In the United States, LGBTQ History Month is celebrated during the month of October. It is an annual observance of LGBTQ history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. LGBTQ History Month was first celebrated in 1994. Among the early supporters and members of the first coordinating committee for LGBT History Month was Council on Foundations Board Member and Arcus Foundation Executive Director, Kevin Jennings. The month of October was chosen for LGBTQ History Month because National Coming Out Day, which occurs on October 11, was an already established, and widely known, event.
In addition, October commemorates the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. Another important day was added to the calendar in 2010. High school student Brittany McMillan founded Sprit Day that year in response to the alarming number of young LGBTQ lives lost to suicide. Observed every year since then on the third Thursday of October, Spirit Day is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth and taking a stand against LGBTQ bullying. GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, helps to organize Spirit Day, a day on which individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and public figures wear purple to demonstrate support for LGBTQ youth. The color purple symbolizes "spirit" on the rainbow flag which, itself, is a symbol of pride within the LGBTQ community.
Much progress has been made with regard to the advancement of LGBTQ rights since the national March in 1979. While many young people have benefited from the sacrifices of those who came before them, others continue to struggle with the challenge of being a member of the LGBTQ community today.
A recent report from the CDC found great disparities between the experiences of LGBQ teens (who represented 11 percent of all students surveyed) and their non-LGBQ peers. Striking examples include that LGBQ students are twice as likely to be bullied, three times more likely to skip school because of safety concerns, and five times more likely to attempt suicide.
Many organizations, including the funders like Arcus Foundation and the Gill Foundation are taking steps to combat bullying and marginalization of LGBTQ youth. The Arcus Foundation works with several grantees to assist vulnerable LGBTQ populations across multiple communities. Both Arcus and Gill, for example, have supported groups like Athlete Ally and You Can Play in their advocacy for full LGBTQ inclusion and an end to locker-room bullying and intimidation in sports.
The Council on Foundations takes pride in joining its members in support of anti-bullying efforts aimed at LGBTQ youth. This year, the Council is an organizational supporter of Spirit Day, and members of our staff will join the demonstration of support by wearing purple. While we are pleased to be able to participate in this day of support, we recognize and salute the many foundations and organizations dedicated to LGBTQ youth and the broader LGBTQ community.