October marks LGBT history month

October 8, 2010 Commentary Print Print
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To the editor:

I am writing to promote October as [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered] History Month, celebrating the rich history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people all over the world.

A high percentage of Western civilization’s artists, authors, musicians, and actors have been gay, closeted, or not strictly heterosexual.

LGBT people are well-represented not only in culture and entertainment, but also in a multitude of areas, including politics and education.

To take but one example, many twentieth century American writers were queer: Gertrude Stein, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Alice Walker, James Purdy, and Adrienne Rich. (I use queer affirmatively, referring to fluid, non-normative, or indeterminate sexuality, in line with the discourse of Queer Theory.)

Did you know that the author of “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder, was a closeted gay man?

Looking back at history’s greatest philosophers and leaders, many of them, such as Socrates, Alexander the Great, and Leonardo Di Vinci, were known to delve into the homoerotic.

Some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are actually addressed to a young man, a “fair youth,” according to literary scholars — most strikingly, Sonnet 20.

Now is an important time to acknowledge and celebrate LGBT culture and history.

It is too often assumed that things are much better today for persons whom are LGBT, that the younger generation has more or less accepted alternative gender and sexual identities.

But a recent [National Public Radio] report shows that college campuses are not necessarily “safe spaces” for LGBT students.

In recent weeks there has been a shocking rash of suicides by gay students. These tragic deaths were caused by the callousness, cruelty, and bullying of their peers.

I encourage faculty and staff to acknowledge and celebrate LGBT history in the classroom and on campus, and that students will consider and learn about the great achievements of LGBT individuals over history.

As instructors teach history, LGBT history can also be emphasized.

There is a student group on campus, the Gay-Straight Alliance. The film “Milk” documents the life of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay public servants in America, and is highly recommended.

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