A History of the LGBTQA Movement
Please note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of LGBTQA history, but instead is designed as a tool in the Safe Zones Training to illustrate the long and varied history of LGBTQA individuals. Many of the details were pulled from a much longer list from Wikipedia, and corroborated with subesequent web searches for more information. A timeline related to the history of same sex marriage in the US can be found at the Boston Globe. Other details were pulled from the work of Dr. Warren Blumenfeld, in his two-part LGBTQA history. If you have any corrections, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
25th-24th Century B.C.E: Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum's tomb built in Egypt during the fifth dynasty. Believed the two men may have been lovers. First historical record of a same-sex relationship.
393 B.C.E.: Plato’s writings (circa 393 to 387 B.C.E.) celebrate male same-sex love. Sexual relations between men, often older and younger, common in this period.
580 B.C.E: Sappho was a Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Hers are the earliest known Lesbian writings, of which Only one complete poem survived Catholic Church’s attempts to destroy them. Little else is known about lesbianism during this period.
313: Constantine I is ruler of Imperial Rome. Makes Christianity the official religion. Christian teachings influenced Roman Law and saw pronouncements against same-sex sexuality.
650: Homosexuality is banned in Spain in 650, but in the rest of Europe, it remains legal, even relatively accepted.
1000: In Byzantine in the 11th century, a legal treatise makes it clear that gay unions are well-known and legal in the early medieval society. Also in the 11th century, various priests made attempts to ask the Vatican to crack down on homosexual relationships among bishops and other priests. Each time, the current popes regarded the issue as not a major problem, and the named bishops continued to be well-known and well-respected.
1102: In 1102 the Council of London began to take measures to ensure that the public, tolerant of homosexuality, knew it was sinful, and began making changes in church attitudes towards homosexuality.
1250: During a fifty year period from 1250-1300, Europe passed laws that transitioned homosexual activity from being tolerated to incurring the death penalty.
1553: Henry VIII creates “Buggery” (or sodomy) law: Penalty of death for “the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast.”
1649: Sarah White Norman is charged with “lewd behavior” with Mary Vincent Hammon in Plymouth, MA – the first conviction in North America for lesbian activity.
1702-1709: Edward Hyde, Colonial Governor, New York & New Jersey, publicly dressed in his wife’s clothing as a tribute to cousin: Queen Anne of England.
1700-1830: "Molly Houses" appear in England. Networks of men gathered for company and sex in a series of houses or rooms in pubs. Some were raided by police, and the men were tried, some executed.
1861 to 1865: About 400 transgender men served in North and South armies, including Sarah Emma Edmonds (“Franklin Thompson”), who fought in Union army.
1869: Karl-Maria Kertbeny (aka Karoly Maria Benkert), an Austrian-born human rights activist and journalist, first coins the terms “Homosexual” and “Heterosexual" in a German pamphlet. He attempted to convince legal and scientific professions that same sex attractions, though not the norm, are innate and should not be legally penalized.
1886: We’wha, Zuni Two-Spirit, visits President Grover Cleveland as a part of anthropologist Matilda Coxe Stevenson attempt to study and preserve the traditions of the native people of the continent. We’wha was an accomplished potter and weaver, and a recognized expert in Zuni religion. That such an individual could become a representative for the Zuni tribe underscores the degree to which individual differences in gender and sexuality were accepted at the time. In most tribes the ability to combine male and female skills and qualities was not viewed as a liability but as a gift.
1892: 1892 sees the first time “bisexual” is used in its current sense.
1896: U.S. physician Allan McClane Hamilton states “[The lesbian] is usually of a masculine type, or if she presented none of the ‘characteristics’ of the male, was a subject of pelvic disorder, with scanty menstruation, and was more or less hysterical and insane.”
1899 – 1923: The German Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types publishes scientific studies on homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, and other sex and gender related issues.
Late 19th-early 20th Centuries: “Boston marriage:" long-term monogamous relationship between two unmarried women. They were financially independent of men, and spent lives forming emotional ties.
1901-1961: Langston Hughes, a U.S. poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist, innovates "jazz poetry" during the Harlem Renaissance. Some of his biographers believe him to be homosexual (based on themes in his poetry), but that he remained closeted to keep the support and respect of churches and organizations.
Feb. 21, 1903: The first New York anti-gay police raid takes place at the Ariston Bathhouse. Police detained 60 men, and arrested 14.
1904: Anna Rüling, a lesbian feminist, delivered a speech at the Scientific Humanitatian Committee (a German homosexual rights group) annual meeting, criticizing the German woman's movement for not including lesbians.
