By Anne Kowalski, Middle School and Teen Librarian
While LGBTQ History Month is coming to a close, we felt it was a good time to share Anne Kowalski’s reflections and thoughts on the importance of this month.
What, if anything, do you think of when you think of Queer History? For many, The Stonewall Uprising comes to mind, but what else? What would a timeline of LGBTQ+ history look like? When would it start? What would it include? And, above all, why does it matter?
One could start with Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, two Egyptian men buried together in the second half of the 25th century B.C.E. Without written documentation, it is hard to be positive of the nature of their relationship. However, they are buried in the same tomb, with a painting depicting them nose to nose, which is usually something only featured in the tomb of married couples. Still, many historians still consider the two to be brothers.
The lack of knowledge of queer history is due to many factors, such as the unwillingness of historians to classify a relationship as “queer”. In general, historians tend to demand more evidence to prove a homosexual relationship than they would to prove a heterosexual one. But the lack of hard historical evidence is not the only thing keeping queer stories hidden. Many queer people fear retribution when they come out. From microaggressions to a person being kicked out of their house for being queer to the threat of violence at the hands of strangers, there are a multitude of reasons for people not to come out. If someone isn’t out, it’s unlikely for their story as a queer person to be told. The fewer queer stories told, the more “rare” or “unnatural” queerness seems, which perpetuates the stigma around being queer.
This is why celebrating queer history is so important: it shows that queer people are not just a new trend, but that they’ve been around forever. That fact may bring comfort to those struggling with their identity, who need to see that they’re not alone or strange, but part of a larger, historical community. Queer History Month aims to foster and reintroduce this sense of community, because everyone deserves to belong. And, just like everyone deserves to belong, everyone deserves to see themself reflected in books, both fiction and non-fiction.
However, as important as seeing oneself, or maybe more important, is seeing people unlike ourselves in books. This may make us uneasy, but it can be sitting in that uneasiness that helps us understand those around us who may be different. While books may not make us understand another’s situation perfectly, they can help us towards our goal of understanding. Because, ultimately, who does not want to feel heard and understood?
So, that’s why LGTBQ History Month matters, at least to me. It matters because everyone, even and maybe especially kids, should learn to understand themselves and others. It is in this learning that we see not only where we have been, but where we can go from here.
Anne joined the library in December 2019 as a Youth Services Associate and became our Middle School and Teen Librarian in June of 2022. In this role, Anne serves middle school and high school students ages 10-18. This includes planning and delivering innovative programs, managing the middle school and teen collections, and providing reference, readers’ advisory, and technology assistance to library patrons of all ages. She earned an MLIS from Dominican University, as well as a BA in English from DePaul University. Anne likes cartoons, cats, and pop music, and can be found cross stitching in her free time.
LGBTQ History Month (October 1-31) was created in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBTQ History Month within a list of commemorative months. October was selected to coincide with National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), which was already established, and the anniversary of the first march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979.