Why Is October LGBT History Month? Why Is it Different from Pride?

(Last Updated On: October 18, 2022)

You’re probably familiar with both Pride Month and LGBT History Month. Now that it’s October, it’s LGBT History Month–and you might be wondering why it falls on a different month than Pride. The long short is that they commemorate different things, but we will answer the question today–also why is October LGBT History Month?

Why June Is Pride 

We’ll start with Pride Month, as it begins and ends earlier in the year. Pride’s origins lie in the Stonewall Uprising. During the 1960s New York’s police raids on gay bars was at its peak. The pretense was that these bars were serving alcohol without the proper licensure, though New York’s State Liquor Authority refused to grant licenses to any bars that served the LGBT community at all. So they kind of gave the game away. 

On June 27th, 1969 the Stonewall Inn was raided by the police and 13 patrons were arrested. The raid didn’t go unanswered, and protests for gay liberation quickly ensued–and you probably aren’t surprised to hear that the police quickly escalated. 

Stonewall would become a kind of turning point for LGBT history, writings on LGBT history in the US are often divided between pre and post Stonewall. Pride Month takes its name from the protest slogan “gay pride,” and it takes June in commemoration of Stonewall.

Further Reading: Why Is June Pride Month?

National Coming Out Day

With the foundation that Pride commemorates an event in June, you’re probably unsurprised to hear that its origins are different from LGBT History Month. 

LGBT History Month is anchored on a specific day, though: National Coming Out Day, which is observed on October 11th in the US. National Coming Out Day was first celebrated in 1988 and inaugurated by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. While it started within the context of anti-LGBT legislation, National Coming Out Day did not originate from a defensive posture; the underlying belief was that defensive posturing against legislators would seem predictable. So National Coming Out Day came about to front positivity and focus on the celebration of coming out of the closet (hence the name). 

Why October 11th? Well National Coming Out Day commemorates the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (the first was in 1979). The march was sparked by the AIDS pandemic (combined with Ronald Reagan refusing to acknowledge it), as well as Bowers v. Hardwick, which basically made certain sex acts between consenting adults (in private, no less) illegal. While the decision itself did not differentiate between same-sex and heterosexual adults, it was pretty obviosuly targeted if you read between the lines just a little (as an aside, Bowers v. Hardwick was overruled in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas). The march also had a pretty clear platform with seven key demands.

  • Legal recognition of lesbian/gay relationships
  • Repealing of the laws that rendered sodomy between consenting adults a crime
  • The banning of discimination by the government
  • A Congressional civil rights bill for lesbian and gay individuals
  • The end to discrimination against those with AIDS/who are HIV-positive
  • Reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy
  • An end to racism in the US (and an end to the apartheid state in South Africa)

LGBT History Month

While National Coming Out Day was first observed in the 1980s, LGBT History Month was first observed within the US in 1994. Oh, here’s a fun fact, the US, Canada, and Australia observe LGBT History Month in October for the reasons we talked about before–but Hungary and the UK observe LGBT History Month in February to commemorate the abolition of Section 28 (a law prohibiting the promotion of being gay) in 2003. Germany observes LGBT History Month as Queer History Month in May–as does Cuba. It’s observed in April for Italians and November for the Finnish.

In the United States, LGBT History Month was founded by high school history teacher Rodney Wilson in Missouri. The first openly gay teacher in Missouri’s public schools, Wilson chose October to coincide with National Coming Out Day and the first and second LGBT Marches on Washington.

Pride themed landmarks here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.