LGBTQ+ History That They Never Taught You

Ginnie Paris


April 25, 2021

I was never taught in school that Leonardo DaVinci was gay, but I did learn (at the young age of 9) that Mr. DaVinci was fond of grave robbing and taking body parts off of corpses to examine them. Freaky stuff it seems compared to just knowing that Leo liked dudes. That part is simply left out of history. Schools, by not exposing kids to gay culture and purposely glazing over it, teach their kids to treat gay people the same way. Growing up gay becomes so much harder because being gay is so unheard of to not only them, but society as a whole. It is a forbidden topic that nobody talks about. It is shoved under the rug and ignored. Normalizing queer people in society starts with talking about us back in the old days. We didn’t pop up out of nowhere! LGBTQ+ people have existed for years and therefore the unspoken rule to ignore them has been applied. I bet you didn’t know these parts of history.

The Lavender Scare of 1953 (not too long ago) starts when President Eisenhower declared all gay men and women to be security risks and unfit for service in the United States. Agents would take them out of work without any explanation and interrogate them about their sexuality. Anyone suspected of being gay was to be reported to authorities. Tens of thousands of men and women lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation. In 1957, Frank Kameny, an astronomer working at NASA, lost his job due to allegations of him being homosexual. Rather than do what he had seen hundreds of others like him do, Kameny decided to fight for his right to work. He hosted picket lines with only ten people outside the White House and was the first person to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. This ignited a civil rights movement that has definitely influenced the queer community to this day.

To go back a step further, the word “homosexual” was coined about 30 years after the Civil War since there was a large amount of homosexual activity among the military. Openly gay major General Patrick Cleburne fought alongside his compatriots who did not harbor any judgment about him being gay. But then we see a total flip of the scales! In 1994, the Clinton Administration put in place the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, as it applied to gay men and women in the military. This prohibited gay people from being a part of the military. Anybody caught engaging in “homosexual acts” would be discharged. Justification for this was, again, security risks. Clinton thought LGBTQ+ people were a risk to the order and discipline of an army.  His policy was only abolished in 2010, which by the way is the same year Instagram came out. That’s not long ago at all! Like come on, while Instagram was coming out, gay people were being kicked out of the military…

Lastly, let’s talk about the Pink Triangle.

That’s the symbol gay people had to wear during the Holocaust, similar to the Star of David that Jews had to wear to identify themselves. Those with these pink triangles were then pushed into ghettos and sent to death camps, just like Jews, disabled people and other social minority groups.. I had never heard of gay people being victimized or targeted when I learned about the Holocaust, but I did learn that 6 million Jews died. The reason why we today see a small percentage of Jews is because most of them were killed in gravely huge amounts by being shot in lines or asphyxiated in gas chambers. Gay people faced the exact same treatment! This pink triangle was a death sentence, but since then the community has been able to take it back and use it as a symbol of love and inspiration. We look back on those times and know we are honoring the lives that were lost, simply by being ourselves.

Hopefully this has encouraged you to do some research of your own because there is so much gay history that is left out of the textbook.

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With immense gratitude, the Promly Team.

Ginnie Paris

Ginnie Paris (she/her) is an advocate for climate change and LGBTQ+ rights. She enjoys eating the rich and writing these articles!