LGBT history isn’t the story of a particular cast of notable characters or even a linear tale of significant events. Our history is enormously dispersed and incredibly personal. There are obviously important figures and occurrences that have been pivotal to our collective progress. More influential, though, are the millions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender who have shared their struggles with their friends, families, and communities. They have picked the locks of other’s hearts, changing the trajectory for generations that will follow.
History is made every time a person tells their deeply religious relative that they are gay, requiring their kin to reexamine long held dogmatic beliefs and look deeper into divine interpretations. History is made when two men and two women hold hands by the celebrated Keeper of the Plain statue in Wichita, causing many straight people to do a double take, but also subtly changing notions about love. History is made when someone born female starts to live publically as a man, allowing all of us to understand that love really doesn’t have a gender. History is made when a parent discovers that their child is gay and quietly accepts them with love in their heart.
We make history when we are out at work. We make history when we don’t allow our sexuality to segregate us from our faith. We make history each time we push aside the shadows of shame and allow ourselves to fall in love. Even the most seemingly insignificant of actions and indiscriminate of encounters adds to a larger effect.
Unlike other civil rights movements, we don’t come from a community of similarities. There’s no monolithic trait all persons who are LGBT share; indeed, it’s the opposite. We are racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, religiously, and geographically diverse. Our political ideologies run across the spectrum, as do our athletic abilities, and our tastes in art, music, and entertainment. That fact has always posed a significant challenge. It’s hard to develop a cohesive plan of action when a group is so varied. Yet, perhaps that’s why we’ve been so successful as of late at truly changing hearts and minds.
There’s a saturation of media reports about how quickly Americans have embraced marriage equality and how comfortable the public has become with homosexuality in general. There was nothing quick about this, though…just ask a gay person in their 70’s or 80’s who had to hide for most of their life! Because of millions of small actions over many decades, though, we reached a tipping point. Sometime in the last four years or so, we truly did make history by mainstreaming our community.
We in the Midwest still have a LONG way to go to get to where we need to be. We can find comfort in our history, though. Remember that you make a little bit of history each day, just by being honest about who you are!