Queer Modern History Timeline- GLSEN

More often than we’d like queer history has been erased or intentionally ignored. Below are just a couple of interesting and important dates and events in modern history that we should remember.

This timeline is from GLSEN, and the full timeline can be found on their website.


1623. Francis Bacon, a noted gay man who coined the term “masculine love,” publishes The Advancement of Learning: An Argument for Empirical Research and Against Superstition. This deductive system for empirical research earned him the title “the Father of Modern Science.”

1623. King James appoints his male lover, George Villiers, to the Earl of Coventry and Duke of Buckingham, making Villiers the highest-ranking subject outside of the royal family.

1649. The first known conviction for lesbian activity in North America occurs in March when Sarah White Norman is charged with “lewd behavior” with Mary Vincent Hammon in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


1868. Death of Herculine Barbin, a French intersex person. Her memoirs are some of the earliest records of intersex identity. Her birthday, the 8th of November, is now recognized as Intersex Day of Remembrance.

1886. We’wha, a Zuni Native American from New Mexico, is received by U.S. President Grover Cleveland as a “Zuni Princess”. They are an accomplished weaver, potter, and the most famous Ihamana, a traditional Zuni gender role, now described as mixed-gender or Two-Spirit.

1892. The words “bisexual” and “homeosexual” are used with the modern definition for the first time in Charles Gilbert Chaddock’s translation of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis.


1924. Henry Gerber forms the Society for Human Rights, the first gay activist group in the United States, and publishes Friendship and Freedom, the first known American gay publication, but the group and the publication are quickly shut down.

1925. Blues singer Ma Rainey is arrested in her home in Harlem for having a lesbian party. Her protégé, Bessie Smith, bails her out of jail the following morning. Rainey and Smith were part of an extensive circle of lesbian and bisexual African‐American women in Harlem.

1926. The New York Times is the first major publication to use the word “homosexuality.”

1928. The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall, is published in the United States. This sparks great legal controversy and brings the topic of homosexuality to public conversation.

1931. Lili Ilse Elvenes (also known as Lili Elbe), a Danish transgender woman, becomes one of the first recipients of gender affirmation surgery.

1950. The Mattachine Society is formed by activist Harry Hay as one of the first gay rights groups in the United States.

1952. Christine Jorgensen is the first American who comes forward publicly about being transgender, and speaks openly about her experiences with gender affirmation surgery and hormone replacement therapy. Her transition causes an international sensation, and for many, she is the first visible transgender person in the media.

1955. The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), considered to be the first lesbian rights organization, is formed by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon in San Francisco, California. The group is conceived as a social alternative to lesbian bars, which were considered illegal and thus subject to raids and police harassment.

1956. James Baldwin, African‐American novelist and intellectual, publishes his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain, a critically acclaimed work that explores bisexuality, as well as intimate relationships between men.

1961. Homosexuality is decriminalized in Illinois, the first state to do so.

1961. José Sarria is the first openly gay person to run for public office in the United States, but did not win. He was a Colombian and Spanish activist and founded an international coalition of charities named the International Imperial Court System. It remains the second largest LGBT organization in the world today.

1964. The first gay rights demonstration in the United States takes place on September 19 at the Whitehall Induction Center in New York City, protesting against discrimination in the military.

1966. Compton Cafeteria Riot broke out at a San Francisco eatery when trans women were denied service and arrested for breaking gendered clothing laws.

1969. Police raid the Stonewall Inn in New York City in the early hours of June 28. This leads to four days of struggle between police and LGBT people. Transgender people, LGBT people of color, and youth are a major part of these “riots” that mark the birth of the modern LGBT movement.

1970. The first Gay Liberation Day March is held in New York City.

1973. The board of the American Psychiatric Association votes 13‐0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders in their second edtion of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental. Disorders, the DSM‐II.

1977. Harvey Milk becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California when he wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

1978. Gilbert Baker raises first Rainbow Flag at San Francisco Pride.

1982. Nearly 800 people are infected with GRID (Gay‐Related Immunodeficiency Disorder). The name is changed to AIDS by the year’s end.

1987. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a direct-action activist group, is founded in the LGBT Community Center in NYC to bring attention to AIDS-related issues using civil disobedience.

1989. Denmark becomes the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex unions, after passing a bill legalizing “registered partnerships” in a 71–47 vote.


2001. The Netherlands is the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

2002. NYC expands the definition of “gender” to include protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the NYC Human Rights Law.

2003. The U.S. Supreme Court overturns sodomy laws, proclaiming rights to privacy and decriminalizing “homosexual” behavior.

2004. Massachusetts becomes the first state to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

2011. The United States military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” officially ends. This allows lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve openly in the military. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not lift regulations barring many transgender people from serving.

2013. The United States federally recognizes same-sex marriages, extending federal benefits to couples in states that allow same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that prohibited same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage benefits. On this same day, the Supreme Court also rules that California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, allowing California to become the 13th state where same-sex couples can marry.

2015. The Supreme Court rules that states are constitutionally required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, legalizing marriage equality in all 50 states.

2016. Jamie Shupe, an Oregon resident, legally changes their gender to “non-binary,” the first person to do so in the United States.

2016. President Obama dedicated the new Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan, as the first United States National Monument to honor the LGBT Rights Movement.


This timeline was created by GLSEN. Part of it have been selected to show here, and the full timeline can be viewed on their website.