Museum News

History in the Making

June 23rd, 2014

Since the White House declared June to be the 2014 LGBTQ+ Pride Month, I thought it would be appropriate to look at a brief history of LGBTQ+ equal rights movement in the last few years. February. 12, 2004: Dorothy “Del" Martin and Phyllis Lyon became the first homosexual couple to be married in San Francisco after Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk to begin distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Their marriage was voided in August of that year by the California Supreme Court. They re-married on June 16, 2008--again in San Francisco's first same-sex wedding--and they were the only couple to be married that day by the mayor. Also in 2004, then-governor of New Jersey James McGreevey came out as homosexual, becoming the first openly gay state governor in U.S. history. He resigned shortly after. Moving closer to home, Illinois passed legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2006. On August. 9, 2007, Logo cable channel hosted the first presidential forum in the United States focusing specifically in LGBT issues. Also beginning in 2007, Candis Cayne became the first openly transgender actress to play a transgender character in a recurring role on prime time as Carmelita Rainer in ABC's drama Dirty Sexy Money. 2010 became a year of victory for the transgender community: Amanda Simpson became the first openly transgender presidential appointee, after being selected as a senior technical advisor in the Commerce Department; Kye Allums became the first openly transgender athlete to play NCAA basketball (although he was forced to play on George Washington University's women's team); and Victoria Kolakowski became the first openly transgender judge in the United States. In 2011, the U.S. repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which had previously banned homosexuals in the military. Later that year, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta and Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell became the first same-sex couple to share a kiss on a returning Navy ship. Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Congress in 2012. In that same year Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first states to pass same-sex marriage laws by popular vote. On September 18, 2012, Berkeley, California became the first U.S. city to officially proclaim a day recognizing bisexuals. September 23 is now Bisexual Pride and Bi Visibility Day. In 2013, Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Currently, 19 states plus the District of Columbia have passed this legislation. That doesn't even begin to cover half of the events, of course--and this list is only in the U.S., and only in the last decade. The LGBTQ+ rights movement has been steadily picking up steam, and it's more important than ever that we document its progress. We are, right this second, living through a modern-day civil rights movement--our children and grandchildren are going to read about this in their history textbooks! It's especially important to document local events--did you know that Chicago is ranked as the 5th most LGBTQ+-friendly city in the United States? History is being made, here and now--so celebrate Pride month! Go to pride events (you can find Chicago's Pride 2014 page here), and take pictures, talk to people, and record their stories. Our lifetime is going to be legendary for the equality movement. How will museums and other archival institutions document this movement? It's beginning to happen already. For example, the pantsuits worn at both of the Martin - Lyon weddings are currently on display at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco. Also, the American Stories exhibit in the National Museum of American History has a cake topper from one of the first gay weddings performed in the U.S. In the months and years ahead it will become as necessary for museums to acknowledge and illustrate the LGBTQ+ rights movement as it was to document last century's Civil Rights movement. Museums, whether they record the daily life of their community or the social shifts of a nation, will be challenged to archive and represent the changes that are taking place now. The more photos, interviews, and objects we can collect, the easier their job will be. The McLean County Museum of History especially is in need of more objects documenting this movement; our current collection is comprised of two boxes of documents, most of which are older than 1997. Our collections should be expanded as the LGBTQ+ rights movement grows--so please, consider donating to our collections with anything relating to the movement. Scroll through the slideshow below to see just a few of the more recent documents that the MCMH already has--we'll always be accepting more!It's equally important to remember that the LGBTQ+ rights movement still has a long way to go. Many people are still discriminated against or even put in danger on a daily basis for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and many more are simply unacknowledged; most people have no idea what the "+" in LGBTQ+ signifies. The full acronym is actually LGBTQIAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual)--and this acronym continues to change as more and more identities are accepted into the community. Be sure to make this year's Pride Month something worth recording by showing your support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Callie VanAntwerp