Ever since Stonewall, LGBTI history has been whitewashing itself. It’s erased the lives and contribution of people of color. It’s time we challenged that.Winston Churchill said ‘History is written by the winners.’ The Stonewall Riots in 1969 brought national attention to the history of a long oppressed people.
It sparked our efforts to document the histories of our fierce and courageous LGBTI brothers and sisters. For so long, society suppressed and closeted those stories – now we we started to tell them openly and uncensored.
Queer studies – a new field of inquiry – came to life to tell those stories. And, as a young discipline, it’s still on a fact-gathering mission. LGBT History Month is young, too. Held each October, it’s a public month-long celebration and acknowledgment of our contribution to American history. Our community first celebrated it in 1994, as an outgrowth from National Coming Out Day (October 11) founded in 1988.
LGBT History Month is one of the tools we can use as we gather, preserve and archive our history.
However, we see plenty of whitewashing during this month. People add figures like James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin as tokens of inclusion. But the telling of a mainly white LGBTI history does all of us a tremendous disservice. It betrays the purpose of LGBT History Month. And it does a disservice to the importance of building a historic record as we climb out of the queer closet.
Both Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March often miss important trailblazers too. For example Bayard Rustin was left out of the historic annals of the 1960s black civil rights movement for years because of his sexuality. At best he was a historic footnote.
It was queer studies that gave him back a place in history at all. Now people are starting to realise we can not accurately talk about the historic 1963 March on Washington without Bayard Rustin. Rustin, inarguably, is one of the tallest trees in our forest. He was the strategist and chief organizer of the March that catapulted the Rev Dr Martin Luther King onto a world stage. Sadly, he’s still largely an unknown due to the heterosexism that canonized the history. Read more via Gay Star News