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The Incomplete American History of LGBT - 19th & 20th Centuries AD/CE - A Timeline

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

Lesbian Avengers, Manhattan, 1993

1800-1899 Significant American LGBT History by Year

  • 1814: The term "Crime against nature" was first used in the Criminal code in the United States.

  • 1870: Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania is published, possibly the first American novel about a homosexual relationship.

  • 1892: The words "bisexual" and "heterosexual" are first used in English in their current senses in Charles Giblert Chaddock's translation of Kraft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis.

  • 1895: The trial of Oscar Wilde results in his being prosecuted under the Criminal Law Act 1885.

1900-1969 Significant American LGBT History by Year


  • Potentially the first openly gay American novel (with a happy ending) named Imre was published in 1906.


  • 1910: Emma Goldman first spoke publicly in favor of homosexual rights.

  • 1913: The word faggot was first used in print in reference to gay people in a vocabulary of criminal slang. It said "All the faggots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight."

  • 1919: Different From the Others, one of the first explicitly gay films, was released.


  • 1923: Elsa Gidlow, a lesbian, published her first volume of openly lesbian love poetry in the United States titled "On A Grey Thread”.

  • 1924: The first homosexual rights organization in America was founded in Chicago - the Society for Human Rights. It only lasted a few months before disbanding under police pressure.


  • 1931: The first pro-lesbian film, Madchen in Uniform, was released.

  • 1938: The word gay was used for the first time in a film to describe homosexuality.


  • 1941: Transsexuality was first used in reference to homosexuality and bisexuality.

  • 1945: (Not American, but very important): the Holocaust ended! It is estimated that between 3,000 and 9,000 homosexuals died in concentration and death camps by the hand of the Nazis.

  • 1947: The first North American lesbian publication - Vice Versa – was published in Los Angeles.


  • 1950: The Mattachine Society was the first sustained American homosexual group and was founded in Los Angeles. The same year, 190 people in the US were dismissed from government employment due to their sexual orientation.

  • 1952: Christine Jorgensen became the first widely publicized person to have undergone sex reassignment surgery after transitioning from male to female.

  • 1957: The word "transsexual" was coined by US Physician Harry Benjamin. In that same year, Psychologist Evelyn Hooker published a study that showed that homosexual men are as well-adjusted as heterosexual men. This was a major factor in the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its handbook of orders in 1973.

  • 1958: The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the First Amendment rights of a gay and lesbian magazine. This made the first time they ever ruled in a case involving homosexuality.

Christene Jorgensen


  • 1960: The Executive Order 10450 was applied to also ban transgender individuals from serving in the US Military as early as 1960.

  • 1962: Illinois became the first US state to remove sodomy law from its criminal code.

  • 1964: Canadian Ted Northe founded a monarchist society comprised of drag personalities called Imperial Court of Canada. It is the oldest and longest running LGBT community.

  • 1965: A man in Canada was assessed as "incurably homosexual" and was sentenced to indefinite "preventive detention" as a dangerous sexual offender after consensual homosexual intercourse with an adult. Vangard was established as the first LGBT community in the US that same year.

  • 1967: The National Transsexual Counseling Unit was created and the term "pride" was officially associated with the LGBT community standing for Personal Rights in Defense and Education in response to the Cafeteria Riot of 1966.

Sodomy Laws 1964

The following years are separated by subject to better organize them for your comfort and understanding. The 60s and 70s were the beginning of many changes in this country for the LGBT community. 1970 and beyond have many different important happenings that I felt should be separated by the subjects: laws, psychology/medicine, religion, politics, and other. Enjoy!

LGBT History in America from 1970-1999

For more information regarding world-wide history please read the 20th Century LGBT history wiki!

Laws and Legislation 1970-1999


  • 1971: Colorado and Oregon repealed sodomy laws. Idaho did the same, but then reinstated and repealed it again because of Mormon and Catholic outrage in the state.

  • 1975: Homosexuality was legalized in California.

  • 1986: Bowers v. Hardwick case, U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia law forbidding oral or anal sex, ruling that the constitutional right to privacy does not extend to homosexual relations.

  • 1999: California passes and puts into effect civil union/registered partnership laws (without adoption or step adoption until 2001).

  • 1987: Boulder, CO citizens passed the first referendum to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

  • 1992: Canada ends their ban of gay people in the military.

  • 1993: Minnesota establishes anti-discrimination legislation for gender identity.

  • 1993: "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was enacted in the military so that members could not be asked about their sexual orientation because of the previous discrimination against people based on their orientation. This did not stop it completely, if sexual conduct with the same sex was discovered members were still expelled. They were also not allowed to attempt to marry someone of the same sex up until 2011 even in places that it was legal.

  • 1996: Canada enacts anti-discrimination legislation federally for sexual orientation.

Psychology/Medicine 1970-1999


  • 1973: (Not American, but important) Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatric Federal Council declared homosexuality not an illness. It was the first in the world to do so. Later that year, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM.

  • 1990: The World Health Organization declared homosexuality no longer an illness.


  • 1981: The first official documentation of AIDS was published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). By 1982, AIDS was openly referred to as "gay cancer".

  • 1994: The American Medical Association verifies that homosexuality is no longer an illness.

AIDS rally in the 1980s

Religion 1970-1999

  • 1977: Ellen Barrett became the first openly lesbian priest ordained by the Episcopal Church of the United States.

  • 1976: Anne Holmes became the first openly lesbian minister ordained by the United Church of Christ.

  • · 1984: Reconstructionist Judaism became the first Jewish denomination to allow openly gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors.

Politics 1970-1999

  • 1974: The first openly gay lesbian person was elected to the Ann Arbor City Counsel.

  • 1977: Dr. Frank Kameny became the first openly gay candidate for the United States Congress.

  • 1981: The United States Democratic Party became the first major political party in the U.S. to endorse a homosexual rights platform plank.

  • 1981: Mary Morgan became the first openly gay or lesbian judge in America.

  • 1982: Laguna Beach, CA elected the first openly gay mayor in United States history

  • 1984: Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts representative was reelected after coming out as gay publicly.

  • 1991: Sherry Harris, the first openly lesbian African-American elected official was elected to the City Council in Seattle.

  • 1991: Althea Garrison was elected as the first transgender state legislator in America and served one term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

  • 1993: Roberta Achtenberg was the first gay or lesbian person to ever be nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate when she was appointed Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity by President Bill Clinton.

  • 1994: Canada granted refugee status to homosexuals fearing for their well-being from other countries.

  • 1997: Patria Jimenez became the first openly gay person to win a position in the Mexican Congress doing so for the Party of the Democratic Revolution.

  • 1998: Tammy Baldwin became the first openly homosexual non-incumbent ever elected to Congress.

Other 1970-1999

LGBT rally in 1991

Loving couple in 1993 recreate their photo in 2017

Tune in soon to see the most current timeline of American LGBT history in the next post of this series!

I am open to comments, questions and suggestions through both public comments and emails!




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