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The History of the LGBTQ+ Movement

Around the world, countries embrace Pride month during June to bring awareness to the LGBTQ+ community. While we celebrate the future of equality for our LGBTQ+ loved ones, learning about the history of this community holds a strong impact for change as well. We’ll take a look at some of the major events, particular language, history, and the commitment Sunrise has to supporting residents, family members, and team members who identify as LGBTQ+.

What Does the Initialism LGBTQ+ Actually Mean?

  • L: Lesbian
  • G: Gay
  • B: Bisexual
  • T: Transgender
  • Q: Queer and Questioning (Questioning describes someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.)

The plus sign “+” is often added at the end of the initialism to be inclusive of everyone who doesn’t feel represented in any of the other categories.

Statistics on the LGBTQ+ Community

A recent study showed an increase in the number of people in the United States who identified themselves as part of this community. A 2012 survey found that of those surveyed, 3.5 percent of female respondents and 3.4 percent of male respondents self-identified as LGBTQ. By 2020, however, these numbers climbed to 6.4 percent of female respondents in the United States and 4.9 percent of male respondents.

A question that can be raised by this increase is whether this change from 2012 to 2020 is due to people’s feelings of acceptance toward members of this community. While discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity undoubtedly remains a serious issue in this country, some attitudes have changed.

In 2001, 53 percent of survey respondents believed gay or lesbian relations to be morally wrong. By 2020, this number had fallen significantly to 32 percent of survey participants. Young adults in this country are the most accepting.

History of the Movement

As is true of any significant change in culture, we often need to look backward at the history to fully understand the progress that has been made. For the LGBTQ+ movement, there are some milestones and leaders who have shaped history:


Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan: On June 27, 1969, the Stonewall Uprising in New York City’s Greenwich Village marks the first major resistance to discrimination among the gay community. Police are ordered to raid the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. This raid starts three days of rioting. The alleged reason for the raid is because patrons of the bar refuse to comply with a law requiring them to wear at least three pieces of clothing from their assigned sex. Patrons of the Stonewall Inn fight back against police, which results in law enforcement officers barricading themselves inside the bar for protection.


Change in diagnosis: In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removes “homosexuality” from its official list of mental disorders. However, the organization adds “gender identity disorder/gender dysphoria.” This causes transgender and gender nonconforming people to be considered mentally ill.


Murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone: On November 27, 1978 several San Francisco politicians are murdered. Harvey Milk, an openly gay city councilman, and Mayor George Moscone are shot and killed in city hall. A year later, their convicted murderer, Dan White, receives a prison sentence of only 7–8 years despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt. This injustice sparks massive nationwide protests among gay men and lesbian women.


AIDS/HIV epidemic: Originally referred to as the Gay-related Immunodeficiency Disease (GRID), AIDS becomes a full-blown epidemic affecting people of all backgrounds. This upsurge continues through the 1980s and leads to more protests and uprisings as the LGBTQ+ community once again faces discrimination on a variety of fronts, including access to health care.


Wisconsin takes the lead: The state of Wisconsin becomes the first state to pass sweeping gay rights legislation.


Hate Crime Statistics Act: In February of 1990, Congress passes legislation requiring data to be tracked on crimes that are motivated by prejudice against people of differing sexual orientations. It joins previous requirements on data collection related to race, ethnicity, and religion.


President Clinton recognizes gay and lesbian civil rights: President Bill Clinton becomes the first U.S. president to recognize gay and lesbian civil rights as an important national issue. He appoints members of the LGBTQ+ community to government positions.


Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: A military policy which banned openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving in the military. (This policy was repealed in 2011 allowing openly gay and lesbian citizens to serve in the U.S. military).


Matthew Shephard murder: In a hate crime that shocks the nation, a gay Wyoming college student is beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die. Nationwide protests erupt once again.


First openly gay person elected to Congress: Tammy Baldwin becomes the first openly gay person elected to the House of Representatives. She would go on to set the same milestone for the Senate when she was elected in 2012.


Vermont steps forward: The state of Vermont becomes the first state in the nation to legally recognize civil unions.


Marriage at issue: In 2004, Utah creates a law that makes marriage possible only between a man and a woman, while Massachusetts legalizes same-sex marriage.


More marriage laws: Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, passes in California. The proposition would be declared unconstitutional in a 2010 court battle. Also in 2008, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire all pass laws that legalize same-sex marriage. (Maine’s law would be overturned in the courts.)

2011 and 2012

More states legalize same-sex marriage: The state of New York legalizes gay marriage. Same-sex marriage initiatives win the popular vote in three states—Washington, Maryland, and Maine.

Another change in diagnosis: The American Psychiatric Association removes the term "Gender Identity Disorder" from their mental health guide. Medical health professionals had used this term since 1973 to diagnose transgender individuals, causing them to be considered mentally ill.


Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage: On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the U.S. Constitution grants same-sex couples the right to marry. This requires all fifty states to perform and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as the marriages of opposite-sex couples.


Transgenders in the military: Openly transgender people are allowed to serve in the military.

First openly gay governor: Also in 2019, the first openly gay governor, Jared Polis, is elected to represent the state of Colorado.


First gay member of the Cabinet of the United States: Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg is appointed as Secretary of Transportation under President Joe Biden.

Sunrise Welcomes All

From residents and families to our team members, Sunrise Senior Living is proud to welcome people of all sexual orientations, cultures, races, and other aspects of identity. We invite you to call 1-888-434-4648 to learn more about our commitment to embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Article By: Sunrise Senior Living


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