The Quest For LGBTQ+ Rights: Milestones and Memoirs

It’s Universal Human Rights Month and we want to celebrate by taking you through some of the major milestones and beautiful memoirs of the LGBT community.

Author's Corner LGBTQ Voices Memoirs & Biographies Recommendations
LGBTQ rainbow with a timeline over top

In light of it being Universal Human Rights Month, we at Bookstr have decided to celebrate some of the major milestones and breakthroughs of the LGBTQ movement. We are also taking a deep dive into 5 memoirs that are perfect to educate you on the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights.

Major Milestones

In 1924, Henry Gerber established The Society For Human Rights in Chicago, it was the first documented gay rights organization. In some ways not much has changed but in other ways we’ve come a long way. Here is a timeline of some of the major positive milestones in the LGBTQ+ movement.

People waving LGBTQ flags
  • July 1961 – Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality.
  • June 28, 1970 – Christopher Street Liberation Day: Community members of New York City marched through streets in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. 
  • 1973 – Lambda Legal became the first organization dedicated to fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community. They also fought for their non-profit status and eventually won in the Supreme Court.
  • October 14, 1979 – 75,000-125,000 people marched in the First National March that took place in Washington.
  • March 2, 1982 – Wisconsin criminalized discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • June 2003: Same-sex conduct was decriminalized as the US Supreme Court struck down the Homosexual Conduct Law with their opinion in Lawrence v. Texas.
  • May 15, 2008 – Banning same-sex marriage became unconstitutional in a ruling by the California Supreme Court.
  • ​​June 26, 2015: The US Supreme Court ruled with a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states.
  • January 25, 2021: Joe Biden signed an executive order that repealed the Trump-era ban on transgender Americans joining the military. 
  • June 15, 2022: The Supreme Court ruled that federal law protected LGBTQ workers from discrimination. It was a massive defeat for the Trump administration, which actively advocated that the Civil Rights Act that barred discrimination based on sex did not include gender identity and sexual orientation. 
  • December 13, 2022: Joe Biden signed and passed the Respect for Marriage Act. It includes several new protections for same-sex and interracial couples. As a major breakthrough, it also voids the Defense of Marriage Act that states that marriages are only between man and woman.
  • December 18, 2023: Just this week, Pope Francis deemed that all priests are now allowed to bless same-sex couples.


The Gay Revolution: The Story Of The Struggle by Lillian Faderman

The Gay Revolution is a comprehensive narrative that details the trajectory of the LGBTQ+ movement for equal rights from the 1950s to the early 21st century. Lillian Faderman is an American Historian and often called a Lesbian Historian. One of the major reasons this book was such a success was that it focused as much on women as it did on men which was rare for the time it was released. This book aptly chronicles the protests in the 1960s, the united community throughout the AIDS epidemic, the counter reaction of the 70s and 80s and how each of these events facilitated the growth of this community and how they were perceived by others.

Book cover of The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman

In fact, it was called “the most comprehensive history to date of America’s gay-rights movement” by The Economist and has won awards for notable book of the year and notable non-fiction book of the year by the New York Times and Washington Post, respectively.

How To Survive The Plague: The Story Of How Activists And Scientists Tamed Aids by David France

Weaving together several stories, How To Survive A Plague is an insider’s account of the AIDS plague, the life and death battles fought by activist groups such as ACT UP and TAG. In addition to the very detailed and raw insight the book gives into the social effects of the AIDS plague, it focuses equally on the scientific aspect. It follows the stories of people who fought valiantly, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk, to facilitate the creation of a drug that 15.8 million people take around the globe today.

Book Cover of How To Survive The Plague: The Story Of How Activists And Scientists Tamed Aids

The author, David France was a journalist who covered the epidemic from the very start to end. That is why this book provides us with such detailed insights into the silent battles fought by activists and scientists to change the face of modern medicine. The book is considered to be pivotal in the history of AIDS as well as the LGBTQ+ struggle for human rights and, therefore, was adapted into a movie.

When We Rise: My Life In The Movement by Cleve Jones

When We Rise is an extremely raw and honest telling of the unimaginable life led by the author, Cleve Jones. The story starts in 1970s San Francisco, where Jones grew up wondering if he was the only one. He eventually found his community in secret hotel rooms and “scandalous” gay bars. His life changed when he met Harvey Milk. He became part of “The Movement,” it was what he was born to do. His life took another turn when Milk, his mentor, was shot. And then again with the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.

Book Cover of When We Rise: My Life In The Movement

The book follows the various twists and turns in Jones’ life and how he braved through each and every one of them. This book is the story of an inspiring American activist who devoted his life to the pursuit of equality through the most volatile time in history for the LGBTQ+ community.

The Men With The Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger

When the Nazis came into power in the early 1930s, Hitler saw gay people as a threat to his dominance. Germany’s vibrant and open gay community took a hit. Gay bars were being shut down, books and research dedicated to sexuality were burned. Gay men at concentration camps were made to wear inverted pink symbols. They were considered and treated as the lowest of the low.

Book Cover of The Men With The Pink Triangle

The Men With The Pink Triangle is one man, Heinz Heger’s, account of his arrest and treatment at a concentration camp as a gay man. It is one of the few accounts that exist of such a story and it is a beautiful and gut-wrenching one at that.

Transgender History: The Roots Of Today’s Revolution by Susan Stryker

Transgender History is a chronological account of the Trans communities from the mid-twentieth century to now. Each chapter covers different movements, writings, and major events. The book includes annotated sidebars with quotes from major texts, speeches, and other informative material.

Book Cover of Transgender History: The Roots Of Today's Revolution

The book delves into significant developments, writings, and occurrences within the transgender community, commencing from the aftermath of World War II. It examines various subjects, including the radical movements in the 1960s and 1970s, the evolution of identity politics from the mid-1970s to the 1990s, and the exploration of gender issues during the ’90s and ’00s. It is one of the most up-to-date accounts of the Transgender community’s fight for basic rights and equality.

The fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community has a long way to go, but we must celebrate every breakthrough, and we at Bookstr want to do exactly that!

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