October 29, 2021
October has been LGBTQ+ History Month. At CIIS and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we recognize the historic contributions made by LGBTQ+ artists, activists, and thought-leaders across the state and around the country. Their contributions continue to pave the way and kick doors open for members of the LGBTQ+ community at CIIS and beyond. We understand the explicit connection between the courageous voices of outspoken individuals and the advances we have seen in recent years like marriage equality, federal protections for LGBTQ+ workers under the Civil Rights Act, and the repeal of the Trump-era military ban of transgender Americans.
LGBTQ+ History Month was founded in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a history teacher from Missouri who believed in the importance of teaching the history of the LGBTQ+ community. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Education Association and other groups supported his efforts. Thanks to Mr. Wilson and the coalition, LGBTQ+ month has grown over the years to become an important time to reflect on the history and individuals who have contributed to greater equality for us all. This month, we join the LGBTQ+ Month organizers in recognizing some of the icons and LGBTQ+ champions who – like members of the CIIS community - are artists, activists, thought-leaders, and everyday super heroes who have agitated for change. Some of 2021 icons include (you can find the complete list here):
In addition to the notable names that made the LGBTQ+ Month’s official 2021 list, we have decided to include two icons of our own:
San Francisco’s own Harvey Milk and self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde remain two of the most iconic LGBTQ+ thought-leaders. Their legacies speak to the need for continued dialogue and an increased awareness of intersectionality.
When Harvey Milk became the first openly gay person elected to public office in California, he advocated to get more LGBTQ+ people politically active and engaged. He also advocated for increased dialogue. He was quoted, saying, “Unless you have dialogue, unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people’s opinion.”
Additionally, Audre Lorde urged members of the LGBTQ+ community to be more vocal about anti-oppression and spoke often about the complex realities of oppression’s relationship to intersectionality. She said, “From my membership in all these groups I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.”
At CIIS, we are committed to diversity and inclusion. It is one of our seven commitments. We approach our DEI work with curiosity and dialogue. We also frame everything we do through an anti-oppression lens.
As LGBTQ+ month comes to a close, we honor the icons and the unheralded voices that continue to write LGBTQ+ history. We also lift up the 15 individuals highlighted as examples of individuals who have championed justice and equality for us all.