1905: Helene Stocker founded the German League for the Protection of Maternity and Sexual Reform, which assisted in overturning Paragraph 175 (the German code making same-sex acts illegal).
1919: The Scientific Humanitarian Committee in Germany aquires a Berlin mansion and establishes the Institute for Sexual Science. It becomes an international center for sex research and the study of homosexual literature.
1920s: During the Harlem Renaissance, homosexual women and men part of black night club life, with drag balls taking place in pre-World War II New York gay society.
1920s: Gladys Bentley (1907-1960), was an American Blues singer during the Harlem Renaissance. She appeared at the "Clam House," one of New York's most notorious gay speakeasies. She dressed up in men's clothes and was backed up by drag queens. During her performances, she flirted "outrageously" with the women in the audience. She claimed to have married a woman during a civil ceremony in New Jersey. However, during the McCarthy Era, she married a man (who later denied that they were ever married) and began wearing dresses.
1922: Magnus Hirschfeld coins the term "transvestite" for people who "cross-dress," and publishes the photo book Sexual Intermediaries. The book features pictures of transgender and other gender-nonconforming people.
1924: Society for Human Rights, the first homosexual rights group, is founded in Chicago by Henry Gerber. Gerber was a German American who served in WWI and was influenced by the German Emancipation Movement. The group, however, is short lived, only has 10 members, who were arrested. Gerber himself lost his job with the U.S. Postal Service.
1928: The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is published, bringing the topic of homosexuality into public conversation.
1930: New York State Liquor Authority passes a rule that did not allow homosexuals to be served in licensed bars in New York state. The penalty for doing so was revocation of the bar's license to operate. The rule was confirmed by a court decision in the early 1940s. After its passage, the mere presence of homosexuals in bars constitutes "disorder."
1933: The rise of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler spell the end of the Emancipation Movement in Germany. Much of the progress made by German activists is reversed, and homosexual groups are banned in 1933. In the same way that Jews are made to wear a yellow star, gay men must wear pink triangles and lesbians must wear black triangles. Seen as a threat to weaken the Aryan race, Hilter begins sending homosexuals to concentration campus, where they are treated with particular cruelty. Estimates are that 10,000-15,000 homosexuals were killed in the camps.
1934-1968: Motion Picture Production Code, known as the Hayes Code, prohibited depiction of homosexuality in film.
1940s: Eleanor Roosevelt, civil and human rights activist and wife of FDR, and Lorena Hickok, reporter for the Associated Press and head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, develop a close bond and share over 3000 letters. Many believe that there is strong evidence that they had an intimate relationship.
1940s: Era saw the growth of lesbian bar scene. Lesbians would move from small towns into cities and go to bars to socialize. While WWII saw the relaxation of gender roles, its aftermath saw the McCarthy Era and the rigid definition of gender roles. The bars would become subject to police raids and scrutiny.
1945: After the Allied forces liberated the concentration camps, those interned for homosexuality are not freed, but required to serve out their full sentences because of the German law outlawing homosexual behavior.
1936-1970: Billy Lee Tipton (born Dorothy Lucille Tipton) becomes an American jazz musician and bandleader. Shortly after he left high school, Tipton joined a band and began performing as a man, adopting his father's nickname, Billy. By 1940, he was living both privately and publicly as a man, and only a few close to him knew of his gender assigned at birth. He later adopts three sons with a woman named Kitty. None of his sons become aware that he had female genitalia until his death in 1989.
1945: Following the end of WWII, McCarthyism ushers in a period where homosexuality is viewed as un-American and that those who were gay “lacked emotional stability of normal persons.” Thousands were removed from government positions, including the military, or denied employment.
1947: Lisa Ben (anagram of “Lesbian”), a Hollywood secretary, created a lesbian-focused newsletter, "Vice Versa." She typed the newsletter with many carbon copies, and distributed them to friends, connecting a community of women.
1948: The Kinsey Institute Publishes, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male." In 1953 The Kinsey Institute Publishes, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female."
1950: Dale Jennings, Bob Hull, Harry Hay and Chuck Rowland meet for the first time to create the "International Bachelors Fraternal Order for Peace and Dignity," also known as Bachelor's Anonymous. Harry Hay was a member of the Communist Party and felt that homosexuals needed to join other minorities to defeat capitalism, which he believed was the root of oppression. He wanted homosexuals to “be respected for our difference, not our sameness to heterosexuals. Our organization would renegotiate the place of our minority into the majority.” The original idea did not catch on, and the organization renamed itself the Mattachine Society, named for "Les Societes Mattachines"a theatre group from 14th century France and Spain of unmarried men who cross-dressed.
