In 1994, a St. Louis high school history teacher named Rodney Wilson made a suggestion – LGBT history should have a dedicated month. It is said that Wilson chose October, to coincide with National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11 and so now, 24 years later LGBT History Month is celebrated as the leaves start to fall and the temperatures begin to cool.
That same year, in Ontario, the government proposed legislation extending benefits to partners in same-sex relationships, and the rights and freedoms of LGBT people have continued to improve dramatically in the two decades since.
But it took until 2005 for Canada to legally allow LGBTQ people to marry and not until 2017 was the Canadian Human Rights Act updated to include gender identity and gender expression as grounds for protection.
When the Winter Olympics descended upon Vancouver in 2010, the first-ever Pride House was part of the festivities in Whistler.
And right here in Victoria in 2016, a $2 million donation from philanthropist Jennifer Pritzker shaped the foundation of what is now the world’s first academic chair of transgender studies at the University of Victoria.
Still, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, small communities face vandalized rainbow sidewalks, debates on banning conversion therapy are still being had and queer people of colour continue to face disproportionate numbers of discrimination, homelessness and suicide.
Perhaps it’s a good thing there is an entire month dedicated to learning a little more about what it means to be LGBT – how far we’ve come, and how far we have left to go.