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Each day in February offered a teaser introduction to “50 Ways” – a resource book that answers the what, where and how to infuse LGBTQ history and academic content (grades 9+). Each of the 50 ways provides background information, discussion questions, learning outcomes, access points in curriculum and suggestions for further exploration. Click each day’s title to engage with a primary or secondary source!

February 1st: The Lavender Scare

In 1948, Congress passed an act “for the treatment of sexual psychopaths” in the nation’s capital. That law, in addition to two congressional investigations into homosexuality and Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450, set the stage for a systematic purge of homosexuals from government employment. This ‘Lavender Scare’ is inextricably connected to McCarthyism and the Red Scare during the Cold War. The perceived subversive threat of communism paralleled the same perception that homosexuals posed a security risk in federal government positions. The Lavender Scare, however, lasted forty years as opposed to the short-lived Red Scare – affecting exponentially more people.

Something to Ponder

What is the relationship between society’s ideas about morality and government policy?

February 2nd: Dr. Evelyn Hooker

The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) designation of homosexuality as a mental illness led to efforts to find a cure. Methods ranged from conversion therapy to electric shock. Those sentenced to mental institutions often faced more extreme measures such as paralytic drugs, lobotomies and castration. In 1957, psychologist Evelyn Hooker published the research paper “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual” which postulated that homosexuality was not an illness, but a variant in sexual pattern within the normal range of human behavior. Hooker’s research was highly influential in the APA’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III (DSM III) in 1973.

Something to Ponder

How do ideas about morality and moral responsibility influence scientific research?

Something Else to Ponder

How does scientific research influence society’s ideas about morality?

Curious for More?

Read a short blog post about how the poetry of Justinis Kerner (1786 – 1862) is connected to Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s study.

February 3rd: George Takei

In 1942, George Takei and his family were removed from their home in Los Angeles and forced into Japanese internment camps in California and Arkansas. Takei had several relatives living in Japan during WWII, including an aunt and cousin who perished in the Hiroshima bombing. Takei is well-known for his character Lieutenant Sulu in Star Trek, and is also an acclaimed author and activist. Takei has received several awards for his advocacy for human rights (including LGBTQ+ rights) and his work on Japan-United States relations. Takei married Brad Altman, his partner of more than 20 years, in 2008.

Something to Ponder

How does George Takei describe the motivations for Japanese-Americans to join the U.S. military during WWII?

February 4th: Reel in the Closet

Reel in the Closet (2015) is a 25-minute educational documentary film directed by Stu Maddux. Reel in the Closet unerases the real lives of LGBTQ people, activists and witnesses to history as documented through hundreds of never-seen-before home movies and dating back to the 1930s. The film includes suggested discussion questions for students and intersects with American civil rights, the AIDS epidemic, East Coast Homophile Organization (ECHO) protests, Japanese internment, the Black Panther Party and more! (Grades 10+)
Visit closetreel.com to purchase the 25-minute film, which includes the 63-minute feature-length version, at a special 15% discounted rate using coupon code: HUERITC

Something to Ponder

How does seeing peoples’ everyday lives shape your understanding of history?

Reel in the Closet

February 5th: Dawn Langley Hall

In 1960, Gordon met actress Dame Margaret Rutherford and her husband Stringer Davis. They “adopted” Gordon two years later. In 1968, Gordon Langley Hall underwent gender transition surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore (paid for by Margaret Rutherford) and legally changed her name to Dawn Langley Hall. Dawn married John-Paul Simmons the following year, and theirs was the first legal interracial marriage in South Carolina. On January 23rd, 1969, the ceremony was performed in their home after threats to bomb the church where they had planned to wed. Upon returning from a second ceremony in England with Rutherford and Davis, the crate containing their wedding gifts was firebombed in Charleston.
Hall was a prolific author and her work includes celebrity biographies of Princess Margaret, Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, as well as the critically acclaimed 1970 publication ”A Rose for Mrs. Lincoln: A Biography of Mary Todd Lincoln”.

Something to Ponder

Which “first” might have generated the most interest?

