LGBT History

Homosexuality and transgenderism have traditionally been taboo in American discourse, but in recent years the community has advocated for rights and respect. In the past few decades the acceptance of gay marriage in America has become a key rallying point for the community.

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The Gay Bars and Vice Squads of 1950's Los Angeles

In Los Angeles throughout the 1950s, gay men lived under constant harassment by the police. They risked ostracism and loss of employment if outed.

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  • 1778 - Friedrich von Steuben arrives in Valley Forge to offer his expertise to the Continental Army. Von Steuben had been forced out of the Prussian military due to homosexual scandals.
  • 1814 - The term "crime against nature" is first used in a U.S. legal decision to describe homosexual acts.
  • 1856 - Lifelong bachelor James Buchanan is elected President. His sexuality is the subject of some speculation -- among both those who believe and disbelieve that he was gay.
  • 1903 - The Ariston Hotel Baths are raided by New York police. Seven defendants receive prison sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years.
  • 1924 - The Society for Human Rights is established by Henry Gerber in Chicago, who is soon arrested. The Society is shut down within a year due to legal harassment.
  • 1933 - Mona's 440 Club opens in San Francisco, becoming (most likely) the first lesbian bar in the United States.
  • 1952 - Christine Jorgensen is the first known American to receive gender reassignment surgery, becoming a woman after growing up as a man. She quickly becomes a media curiosity.
  • 1958 - The Supreme Court rules that homosexual material can be legally sent through U.S. mail in ONE Inc. v. Oleson.
  • 1966 - Dr. Harry Benjamin publishes the first book devoted to a treatment of transsexuals -- a term he also coined. The Transsexual Phenomenon becomes an influential voice in defense of that community.
  • 1969 - Stonewall Riots in New York become rallying point for gay community. The first Pride Parade is held on June 28th, 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary.
  • 1970 - The first Pride Parade is held in New York on June 28th, in commemoration of the Stonewall raids the year before.
  • 1973 - Due in large part to the research and advocacy of Evelyn Hooker, the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
  • 1977 - Harvey Milk is one of the first openly gay persons to be elected to public office when he wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is assassinated a year later.
  • c.1980 - Widespread cases of the AIDS virus begin to appear in the United States.
  • 1991 - The first lesbian kiss on television occurs between Amanda Donohoe and Michelle Green on L.A. Law.
  • 1997 - Ellen DeGeneres comes out in real life, while her character in the TV show Ellen does as well. It is the first sitcom to feature a gay main character.
  • 2004 - Massachusetts becomes the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. Over the ensuing years the cause slowly spreads to other states.
  • 2011 - For the first time in history, gay individuals are allowed to openly serve in the U.S. military.