LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual. It was initially just LGBT but the letter Q was later added to include people who identify themselves as queer or those who are not sure of their sexual orientation. In the United States, The LGBTQ movement has made great strides in the twentieth century, and particularly over the past two decades or so. Legislations prohibiting gay activity have been revoked, and now LGBTQ people are now allowed to enlist in the military. Also, same-sex couples can get married legally and adopt children. All in all, it has been long and bumpy road for the LGBTQ movement, its proponents, activists and campaigners who are still lobbying for transgender, housing, and employment rights.
In 1965, a crowd affiliated with the LGBTQ movement gathered in Washington, DC and staged a demonstration in front of the White House in what was the earliest such action for gay rights in the united states. Since that incident, the movement has been at the helm of intrastate homosexual affairs. As time went by, the US government and society at large became gradually responsive to demands, concerns, and needs of the gay community although there was some stiff opposition. It is worth bearing in mind that the history of the LGBTQ movement in America has been characterized by a grueling struggle that dragged on for decades.
The earliest ever documented gay rights organization in the US was known as the Society for Human Rights. It was founded in 1924 in Chicago by a German immigrant called Henry Gerber. While serving in the US army during the First World War, Gerber was inspired by a German 'gay emancipation' group called the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee to form his own organization. His small assembly published several issues of America's earliest gay-interest newsletter titled Friendship and Freedom. The organization was disbanded in 1925 due to police raids although the US government recognized it 90 years later by naming his house in Chicago a National Historic Landmark.
The LGBTQ movement would stagnate for the next several decades, although gay people across the world came to the spotlight on several occasions. For instance an English author and poet called Radclyffe Hall courted controversy back in 1928 after she wrote and published a lesbian-themed novel titled The Well of Loneliness. During the Second World War, the Nazis branded gay men with the scandalous pink triangle badge while holding them in concentration camps. The badge was also presented to sexual predators. In 1948, Alfred Kinsey wrote a book titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in which he theorized that the male sexual orientation lies somewhere in between exclusive heterosexuality and exclusive homosexuality.
In 1950, one of the country's earliest gay rights organizations called the Mattachine Foundation was founded by an activist known as Harry Hay. The organization initially started small and aimed at improving the lives of homosexual men through various activities such as discussion groups. It eventually expanded following the 1952 arrest of a founding member called Dale Jennings for solicitation. However, he was later released because the jury could not form a consensus. Towards the end of that year, Jennings created another organization known as One, Inc., that welcomed lesbians and published the nation's earliest pro-gay magazine titled ONE. However, Jennings was expelled from the organization on suspicion of being a communist, although publication of the magazine went on. He and Hay were also expelled from the Mattachine Foundation due their ties with communism. In 1958, One, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the US Post Office and won after the latter had labeled the magazine 'obscene' in 1954 and declined to deliver it.
Members soon restructured the Mattachine Foundation and formed the Mattachine Society. The new organization had local offices in various parts of the country and started publishing the nation's second gay publication titled The Mattachine Review in 1955. The same year, four San Francisco lesbian couples formed an organization known as the Daughters of Bilitis. It soon started publishing a newsletter titled The Ladder, the earliest such publication by lesbians. The early years of the LGBTQ movement experienced some notable setbacks. For instance, in 1952, the American Psychiatric Association labeled homosexuality as a kind of mental disorder. In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower put pen into paper an executive order banning homosexual individuals from federal employment. The ban stayed in place for twenty years.
In the 1960s, the LGBTQ movement attained some initial progress. In 1961, the state of Illinois became the first to revoke its anti-sodomy laws, thus legalizing homosexuality. The same year, a California television station aired the earliest documentary about homosexuality titled The Rejected. In 1965, in a book titled Sexual Hygiene and Pathology, Dr. John Oliven came up with the term 'transgender' to describe an individual who was born with the body of the wrong sex. All in all, transgendered individuals had over ten years earlier gotten into the American mainstream when a man called George William Jorgensen underwent sex change surgery in Denmark and became a female named Christine Jorgensen.