1950s - 1960s: Lesbian "pulp" novels begin popping up in stores across the country. Published by the same publishing houses that produced westerns, romances, and detective fiction, the books were meant to be cheaply made and distributed. Because the literature was not respected, they were not overly scrutinized as being "obscene;" however publishers were careful not to print anything that might violate Comstock laws. Many lesbians viewed the books as lifelines, and hundreds of titles selling millions of copies each were sold during the time.
1950: The Lavender Scare - John E. Peurifoy, the U.S. State Department Undersecretary for Administration, reported to Congress his security people discovered “91 homosexuals” working at the State Department. All were fired.
1952: Christine Jorgensen becomes the first publicized person in the U.S. to receive M-F sexual reassignment surgery. She traveled to Germany to find a doctor who would assist her with the process. Her return to the U.S. is marked by a media frenzy, which she uses to champion transsexual and transgender rights. She remains an activist until her death in 1989.
1952: Dale Jennings is "trapped" into an arrest when he is followed home by an undercover cop who attempts to force Jennings into touching him. “At last he grabbed my hand and tried to force it down the front of his trousers. I jumped up and away. Then there was the badge and he was snapping the handcuffs on with the remark, ‘Maybe you’ll talk better with my partner outside’.” His trial drew national attention to the Mattachine Society, and membership increased drastically after Jennings contested the charges, resulting in a hung jury In 1953 Dale Jenning's story is the subject of the Mattachine Society's first magazine, One. It is the first pro-homosexual publication sold openly on the streets. The magazine runs until 1967.
1952: The American Psychiatric Association lists homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1952.
1955: Allen Ginsberg publishes the book Howl, controversial for openly exploring homosexual themes.
1955: The Daughters of Bilitis is formed by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. The initial primary purpose was social - they wanted to meet with other lesbians. However, as they began to regularly meet, they decided they needed to organize. Instead, the group turned to educating other women about lesbians and reducing the self-loathing brought on by the socially repressive times. The name was chosen in part because of its obscurity - Bilitis is the fictional lover of Sappho who lived on the isle of Lesbos. "Daughters" was picked to match with other organizations of the time (such as Daughters of the American Revolution). Since they needed to be secretive about their organization's purpose, when filling their charter for non-profit status, Phyllis Lyon remembered it was written so vaguely, "it could have been a charter for a cat-raising club."
1956: James Baldwin publishes Giovanni's Room, focusing on the frustrations a man has with his relationships with other men in his life. It is considered noteworthy for its complex representation of homosexuality, which sparks a wider public discourse around same-sex desire. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Baldwin uses his novels and essays, published in magazines like Harper's and the New York Times magainze, to bring attention to the Civil Rights Movement and the need to see civil rights as both a political and moral issue.
1956: The first issue of The Ladder is published by the Daughters of Bilitis. Initially sent out to a mailing list of 175 people, it soon became available in newsstands in major cities. Historian Marcia Gallo wrote of The Ladder, "For women who came across a copy in the early days, The Ladder was a lifeline. It was a means of expressing and sharing otherwise private thoughts and feelings, of connecting across miles and disparate daily lives, of breaking through isolation and fear." The magazine runs until 1972.
1957: Psychologist Evelyn Hooker publishes a study showing that homosexual men are as well adjusted as non-homosexual men, which becomes a major factor in the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its handbook of disorders in 1973.
1958: After several legal run-ins, the October 1954 issue of ONE, the magazine published by the Mattachine Society, is seized for violating the Comstock Laws that prohibit the mailing of "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious." The case made it to the Supreme Court - the first time the Court agreed to hear a case dealing with sexuality. It's decision was one sentence long, issued in January of 1958, and it "not only overturned the two lower courts, but the Court expanded the First Amendment’s free speech and press freedoms by effectively limiting the power of the Comstock Act to interfere with the written word. As a result, lesbian and gay publications could be mailed without legal repercussions, though many continued to experience harassment from the Post Office and U.S. Customs." (www.boxturtlebulletin.com)
1961: José Sarria becomes the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States when he runs for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
1961: The Rejected, the first documentary on homosexuality, is broadcast on KQED TV in San Francisco on September 11, 1961.
