LGBT History Month: An "iconic" project that will feature LGBT role models

by Lisa Lucas

South Florida Gay News

Sunday October 2, 2011

In school, children are taught history. Pictures of presidents, composers, authors, poets are hung in the halls and plastered in text books. In church, children are taught about saints and apostles whose images appear in paintings and statues. At camp, children are taught about athletic heroes, their photos traded on baseball cards and sportswear.

But there is no place that children are taught about people who are "different." There is no Hall of Fame for LGBT heroes where gays and lesbians can learn about the people who have made an impact on their community.

So Malcolm Lazin, a prominent Philadelphia attorney who is executive director of EqualityForum.com, decided to build one...virtually.

"LGBT history is the only community whose history is not taught anywhere," Lazin says. "It is no wonder that homophobia exists. Without life affirming and empowering resources, we are diminished. We must take responsibility to teach our history.

Lazin has been doing just that since 2006, when he launched LGBThistorymonth.com on EqualityForum.com - an LGBT activism website.

Equality Forum, an international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus, coordinates LGBT History Month worldwide and produces documentaries, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the largest national and international LGBT civil rights summit annually.

Every day in October featured on their website will be an "icon" - someone who has distinguished themselves as making significant contributions to LGBT rights. There's also going to be a video, biography, bibliography, downloadable images and other educational resources, available as well.

"This year we are launching two new features," says Chip Alfred, communications director of Equality Forum. "There is an internal search engine that can access all 186 icons since the inception of the project and now visitors can click on one of hundreds of categories (such as African American, Athletes, Religion, etc.) and see all the icons that resonate with their interests."

Part of the goal of LGBThistorymonth.com is to encourage high schools, colleges and community centers to download the materials and create exhibits.

"There are images, bios and posters of each icon," Alfred says. "And the video is embeddable, like YouTube videos and it's all free. The project is inspiring and it is really the only vehicle that can teach both youths and adults about LGBT role models."

In 2010, the federal government recognized the project with Secretary Arne Duncan launching LGBT History Month ceremonies at the U.S. Department of Education. Lazin believes this is a major accomplishment, and this year, under the FAIR Education Act, California schools will be required to teach LGBT history.

"I don't know if we had any direct influence on that decision but I know we are reaching more and more people everyday," Lazin says. And according to statistics he is right.

In 2006, there were fewer than 100,000 web hits. In 2010, the site had 6 million hits which was a 6,000 percent increase.

Visit LGBTHistoryMonth.com or equalityforum.com download materials or for more information.

October 2011 LGBT History Month Icons

1. Kye Allums - Athlete
2. John Ashbery - Poet
3. Alison Bechdel - Cartoonist
4. John Berry - Government Official
5. Dustin Lance Black - Screenwriter
6. Keith Boykin - Commentator
7. Rita Mae Brown - Author
8. Dan Choi - Activist
9. Aaron Copland - Composer
10. Alan Cumming - Actor
11. Denise Eger - Rabbi
12. Lady Gaga - Singer
13. Michael Guest - Diplomat
14. Neil Patrick Harris - Actor
15. Daniel Hernandez Jr. - Hero
16. Langston Hughes - Author
17. Frida Kahlo - Artist
18. David Kato - Ugandan Activist
19. Michael Kirby - Supreme Court Justice
20. Victoria Kolakowski - Judge
21. Dave Kopay - Athlete
22. Ricky Martin - Singer
23. Amélie Mauresmo - Athlete
24. Constance McMillen - Youth Activist
25. Ryan Murphy - Writer/Director
26. Dan Savage - Journalist/Author
27. Amanda Simpson - Government Official
28. Wanda Sykes - Comedian/Actor
29. Lilli Vincenz - Gay Pioneer
30. Virginia Woolf - Author
31. Pedro Zamora - AIDS Activist, MTV Personality

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