February 6th: Huey Newton

On April 15th, 1970, Dr. Huey Newton delivered the speech “A Letter to the Revolutionary Brothers and Sisters About The Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements”. Why did Black Panther Party (BPP) cofounder Huey Newton support gay liberation? It can be attributed to the arts. Jean Genet, a French playwright and ardent supporter of the BPP since its founding, was an open homosexual and is credited with writing a pivotal play, Les Negres, that significantly advanced the development of black theater in the United States. Because of the play, Genet was perceived as an ally to black America. Genet’s support of the BPP is arguably one of the most significant influences that prompted the BPP to speak about, and write about, the BPP’s alliance with gay liberation groups.

Something to Ponder

How does Newton’s speech connect to current conversations about race, gender and sexuality?

Huey Newton and Jean Genet (circa 1970)

February 7th: Compton’s Cafeteria Riot

The Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, California took place in August, 1966. During the 1960s, the staff of Gene Compton’s Cafeteria often called the police to remove transgender patrons, who were often arrested for “female impersonation”. On the night of the riots, a police officer attempted to arrest a trans woman, who reportedly threw her coffee in the officer’s face. This incited a riot that spilled into the street. The following evening, in protest to trans people not being allowed in the restaurant, community members picketed the restaurant. Although the protest was unsuccessful, the Compton’s Cafeteria riot and protest the following evening are regarded as one of the first demonstrations of LGBTQ+ resistance to police harassment in the United States.

Something to Ponder

Why have trans people been at the forefront of the modern gay rights movement?

In Remembrance

February 8th: Lawrence v. Texas SCOTUS 

FACTS OF THE CASE: Responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered John Lawrence’s apartment and saw him and another adult man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct. (September 17th, 1998)
QUESTION TO THE COURT: Do the criminal convictions of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner under the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law, which criminalizes sexual intimacy by same-sex couples, but not identical behavior by different-sex couples, violate the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection of laws? Do their criminal convictions for adult consensual sexual intimacy in the home violate their vital interests in liberty and privacy protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? Should Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) be overruled?  (Argued March 26th, 2003.)


CONCLUSION: No, yes, and yes. “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. (Opinion read by Justice Kennedy June 26th, 2003)

Front Page News!

February 9th: Barbara Jordan 

Barbara Jordan was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement through her contributions as a politician, lawyer and educator. Jordan was the first Southern black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first black person elected to the Texas Senate and the first black woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. President Clinton awarded Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom in August, 1994. Jordan’s domestic partner of nearly 30 years, Nancy Earl, was an educational psychologist and speech writer for Jordan.

Something to Ponder

How did Jordan begin her statement to the House Judiciary committee, and why is this relevant when thinking about the intersectionality of her identity?

February 10th: ACT UP

President Reagan mentioned AIDS for the first time in public (in response to a reporter’s question) on September 17th, 1985 (five years after the epidemic started) stating, “I think with our budgetary restraints and all it seems to me that $126 million in a single year for research has got to be something of a vital contribution.”
ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was formed in 1987 as a result of President Reagan’s, and more generally the entire federal government’s, delayed response to the AIDS crisis. ACT UP employed radical tactics to get the attention of the Reagan administration, including “die-ins” and other dramatic protests which garnered national media coverage.

Something to Ponder

What were the possible motivations for Reagan to wait until 1985 to publicly acknowledge the AIDS crisis?

Curious for More?

Eric Marcus’s interview with  Vito Russo  from Making Gay History – The Podcast.

February 11th: James Buchanan

James Buchanan was a lawyer, member of congress, Minister to Russia, member of the U.S. Senate for 10 years, Secretary of State under President Polk, Minister to Great Britain, and the 15th President of the United States (1857-1861). Buchanan’s niece, Harriet Lane, acted as First Lady during his presidency.
Buchanan, from abolitionist Pennsylvania, developed a romantic friendship with Senator William Rufus King of Alabama. Buchanan regarded his relationship with King as a “communion.” Buchanan and King resided together for 10 years until King’s death in 1853. They attended social events together as a couple and Andrew Jackson referred to them as “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.” They were known around Washington as “Siamese twins,” slang for same-sex couples.