1962: Illinois becomes the first US state to remove sodomy laws from its criminal code in 1962
1963: Israel de facto decriminalizes sodomy and sexual acts between men by judicial decision against the enforcement of the relevant section in the old British-mandate law from 1936.
October 23, 1965: A Homophile Demonstration takes place at the White House, protesting federal discrimination policy. It takes place as a coalition between the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society.
July 4, 1966 – 1969: Demonstrations take place in Philadelphia at Independence Hall each year, precursors to annual LGBT pride marches. A coalition between the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society organizes them.
August 1966: The 1960s see a movement away from non-violent protests. In August of 1966, the first collective violent resistance to oppression against LGBT people in U.S. is seen at San Francisco's Gene Compton's Cafeteria. The police conducted a raid, entered Compton’s, and began physically harassing the clientele. People fought back hurling coffee at the officers, heaving cups, dishes, and trays around the cafeteria. Police retreated outside as customers smashed windows. Over the course of the next night, people gathered to picket the cafeteria, which refused to allow trans people back inside. This incident was one of the first recorded transgender riots in United States history, preceding the more famous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City by three years.
1967: The Advocate begins publication as a Los Angeles gay newspaper, started by Steve Ginsberg. It is still in production nationally today.
1967: The first gay bookstore is founded in New York City, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop.
March 7, 1967: CBS Reports airs "The Homosexual," an hour long program that features interviews with gay men, psychiatrists, legal experts and cultural critics, as well as footage of police raids on gay bars. Host Mike Wallace concluded: “The dilemma of the homosexual: told by the medical profession he is sick; by the law that he's a criminal; shunned by employers; rejected by heterosexual society. Incapable of a fulfilling relationship with a woman, or for that matter with a man. At the center of his life he remains anonymous. A displaced person. An outsider.”
June 28, 1969: The Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. On June 28, 1969, a police raid sparked five days worth of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community. Now known as the Stonewall Riots, they are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.
1969: Betty Friedan, founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), declares lesbians a "lavendar menace," and seeks to purge lesbians from its ranks. It is only a year later when NOW passes a resolution that states “The oppression of lesbians as a legitimate concern of feminism.”
1969: The Gay Liberation Front is formed immediately following the Stonewall Riots. The GLA advocated for sexual liberation for all people; they believed heterosexuality was a remnant of cultural inhibition and felt that change would not come about unless the current social institutions were dismantled and rebuilt without defined sexual roles. To do this, the GLF was intent on transforming the idea of the biological family and clan and making it more akin to a loose affiliation of members without biological subtexts. Prominent members of the GLF also opposed and addressed other social inequalities between the years of 1969 to 1972 such as militarism, racism, and sexism, but because of internal rivalries the GLF officially ended its operations in 1972.
1970: The Boys in the Band is among the first major American motion pictures to revolve around gay characters and is often cited as a milestone in queer cinema.
May 1, 1971: The Gay Liberation Front sponsors "Gay May Day" demonstrations in Washington D.C.. The purpose was to shut down the government in protest of the Vietnam War. Thousands are arrested. The event was intended to be an opportunity to unite the gay movement, but it failed. Lesbians saw the need afterward to be more separatist, because they did not think that the group, dominated by men, was actually interested in advancing their needs.
1971: In 1971, the University of Michigan establishes the first collegiate LGBT programs office.
1972: Nancy Wechsler became the first openly gay or lesbian person in political office in America; she was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council in 1972 as a member of the Human Rights Party and came out as a lesbian during her first and only term there.
1972: Sweden becomes first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy.
1972: East Lansing, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan and San Francisco, California become the first cities in United States to pass a homosexual rights ordinance.
1972: Lesbianism 101, first lesbianism course in the U.S. taught at the University of Buffalo by Margaret Small and Madeline Davis.
1972: Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son in New York's Pride Day parade. This was the beginning of PFLAG - Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
1973: Sally Miller Gearhart became the first open lesbian to obtain a tenure-track faculty position when she was hired by San Francisco State University, where she helped establish one of the first women and gender study programs in the country.
1973: The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II), based largely on the research and advocacy of Evelyn Hooker.
1974: In New York City, Dr. Fritz Klein founds the Bisexual Forum, the first support group for the Bisexual Community.
1974: Kathy Kozachenko becomes the first openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan city council
1974: Robert Grant founds American Christian Cause to oppose the "gay agenda", the beginning of modern Christian politics in America.