However, despite the progress, gay people lived in a somewhat of an urban sub-culture whereby they were regularly subjected to persecution and harassment in public establishments such as restaurants and bars. For instance, gay individuals could not be served alcoholic drinks in public in New York City due to some liquor laws that perceived the coming together of homosexuals as being 'disorderly.' For fear of their establishments being shut down by law enforcement authorities, bartenders would refuse to serve patrons thought to be gay, or order them out of the establishment altogether. While some places allowed gays, they would force them to stay away from the other patrons in order to deter them from socializing. In 1966, people associated with the Mattachine Society staged a so-called 'sip-in' in the city- which was a derivative of the 'sit-in' protests popular during that decade. It involved visiting bars and taverns, announcing themselves as homosexuals, and daring the management to turn them away so that they can take legal action. At one instance, they were denied service at a tavern called Julius in the Greenwich Village, leading to intense publicity and an immediate revocation of the anti-gay liquor laws.
In 1969, a well-known event was a major breakthrough for the LGBTQ movement: the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Inn was a secret gay club located in Greenwich Village. On the morning of June 28 that year, police raided the club. Patrons and residents of the neighboring areas, fed up with being harassed by the police for a long time, began hurling missiles at the officers as they loaded arrested individuals into vehicles. The incident eventually escalated into a full-blown riot and then followed by protests that went on for five days. A few days after the Stonewall uprising, individuals belonging to the Mattachine Society left the organization to create a radical group known as the Gay Liberation Front. This new outfit put into motion confrontations with politicians as well as protests and demonstrations. Other groups with similar aspirations followed suit, such as the Radicalesbians, the Gay Activists Alliance, and the Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries. On the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, gay people marched through the streets of New York City in commemoration of the incident. Today, the march is perceived as the nation's earliest ever gay pride parade and is now referred to as the Christopher Street Liberation Day. In addition, activists converted the once-infamous Pink Triangle into an icon of gay pride.
The prominent activism and visibility of gay people in the 1970s assisted the LGBTQ movement make progress on several fronts. For instance, in 1977, the supreme court of New York ruled that a transgender female named Renee Richards could participate in the US Open tennis competition as a woman. Also, a number of openly gay people secured public office posts. In 1974, Kathy Kozachenko was elected to the city council of Ann Harbor, Michigan, becoming the first LGBT person to win a public seat. In 1978, Harvey Milk became the city supervisor of San Francisco after campaigning on a platform of gay rights. He was the first openly homosexual man to win an elective seat in the state of California. Milk then requested a gay rights campaigner and artist called Gilbert Baker to design an emblem that would represent the LGBTQ movement and be perceived as symbol of gay pride. Baker came up with the first ever rainbow flag and later unveiled it in 1978 at a pride parade. In 1979, over 100,000 people participated in first edition of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
The fight for gay rights during the 1980s as well as 1990s was dominated by the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the US. In 1981, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) presented a report detailing how five homosexual men who had previously been healthy contracted a rare form of pneumonia. By 1984, scientists had figured out the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS. The following year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the go-ahead for the first ever commercial test for the virus. Proponents of gay rights marked the second edition of the National March on Washington in 1987. The event marked the first nationwide introduction of an advocacy group called the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) that sought to improve the lives of people suffering from AIDS. In 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated December 1st to be commemorated as the World AIDS Day. Towards the end of the 1980s decade, more than 100,000 people were reported to have contracted AIDS.
In 1992, a law was passed by the District of Columbia that allowed homosexual couples to register themselves as domestic partners. The legislation granted them some of the rights associated with marriage. Three years earlier, San Francisco had passed a similar law while the state of California would offer those same rights all the residents in 1999. While Bill Clinton was campaigning for presidency in 1992, he promised to do away with a ban against homosexuals in the military. However, upon election, he failed to garner sufficient support that would enable such an open policy to sail through. Instead, he passed the DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) policy in 1993 that allowed homosexuals to enlist in the military provided they did not make their sexual orientation known. All in all, gay rights activists rubbished the DADT policy as it did not do much to stop soldiers from being discharged from the military on account of their sexual orientation.
In 1993, Hawaii's highest court ruled that a certain ban on gay marriages may go against its constitution. However, state voters had other ideas, and a legislation outlawing same-sex marriage was passed in 1998. Federal lawmakers also did not agree with this, and the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was passed by congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. The law ensured that the government did not offer federal marriage benefits to gay couples, and gave states the mandate to decline recognizing same-sex marriage certificates issued in other states. It appeared as if marriage rights for gay couples were backtracking. All in all, gay rights activists were about to score other victories. An anti-hate-crime law was passed in 1994 that that gave judges the go-ahead to impose harsher sentences for crimes motivated by the victims' sexual orientation.
Gay rights activists...
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