Something to Ponder

Could Buchanan have adopted pro-slavery views out of companionship and sympathy with King?

Buchanan and King

February 12th: Magnus Hirschfeld

In 1897 in Berlin, Germany, Jewish physician Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first organization in history to champion for the rights of gender and sexual minorities. The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee’s initial focus was to repeal Paragraph 175 by scientifically proving the innate nature of (as today’s language defines) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Petitions were submitted to parliament in 1898, 1922 and 1925, but were rejected. Signatories in support of the repeal included Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann and Rainer Maria Rilke. In 1919, through funding from the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, Dr. Hirschfeld produced the silent film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others) as part of his campaign to repeal Paragraph 175. The film is a love story that portrays the tragic effects of Paragraph 175, including blackmail and suicide.

Something to Ponder

How has suicide and violence shaped the gay rights movement?

Magnus Hirschfeld

February 13th: Frank Kameny

Here are the absolute basics of what you need to know about Frank Kameny, who lived a long and extraordinary life. He was fired from his federal government job in 1957 because he was gay. He didn’t just go home and pull the covers over his head. He fought a successful eighteen-year-battle with the government to change the law so the same thing didn’t happen to other gay people. Along the way Frank founded a militant gay rights group in 1961 in Washington, DC, and in 1965 organized the first public protests by gay people in front of the White House, among other places. In 1968 Frank also coined the then-radical “Gay Is Good” battle cry. Beginning in the early 1970’s he fought successfully (along with Barbara Gittings and others) to get homosexuality removed from the list of mental illnesses.

*Background information reprinted with permission from Making Gay History – The Podcast

Curious for More?


February 14th: Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was a lead strategist within the Civil Rights Movement and was often at Martin Luther King Jr.’s side. Rustin, a Quaker and pacifist, introduced Dr. King to the teachings of Ghandi and encouraged Dr. King to embrace the model of peaceful tactics. Rustin initiated the 1947 Freedom Rides, helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and engaged in many international humanitarian missions. In 1960, Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of New York, angry that Dr. King, Rustin and others were planning a protest march outside the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles – which would deflect attention away from Powell – threatened to tell the press that Dr. King and Rustin were gay lovers (a malicious falsehood) if they did not cancel the march. Rustin, who put the movement ahead of this threat, retreated from Dr. King’s circle and the march was cancelled. In 1963, A. Phillip Randolph recruited Rustin to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as Rustin’s skills were desperately needed. Although Rustin was the Deputy Director of the march, and at the conclusion of the ceremonies read aloud the list of demands they would place in the hands of President Kennedy, Rustin’s name is not on the program.

Something to Ponder

What is the significance of Bayard Rustin’s name omitted from the March on Washington program?

February 15th: Walter Naegle

In 1982, long before marriage equality, Bayard Rustin legally adopted his partner Walter Naegle because “it was the only thing we could do to legalize our relationship”.  In Rustin’s obituaries, Naegle is not mentioned or is regarded as Rustin’s administrative assistant or adopted son (or both, as in the New York Times obituary). The Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony included Bayard Rustin’s partner, Walter Naegle, who received the award from President Obama.
Listen to President Obama posthumously awarding Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Something to Ponder

What are the limitations of the public record?

Walter Naegle & Bayard Rustin

February 16th: Wendell Sayers

Wendell Sayers will most likely never appear in a history book, but his story is compelling simply because he survived the dark days of Jim Crow and the medicalization and criminalization of “homosexuals”.
Eric Marcus interviewed Wendell in the late 1980s for his book Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights (Harper Collins 1992). Wendell (born in 1904) was the first black attorney to be hired to work in the Colorado State Attorney General’s office. In the late 1950’s he attended several meetings of the Denver chapter of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization, and briefly attended the Mattachine Society’s sixth annual national convention, which was held in Denver in September 1959.

Something to Ponder

What did you learn about LGBTQ history by listening to Wendell’s story?

February 17th: James Baldwin

The great American writer James Baldwin played an important role in the civil rights movement and expressed his social criticism through his authorship. Baldwin’s novels and plays illuminate complex social pressures and internalized obstacles that perpetuate inequities and injustices for African Americans, and also for gay and bisexual men.

