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Historical Timeline


Colonial Plymouth established "Puritan Norms" which expressed gender norms and the nuclear family unit was the basis for all institutions. The nuclear family is described as a heterosexual family with a mother ( who took the submissive role and functioned as the "homemaker"), a father (who took the dominant role and functioned as the "breadwinner"), and children.


Francis Bacon who was in an openly gay relationship with George Dyer and coined the term "masculine love" publishes the "The Advancement of Learning - an argument for empirical research and against superstitions" which earned him the title of the "father of Modern Science"

GLSEN LGBTQ History Timeline


Richard Cornish of the Virginia Colony is tried and hanged for sodomy. A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as crimes. 

GLSEN LGBTQ History Timeline


Sarah White Norman and Mary Vincent Hammon are charged with “lewd behavior” in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This is believed to be the first conviction for lesbian behavior in the new world.


The term lesbian is first used by William King in his book, The Toast (1736), published in England. The term referred to  women who loved women.


Thomas Jefferson revises Virginia law to make sodomy (committed by men or women) punishable by mutilation rather than death. It was rejected by the Virginia legislature


Blues singer Ma Rainey is arrested in her house 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.

GLSEN LGBTQ History Timeline


Jennie Hodgers disguised as a man named Albert Cashier, enlisted in the Union army in Illinois and fought for three years until the end of the war. She continued living as a man even after the war.


The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. The Fourteenth Amendment is one of the most utilized examples for civil rights. 

The National Archives


Hungarian journalist  and sex-law reformer Karl-Maria Kertheny first used the term homosexual.


We’wha, a Zuni Native American from New Mexico, is received by US President Grover Cleveland as a “Zuni Princess” for their accomplishments as a weaver, potter. They are now described as mixed-gender or Two-Spirit.

GLSEN LGBTQ History Timeline


Henry James writes the book, The Bostonians, about a long term relationship between two women and the term “Boston Marriages” develops.


The pamphlet, “Psychopathia Sexualis” is one of the first times the term bisexual is used.


Trial of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, a writer and novelist gets convicted for gross indecency (relationships with other men) and serves two years in jail.


Henry Gerber forms the first gay rights organization in Chicago. The Society for Human Rights published the earliest-documented homosexual periodical, Friendship and Freedom. However the organization was quickly shut down and almost all members were arrested.


Nearly 100,000 German homosexual men were placed in concentration camps. They were designated a pink triangle on their clothing. The men were the last group to be released from the Nazi concentration camps after liberation, due to Paragraph 175 (which stated homosexual relations were illegal).,


 U.S. Congress issues the report entitled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government” is distributed to members of Congress after the federal government had covertly investigated employees’ sexual orientation. The report states that since homosexuality is a mental illness, homosexuals “constitute security risks” to the nation.,


The Mattachine Society formed in Los Angeles, California by activist Harry Hay and is one of the first sustained gay rights groups in the United States.


U.S. Congress passes the Immigration Act which bared “aliens afflicted with a psychopathic personality, epilepsy or mental defect.” Congress made clear that the new law included "homosexuals and sex perverts"


Christine Jorgensen is the first American who comes forward publicly about being transgender and speaks openly about her experiences with gender confirmation surgery and hormone replacement therapy.


Executive Order 10450 also known as the "Lavender Scare" issued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower banned homosexuals from working for the federal government, stating they were a security risk.


Nearly 100,000 German homosexual men were placed in concentration camps. They were designated a pink triangle on their clothing. The men were the last group to be released from the Nazi concentration camps after liberation, due to Paragraph 175 (which stated homosexual relations were illegal).


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.




James Baldwin, African‐American novelist publishes his first novel, Giovanni’s Room, a critically acclaimed work that explores bisexuality, as well as intimate relationships between men.

GLSEN LGBTQ History Timeline

Frank Kameny, an astronomer dismissed from government service due for being homosexual. He then became the first openly gay man to testify before Congress.

Illinois becomes the first state to remove sodomy law from its criminal code and decriminalize homosexual acts between two consenting adults in private.,  GLSEN LGBTQ History Timeline


Bayard Rustin, an associate of Martin Luther King, and a gay African American man helped organize the March on Washington that culminated with King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.