In the history of the United States, we have had many minority groups that have not been treated the same. They have been denied access to public places, not protected under certain laws, and the list goes on. One of the minority groups that had to endure these conditions was the LGBTQ community. People who were romantic with the same sex went to jail because it was illegal. They were often kicked out of parks and restaurants. Marriages were not an option for LGBTQ communities, and if their significant other was sick, they were not allowed to be a medical advocate for their partner.

As the years went by, many individuals from the LGBTQ community began to stand and fight to have equal opportunities. As we celebrate Pride month, let’s take a few moments to learn more about the history of LGBTQ rights, what Pride is, and how to take care of the mental health of loved ones in the LGBTQ community.

The History

In 1924, Henry Gerber, a German immigrant, founded the Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization based out of Chicago. During his U.S. Army service in World War I, Gerber was inspired to create his own organization, based on the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, which was a “homosexual emancipation” group in Germany.

Gerber’s small group also published a few issues of its newsletter “Friendship and Freedom”, the country’s first gay-interest newsletter. Although police raids caused the group to disband in 1925 – 90 years later, the U.S. government made Gerber’s Chicago house a National Historic Landmark. By starting a committee, it showed the world that there were issues that needed to be addressed, in order to give the LGBTQ community a voice.

The gay rights movement began to see progress in the 1960s. In 1961, Illinois became the first state to get rid of its anti-sodomy laws, effectively decriminalizing homosexuality. That same year, a local TV station in California aired the first documentary in the United States about homosexuality, called “The Rejected”.

LGBTQ Rights

The gay rights movement in the United States has seen huge improvement over the years. Laws prohibiting homosexual activity have been eased; lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual individuals are now allowed to serve openly in the military (transgender individuals were allowed to serve openly from 2016 until March 2018, when a new ban was put in place).

Same-sex couples can also now legally get married and adopt children in all 50 states. However, it has been a long and bumpy road for gay rights proponents, who are still advocating for employment, housing and transgender rights.

Pride Celebration

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June, to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was considered to be a turning point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the US, the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day”, but the actual day could fluctuate. In major cities across the nation, this “day” soon grew to encompass events that happened all month long. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, and concerts and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world.

Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history, both nationally and internationally. This Celebration is so important to so many in the community to get together and not be afraid to be who they are around each other. They have the freedom to express themselves, how they want and without judgement.

LGBTQ Mental Health Awareness

In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a form of mental disorder. Imagine loving someone and a psychologist says “You have a mental illness because it’s not right loving that person”. In addition, you have people telling you that being Gay is a “sin” and that “you will go to hell”. The people who are in love are stuck in this place where they can’t be truly happy. As a consequence, they may experience depression, which could possibly lead to suicide. It is important to support a LGBTQ loved one’s mental health by listening and having an open mind. Many people in the community are also often isolated from family members and friends, due to the lack of inclusion and education.

It’s important to create a safe place for your friend or family member who may be in the LGBTQ community when going to places, such as restaurants, parks, etc. Make them feel included like everyone else, love them as they should be loved, and stand up for them when things are not right.

The celebration of Pride is more than just getting together and having fun. It has meaning, it has history, and it has been a wonderful way for the LGBTQ community to express who they are without feeling judgement. You get to create a family by surrounding yourself with like-minded people.

Guest Blogger: Golda Duncan, Public Ally

Golda Duncan is an AmeriCorps Public Allies Apprentice, interning for MHA. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a passion for the mental health community and wants to make a change.