGBT2Q+ Content:

Pride Month 2021: Top Recommended Films For Your Watch List

Check out some movies to add to your watch list!

Coming Out: My Journey to Find Who I Am

Read about a student's coming out journey.

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