Baldwin’s first published work of literature was Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953). His second published work was Giovanni’s Room, which contained homoerotic content and stirred quite a bit of controversy. During the 1970s and 1980s, Baldwin’s essays and interviews addressed homophobia with eloquent force.

Analyze This Quote

February 18th: Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a Caribbean-American civil rights activist, author, lesbian and feminist. Through her writing, Lorde expressed outrage at the social injustices and inequities that connected to the complexities of her intersecting identities. Lorde’s activism through authorship brought her to leadership roles in civil rights, feminist and anti-war movements. Lorde continually called for coalition efforts to fight for the liberation of oppressed groups. As a result of extensive travel for speaking engagements, including international travel, Lorde added geographical location to the conditions that determine oppression.

Something to Ponder

What arguments does Lorde present in “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions?”

February 19th: Gay Bomb

In 1994, the United States Air Force Wright Laboratory proposed a “gay bomb”, a non-lethal chemical weapon that would discharge female sex pheromones to “cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another”.
The Pentagon did not deny that the proposal had been made: “The department of defense is committed to identifying, researching and developing non-lethal weapons that will support our men and women in uniform.” #MakeLoveNotWar

Something to Ponder

List the reasons why the proposed “gay bomb” is flawed.

February 20th: Paulette Goodman

Paulette Goodman’s experience of growing up as a Jewish child in Paris during the Nazi occupation gave her a unique perspective as the parent of a gay child who faced discrimination in the country where Paulette’s family sought refuge. Paulette knew what it meant to be different, to be demonized, and to have your life threatened because of who you are. And she brought all that experience to bear in her work with PFLAG (formerly known as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Something to Ponder

What would you say to Paulette?

Paulette Goodman riding in the Washington DC Pride Parade June 18, 1989. Doug Hinckle/Washington Blade

February 21st: Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was the German statute prohibiting “homosexuality” between men. It was sporadically enforced (as Paragraph 143 in the Prussian Penal Code) between its enactment in 1871 and 1933. In 1935, Nazi jurists overhauled the German criminal code and Paragraph 175 was created from a narrow interpretation of “indecencies between men” to include virtually any contact deemed to have sexual intent (including “simple looking” and “simple touching”).
The pink triangle was used by the Nazis in concentration camps to identify homosexuals. The pink triangles were slightly larger than the other colored triangles so that guards could identify them from a distance. When the concentration camps were finally liberated, virtually all of the prisoners with a pink triangle were put back in prison.
The pink triangle, which was used to label and shame, has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community as a symbol of pride and resiliency.

The UnImaginable

German file photo of man arrested in October 1937 for violating Paragraph 175

February 22nd: Shakespeare Sonnet 108

In 1609, Thomas Thorpe published Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. Many of the first 126 (referred to as the “Fair Youth” sonnets) express loving and romantic affection for a man. In 1640, John Benson republished Thomas Thorpe’s edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets, rearranging several of them and changing most of the pronouns in the first 126 from “he” to “she.”

What were the possible motivations for Benson to do this? Does this fact influence your reading of the sonnets?

Something to Ponder

Does this mean, using today’s language, that Shakespeare was bisexual?

February 23rd: The First Parade

The first LGBT pride marches were held on June 28, 1970. Originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day, marches were held in 1970 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, NYC.


Many of the men and women who marched that day would forever remember that moment on top of the bluff. Before them lay a field of uncut grass, a blizzard of banners, dancing, pot-smoking, singing and music, a huge American flag, “gay pride” signs decorated with the Day-Glo hippie flower stickers, and men and women applauding each new arrival over the hill. And behind them—stretching out as far as they could see—was line after line after line of homosexuals and their supporters, at least fifteen blocks worth, by the count of the New York Times, which found the turnout notable enough to report it on the front page of the next day’s paper. No one had ever seen so many homosexuals in one place before. On top of the bluff, many of these men and women, who had grown up isolated and alone, stood in silence and cried. (From Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America by Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney.)

Something to Imagine

How many more years will people march in PRIDE parades?

