LGBTQ+ Pride Month

One Instagram Account Is Teaching Us About The LGBTQ History We Didn’t Learn In School

"We hope to show the value in relentless queer activism by those who are able to be visible."

LGBTQ history is important and ever-evolving, but there isn't really one resource that exists to highlight the pivotal and game-changing developments made by and within the diverse community. But an Instagram account called lgbt_history is looking to change that.

Run by Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer, two Washington, D.C.-based lawyers who got engaged about a year ago, the account was launched at the start of 2016 and amassed 35,000 followers in just six months. Now it has upwards of 126,000 followers, and has shared nearly 3,000 photos that each illustrate the storied history of the LGBTQ community in America, though some photos were taken in other countries. Each picture is accompanied by a short description that provides viewers with context and any important tidbits.

In general, the posts range from Pride marches and protests, to significant LGBT figures and ordinary images of gay men and women from the past. The snapshot below, for example, features a pin from the Freedom Socialist Party dating back to around 1990.

In an interview with Gay Star News last year, the pair explained how their interest in LGBTQ history intensified after they attended the unveiling of the headstone of American LGBT pioneer Frank Kameny. "When we started to put up on Instagram the pictures that Leighton was collecting, we didn't have much of a plan; we only knew that the pictures were helping us discover a great deal about our community's history that we felt we should already know, and that maybe other people would want to see these incredible images and have them put into their accurate historic context," the duo explained via email.

"In a very short amount of time, we saw a real reaction and that made us take it more seriously: our research got more intense, the set-up shifted to 'This Day In History,' and we really focused on finding images that hadn't been widely seen before."

One such rarely seen image is the below photo of members of the East Coast Homophile Organizations picketing the Civil Service Commission in Washington, D.C. on June 26, 1965.

"QUARTER MILLION HOMOSEXUAL FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PROTEST CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION POLICY," members of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) (including Craig Rodwell, far right, and Lilli Vincenz, left) picket the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C., June 26, 1965. Photo by Kay Tobin, c/o @nyplpicturecollection. . On June 26, 1965, fifty-two years ago today, members of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) continued with their controversial new direct-action approach, holding a protest at the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the federal agency charged with implementing the government's "merit-based hiring" scheme. . While the group previously had picketed the White House (twice, in fact, once on April 17, 1965, and again on May 29), the CSC protest was of particular importance to Frank Kameny, the president of Mattachine Society Washington (MSW), who lost his government job in 1957 pursuant to CSC regulations requiring the termination of known homosexuals. . The protest garnered enough press that CSC officials soon requested a meeting with MSW members; while it took another decade before the CSC officially changed its policy regarding homosexual employees, the meeting between gay activists and federal officials was a historic first. . In 2009, John Berry, the openly-gay Director of the Office of Personnel Management, the CSC's successor agency, formally apologized to Frank Kameny on behalf of the federal government, saying "Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government, and please accept the gratitude and appreciation of the United States Office of Personnel Management for the work you have done to fight discrimination and protect the merit-based civil service system." . "Apology accepted," Kameny responded. #lgbthistory #HavePrideInHistory #Resist #Pride2017

A post shared by lgbt_history (@lgbt_history) on

"Every queer person in every picture from every parade, protest, photo booth, house party, disco, picnic, AIDS ward, stage, jail cell, bar, and everywhere else has a story," Brown tells Mashable. "And too few of them are known ... That's why we started @lgbt_history." 

With multiple photos posted per day, the duo spends a great deal of time doing research, telling Westwood.com they have a collection of around 75,000 photos that's meticulously organized and curated to correspond with important days in history. "Because of the size of our collection, the organization of it, and our familiarity with the images, we're also able to react in real-time to current events with history imagery."

One example of that? The below image of an ACT UP protester carrying a coffin emblazoned with the words "WE HATE THE F—ING PRESIDENT," which has come in handy in recent months.

Brown and Riemer make a concerted effort to represent a spectrum of identities in the LGBTQ community, such as transgender people, disabled people, and LGBTQ people of color, all of whom are generally underrepresented if not forgotten completely. "There's not a lot of representation out there, and what's out there tends to be skewed toward gay white men, so showing the spectrum strikes a chord," Riemer tells Mashable.

Though the Instagram account is still relatively young, it's already succeeded in having a major impact within the LGBTQ community and beyond. "We get incredible emails from people telling us that the account helps them get more in touch with their queerness, feel more proud, more rooted, and generally understand their place in history a bit more; it's a dose of Pride everyday," Brown and Riemer explained to Gay Star News.

The couple say the Instagram account has taught them things and enriched their lives well, adding, "Maybe more than anything, the account has given us an appreciation for the value of the images that survive from queer history. The pictures that we feature were taken by those who were confident enough to do the photographing and are of those who were proud enough to be photographed, which are subversive acts in and of themselves."

In addition to educating the accounts followers and helping them to feel less alone, Brown and Riemer also want people to see, especially in this day and age, that standing up for what you believe in works. "We hope to show the value in relentless queer activism by those who are able to be visible," Riemer concludes to Mashable. "Showing up matters, and doing what you can do matters."

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