2013: LGBT’s Biggest Year So far
As years go, 2013’s destiny is to be remembered as an LGBT-history heavyweight - even more so than 2012, the year when the five branches of the U.S. military began allowing lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans to serve openly for the first time in their history. This decision many believe ushered in the landmark process to come, effectively setting the stage for the judicial branch’s decisions.
This year the Supreme Court of the United States narrowly landed a powerful, one-two punch directly upon the faces of homophobia, hatred and bigotry by striking down two of the most onerous pieces of law this nation had abided since the decades when Jim Crow segregation was firmly embedded throughout local, state and federal statutes. Changing the legal destinies of LGBT individuals, couples and families throughout the country for now and the future to come.
In 2013, more Americans than ever are aware of the LGBT struggle for equality and that October is earmarked as LGBT History Month. As we embark on this special year’s observations and celebrations of our history, many in our community are doing more than ever to ensure that some of the under appreciated milestones of LGBT history are recognized by Americans today and in perpetuity.
Equality Forum is one organization that has been working to stamp out apathy and forgetfulness in the LGBT and larger communities as well. Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, recently told The Rage Monthly that there was a time when LGBT History Month itself risked becoming a footnote. "While Gay History Month was launched in the mid-1990s, no one took responsibility," he said. "In 2006, Equality Forum organized LGBT History Month with a free website featuring 31 ’icons,’ one for each day in October."
In fact, Equality Forum’s "Icons" project has come to define October as LGBT History Month in the gay mediasphere and beyond. "The project has been hugely successful," Lazin said. "In 2006, there were twenty organizations that had an LGBT History Month link on their site. In 2012 that number mushroomed to more than 1,000 organizations. In 2006, we had 100,000 hits. In 2012, the project generated more than 65 million media impressions." According to "Icons" supporters, another group stands poised to further increase the level of LGBT history appreciation by several powers of magnitude.
The Velvet Foundation was launched in 2007 by Tim Gold, a former researcher for the Smithsonian Institution, with a mission to open the National LGBT Museum alongside some of his former employer’s pinnacle museums in Washington D.C. "LGBTs don’t currently have a presence in D.C.," Gold said. "With the numbers of people who come to the capital to learn about American culture and history, we saw the need to have a presence the way other minority groups do."
According to Gold, one of the best ways for any minority group to tell its story on the national stage, is with a national museum in D.C. "If a minority group wants its story told, it needs to be the one to tell it," Gold said. "That’s especially true when you’re talking about a group as diverse as ours."
Gold credits the Smithsonian Institute’s museums, especially the National Museum of American History, for attempting to represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans by curating temporary exhibits and including some representations of LGBT Americans in their permanent collections. "The Smithsonian tried through portraiture with the Hide/Seek exhibit at the portrait gallery inside the American History Museum in 2010 and 2011," he said. "But even that was controversial for its sparse portrayals. I support their efforts and every mainstream museum’s efforts, to acknowledge LGBT-American history, art and culture."
But, says Gold, it is time for a substantial, permanent, diverse and dedicated National LGBT Museum. "We’re now in our third phase," Gold told The Rage Monthly. "That means we’re looking at a property - a construction site - as well as what the building itself will be; what it will look like; and what it must do."
One of the things Gold is determined to have the design of the building "do" is to make passing by without being compelled to explore its history, art, culture and installations nearly impossible using the property’s architectural appeal. In fact, paraphrasing Gold, if he and his design team succeed in achieving that goal, even the most strident foe of LGBT equality will want to come inside the National LGBT Museum.
"There are a couple of things that keep me awake at night," Gold says, "One of those is worrying that we’ve forgotten an aspect or a group or an individual part of our history - of our entire LGBT community." The other unexpected thing that keeps him awake, is figuring out how to blend the need to welcome and respectfully accommodate both LGBT and non-LGBT families within a museum dedicated to a sexual minority, while honoring the edgier parts of our past and present.