This year marks the 5th anniversary of LGBT History Month! The U.S. Department of Education will officially recognize the month as such and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is providing welcoming remarks at the Department’s first LGBT History Month Event. Equality Forum’s website devoted to LGBT History Month will feature a different Icon they have chosen for each day in October with a video, biography, bibliography, downloadbale images and other educational resources. Below are two excellent Icons being featured during the first week of LGBT History Month:
Fresh off the heels of a disappointing Senate vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, The history month starts off on the 1st of October by honoring Eric Alva, who was the first American soldier wounded in the Iraq War and is a LGBT civil rights activist. In 1990, the 5-feet-1-inch-tall Alva enlisted in the Marine Corps. He made it through the rigors of boot camp and went on to serve for 13 years. In 2000, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant. In 2003, on the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Alva was with his battalion in Iraq when he stepped on a land mine. The explosion shattered his right arm and damaged his right leg so severely it had to be amputated. Alva received a medical discharge and was presented with a Purple Heart by President George W. Bush. He was the Iraq War’s first Purple Heart recipient. Alva felt he’d been given a second chance at life, and he discovered a new calling. Now a national spokesman for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Alva states, “I had to use my voice,” he says. “I had fought and nearly died to secure rights for others that I was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me.”
Later in the first week, Leslie Feinberg will be honored on the 5th of October for being an inspirational transgender activist, speaker, and author. Feinberg was the opening speaker at the historic rally on the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rally in New York City-a rally that drew one million people from across the country and around the world. Feinberg is an outspoken opponent of traditional Western concepts about how a “real man” or a “real woman” should look and act. Feinberg supports the use of gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze” instead of he or she, and “hir” instead of him or her. “Stone Butch Blues” (1993), Feinberg’s widely acclaimed first book, is a semi-autobiographical novel about a lesbian questioning her gender identity. It received an American Literary Association Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature and the Lambda Small Press Literary Award. Curve Magazine named Feinberg one of the “15 Most Influential” in her plight for LGBT rights. Feinberg has toured the country, speaking at Pride rallies and protest marches, and at scores of colleges and universities.
This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.