Remember when we wrote about some of the most influential historical LGBTQ+ people? Well, we realized it was impossible to fit all of these amazing figures into one blog, so we figured let’s do two. You can blame this blog on the fact that Kim is a major history buff. Like huge guys, just don’t ask her dates, that confuses her.
Last time, we talked about the first openly gay person to run for public office. Now we’re going to talk about the first openly gay person to actually get elected. You’ve probably heard of Harvey Milk, but his story is so good that it bares repeating. Harvey Milk originated from New York. After a few failed relationships and some campaign work, he moved to San Francisco. Here, he eventually won a chair as city supervisor in 1977. While he was in office, Harvey helped sponsor a bill that prevented discrimination based on sexual orientation for employment, housing, and public accommodations. However, he didn’t serve long in his position, because he and the Mayor, George Moscone, were both assassinated by Dan White in 1978. Still, since then, Harvey has been heralded as a huge trailblazer for the LGTBQ+ community. He was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom after his death.
Remember when we talked about the Daughters of Bilitis last time? Well, Ernestine Eckstein was another highly influential member of that group. Ernestine was a black lesbian who served as a vice president of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. She helped shape their work towards peaceful protests. In fact, she protested in front of the White House in 1965 on the first Annual Reminder Day (one of the earliest pro-LGBTQ+ protests). Ernestine was the only person of color who demonstrated. Her main focuses were on tackling discriminatory laws, employment, and the ban of LGBTQ+ people from the military. Eventually, Ernestine shifted her focus not just to lesbian and gay rights, but also towards black feminism. She was a member of several organizations, including the NAACP, Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and Black Women Organized for Action (BWOA). Ernestine was also one of only two women of color to be featured on the prominent lesbian magazine, The Ladder.
Speaking of activists, we don’t want to miss mentioning yet another amazing person in history: Bayard Rustin.
You’ve probably heard of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but did you know it was partially organized by Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man? Bayard was arrested early in life for his sexuality, but he would hardly be his first civil-rights related trauma. In 1942, he was beaten and arrested for refusing to go to the back of a bus, as was dictated by Jim Crow laws. Perhaps that’s why Bayard was involved in so many different civil rights movements that we honestly could list them for days. He was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s top advisors, and he helped organize the Freedom Rides. Bayard also helped out refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia, and he died while on a mission trip in Haiti.
After his death, he was recognized by President Ronald Reagan and later by President Barack Obama, who awarded Bayard the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There are so many more awesome LGBTQ+ people in history. We could never write enough blogs to cover them all. New LGBTQ+ history is made every day.
If you’re interested in creating a welcoming environment in your workplace too, let us know. We might not be experts on the subject matter, but we’ve done pretty darn well so far.