LGBTQ History Month

Welcome to our digital exhibit celebrating LGBTQ History Month. This page is a companion to the physical display in the Harvard Kennedy School Library, last available in October 2022. Harvard affiliates can request books via HOLLIS, for pick-up at the library of your choice.

In this book display, you'll find contemporary histories (and related commentaries) of LGBTQ identities, experiences, and activism, primarily focused on the United States with a few titles focused beyond. You'll also find a selection of texts that have played key roles in shaping queer theory and studies as we know the fields today.

More on LGBTQ History Month from the HKS Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging:

"LGBTQ History Month is celebrated annually throughout the month of October to observe lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history. In 1994, Its first organizers chose to celebrate LGBTQ History Month in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day (October 11) and the anniversary of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (October 14, 1979). Also, by observing LGBTQ History Month in October educational institutions would be able to opt into celebrating and teaching students about LGBTQ history during the academic year.

Harvard Library Research Guides

Initiatives at Harvard

  • In Focus: Pride at Harvard - curated resources from across Harvard including people, scholarship, community resources, institutional history, and more.
  • Gender, Race & Identity - HKS Policy Topic centered on the question of how gender, race, class and other aspects of identity affect the policymaking process.
  • Queer Nation: LGBTQ Protest, Politics, and Policy in the United States - HKS course taught by Timothy Patrick McCarthy that explores "the political and politicized lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people living in the United States, focusing on the period from World War II to the present."
  • LGBTQ+ Supports - curated list of support resources for Harvard's LGBTQ+ community members, including around career/professional development and networking; health and wellness; public equity, justice, and inclusion; and social and community life.
  • LGBTQ Caucus - HKS student organization that "supports LGBTQ students through community building, professional development, and campus-wide inclusion efforts."
  • LGBTQ Policy Journal - Former HKS student journal that aimed to "inspire thoughtful debate, challenge commonly held beliefs, and move the conversation forward on LGBTQ rights and equality."

From the Political Buttons Collection

The Political Buttons at HKS Collection includes over 1,500 political buttons from the 20th and 21st centuries, representing U.S. political campaigns at every level, ballot initiatives, social issues and movements, and political demonstrations. Curated selections from our Political Buttons Collection are available as interactive digital exhibits, including Decades of Resistance: Political Movement Pins. Below are excerpts from the LGBTQ Rights (1970 and 1980) sections of the exhibit.

Black, roung button depicting the national capitol building overlaid with a white flag emblazoned with a pair of male sex symbols and a pair of female sex symbols. White text encircles the image and reads, "National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights.""Following the pivotal drag queen-led urban riot at Manhattan's Stonewall Inn, the 1970s marked a profound period of transformation for members of the LGBTQ community. During this decade, the LGBT movement focused on increasing their visibility: artists released some of the first significant pieces of gay and lesbian film and theater, Gay Pride Week was established, and Edward Koch became one of the first elected officials to publicly support LGBTQ people. In 1979, between 75,000 and 125,000 people attended the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, where participants advocated for equal civil rights and protective legislation. These milestones, combined with the American Psychiatric Association's removal of homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders, represented an enormous shift in the social acceptance of the LGBTQ community. 

Pink, round button depicting five hands of different colors meeting in the world, encicled by a venn diagram-esque design of male and female sex symbols. Around the outside, black text reads, "Lesbian - Gay Pride '79, Boston."The 1980s marked a significant shift in the tenor and focus of the LGBT movement. The struggle for visibility and civil equality necessarily turned into a fight for an entire community's lives as the AIDS epidemic began. While the HIV strand of AIDS has affected public health globally since 1920, it first spread to the Western Hemisphere in the 1970s and made its way to the U.S. in the early 1980s. Because the first cases of HIV/AIDS were found in gay men, the virus was initially (though misleadingly) termed 'gay-related immune deficiency (GRID)'.

Galvanized by the Reagan Administration's inadequate response to the virus -- half of the reported cases of which affected the LGBT community -- activists soon formed the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). This national group led public demonstrations, civil disobedience, and information campaigns to address the AIDS crisis. Gay pride parades continued during this period, though they took on a more somber tone relative to the lively, radical marches of the 1970s."

White, round button depicting six individuals and families of different identities and compositions. Pink text on the bottom reads, "From All Walks of Life. June 1. Boston. 1986." White, square button depicting a crowd of marching people of different identities and abilities, all wearing white tops and blue bottoms. Black text at the top and bottom reads, "From all walks of life. Sunday, May 31, 1987." Pink, triangular button that reads, "March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights. October 8-13, 1987." Part of the button is faded to white, obscuring additional text." White, round button with red text that reads, "AIDS Aware. From all walks of life '89." Blue, round button with several pairs of same-sex symbols around white text that reads, "Every family needs a home."

Read more about:

Contemporary Histories & Commentary

Click on the circular "i" icons to view book descriptions. Click on the Harvard shield icons to access ebooks (Harvard Key required).

Key Works in Queer Theory

Click on the circular "i" icons to view book descriptions. Click on the Harvard shield icons to access ebooks (Harvard Key required).