February 24th: Stan Rosenberg

Stan Rosenberg was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1986 and served as the representative for Amherst and Pelham until 1991, when he won a special election for the State Senate. In 2015, with a unanimous vote, Stan Rosenberg became the first openly gay and first Jewish President of the Massachusetts Senate.
In this exclusive interview for History UnErased, Stan Rosenberg discusses the path to marriage equality, what is ahead in the struggle for the rights of transgender people, and the responsibility of all K-12 schools to ensure all youth realize the idea that we are all created equal.

Something to Ponder

Is it important to know that Stan Rosenberg is married to a man?
Why or why not?


February 25th: AIDS & Reagan

“When AIDS Was Funny” is a short film directed and produced by Scott Calonic. The film plays audio recordings from several press conferences during the escalating AIDS epidemic.  This film provides a haunting revelation into the Reagan administration’s dismissal of the AIDS epidemic, and the stigma and fear associated with the gay community.
President Reagan mentioned AIDS for the first time in public (in response to a reporter’s question) on September 17th, 1985 (five years after the epidemic started) stating, “I think with our budgetary restraints and all it seems to me that $126 million in a single year for research has got to be something of a vital contribution.” In December of 1985, the cumulative number of AIDS-related deaths in the United States was 12,529. From 1981 – 1992, the estimated annual number of deaths among persons with AIDS increased from 451 to 50,628.
In 1992, federal funding for HIV/AIDS rose to more than four billion dollars. Today, it is more than 27 billion.

Something to Ponder

What were the possible reasons for the Larry Speakes and the press pool to laugh about AIDS?

Curious for More?

Watch trailer for “Dallas Buyers Club”.

February 26th: Harlem Renaissance

BROTHER TO BROTHER invokes the glory days of the Harlem Renaissance through the memories of Bruce Nugent (Robinson), who co-founded the revolutionary literary journal Fire!! with legendary authors Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Wallace Thurman. BROTHER TO BROTHER is the story of Perry (Mackie), a young black artist kicked out of his family home for being gay. Trapped between the worlds of the black community and the gay community, Perry searches for a connection in the real world. As his friend Marcus is performing his new poetry, an elderly man appears seemingly out of nowhere and begins reciting verse to them. He disappears just as quickly and elusively as he arrived. In his library research for a class project, Perry finds a book about the Harlem Renaissance and recognizes a poem—”Smoke, Lilies and Jade” by Bruce Nugent—as the same one that the man was reciting. Soon they encounter each other again at the homeless shelter where Perry works and the two men embark on a literal and metaphorical journey into the rebellious and queer Harlem Renaissance.

Something to Ponder

How are the roles of activists and artists similar?

Curious for More?

Read Countee Cullen’s poem “Tableau”

February 27th: Carmilla

Carmilla, the story of a lesbian vampire who preyed on young women (written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu) was published 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Carmilla was first published as a serial in The Dark Blue from 1871–1872.

There have been many adaptations of Carmilla for film and other media sources.

Carmilla’s animal alter ego is an enormous black cat.

Something to Ponder

The word “lesbian” wasn’t widely used until the 1970s, so how might Carmilla have been described in the late 1800s?

February 28th: Leonard Matlovich

In March, 1974, when Leonard Matlovich reached out to Frank Kameny (a gay rights activist). A year later, after many discussions with Kameny and ACLU lawyer David Addlestone, Matlovich hand-delivered a letter to his commanding officer. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown v. the Board of Education.” On September 8th, 1975, Matlovich appeared on the cover of TIME magazine with the caption “I Am A Homosexual”. Matlovich purposefully and publicly outed himself to the military to fight the Department of Defense’s ban on gays and lesbians in military service. During his discharge hearing in September, 1975, Matlovich refused to sign a document pledging that he would “never practice homosexuality again” and was subsequently discharged. He sued, but it wasn’t until 1980 that a U.S. District Court judge ordered Matlovich reinstated. Matlovich opted for a $160,000 settlement instead of risking a possible discharge again.

Something to Ponder

Where Leonard’s name would have been written on the tombstone, A GAY VIETNAM VETERAN reads instead. Why do you think he chose to do that?