1974: The Lesbian Herstory Archives opened to the public in the New York apartment of lesbian couple Joan Nestle and Deborah Edel; it has the world's largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities
1974: In 1974, Robert Grant founds the American Christian Cause to oppose the “gay agenda,” marking the beginning of the modern Christian Right in America.
1975: Leonard Matlovich, a Techical Sergeant in the United States Air Force, becomes the first U.S. gay service member to purposely out himself to fight their ban.
1975: Minneapolis becomes the first city in the United States to pass trans-inclusive civil rights protection legislation.
1977: Ellen Barrett became the first openly lesbian priest ordained by the Episcopal Church of the United States (serving the Diocese of New York).
1978: The 1978 assassination of Supervisor Harvey Milk leads to the 1979 First National March on Washington. Harvey Milk’s quote, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door,” eventually leads to the initiation of National Coming Out Day in October.
1978: The rainbow flag is first used as a symbol of homosexual pride.
1980: The Human Rights Campaign Fund is founded by Steve Endean; The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
1981: Tennis player Billie Jean King became the first prominent professional athlete to come out as a lesbian, when her relationship with her secretary Marilyn Barnett became public in a May 1981 "palimony" lawsuit filed by Barnett. Due to this she lost all of her endorsements.
1981: The first official documentation of the condition to be known as AIDS was published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 5, 1981.
1982: The condition to be known as AIDS had acquired a number of names – GRID5 (gay-related immune deficiency), ‘gay cancer’, ‘community-acquired immune dysfunction’ and ‘gay compromise syndrome.' The CDC used the term AIDS for the first time in September 1982, when it reported that an average of one to two cases of AIDS were being diagnosed in America every day.
1983: Massachusetts Representative Gerry Studds reveals he is gay on the floor of the House, becoming the first openly gay member of Congress. The following year he is reelected to Congress despite this revelation.
1985: The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) in Massachusetts is founded in Boston.
1985: Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS. He is the first major public figure known to have died from an AIDS-related illness.
1987: AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power(ACT-UP) founded in the US in response to the US government’s slow response in dealing with the AIDS crisis. ACT UP stages its first major demonstration, seventeen protesters are arrested.
1987: U.S. Congressman Barney Frank from Massachusetts comes out
1991: The first lesbian kiss on television occurred; it was on "L.A. Law" between the fictional characters of C.J. Lamb (played by Amanda Donohoe) and Abby (Michele Greene).
1992: Althea Garrison was elected as the first transgender state legislator in America, and served one term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives; however, it was not publicly known she was transgender when she was elected.
1993: "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) is made the official United States policy on gays serving in the military. The policy prohibited people who "demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because their presence "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."
1993: Brandon Teena, an American trans man (a female to male transgender person) was raped and murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska. His life and death were the subject of the Academy Award-winning 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, which was based on the documentary film The Brandon Teena Story. Teena's violent death, along with the murder of Matthew Shepard, led to increased lobbying for hate crime laws in the United States.
1996: The first lesbian wedding on television occurred, held for fictional characters Carol (played by Jane Sibbett) and Susan (played by Jessica Hecht) on the TV show "Friends"
1996: President Bill Clinton signs DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) which allows states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.
1997: Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian, one of the first celebrities to do so. Furthermore, later that year her character Ellen Morgan came out as a lesbian on the TV show "Ellen", making Ellen DeGeneres the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television.
1998: Matthew Shepard, an American student at the University of Wyoming, is tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries. During the trial, it was widely reported that Shepard was targeted because he was gay. Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
1998: Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who, is murdered in Allston, MA on November 28, 1998. In response to her murder, an outpouring of community grief and anger led to a candlelight vigil held the following Friday (December 4) in which about 250 people participated. This vigil inspired the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and the international Transgender Day of Remembrance. TDOR is now recognized on November 20 annually.
2000: Vermont becomes the first state to perform civil unions for same-sex couples.
2001: Boston City Hall denies marriage licenses to three same-sex couples.
2003: Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health - Mass Supreme Court rules that the state constitution prohibits the state from denying marriage to same-sex couples.
2004: Same-sex marriage takes effect in Massachusetts!
2008: The first ever U.S. Congressional hearing on discrimination against transgender people in the workplace was held, by the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.
2012: President Obama is the first U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage (declared on ABC's Good Morning America).
2013: Jason Collins on April 29, 2013, became the first active male professional athlete in a major North American team sport to publicly come out as gay.
2013: Supreme Court rules on DOMA, Prop 8. DOMA decision supported previous court, rendering it null; Prop 8 states ban lacked standing since California governor and AG declined to defend it.