BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Coinciding with National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, Philadelphia-based Equality Forum is hosting its annual LGBT History Month with video profiles of American gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender icons.
"We're the only minority worldwide that's not taught history at home, in school or religious institutions," said Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum's founder and executive director.
Icons profiled throughout October this year include singer Ricky Martin, comic Wanda Sykes, Glee creator Ryan Murphy (a one-time Miami Herald intern) and Cuban-American AIDS activist Pedro Zamora, who grew up in Miami and died at 22 in 1994.
A group of educators began Gay History Month during the mid 1990s, but "no one really took ownership of it," Lazin said. "We decided to take responsibility for LGBT History Month."
Five years ago, Equality Forum launched an online history program and 20 organizations linked to its website. Last year, about 700 groups linked, Lazin said.
Lazin called LGBT History Month "empowering and life affirming."
"Like every group that’s been marginalized, it really helps to make the case why we should take real pride in ourselves and our community," he said.
Nearly 200 LGBT icons have been profiled since 2006. (To view the complete list of LGBT History Month icons, click here.)
This year, three of the icons are transgender and four are youths, including Daniel Hernandez, the Congressional intern who in January helped save the life of shooting victim U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The program also profiles gay icons of the past.
Diagnosed with HIV at age 17, Pedro Zamora had been an AIDS activist for several years in Miami when he sent a letter to producers of MTV's The Real World, asking to be on the show.
Producers chose him to co-star during 1994's season three in San Francisco. Midway through the season, Zamora's health suddenly declined and he died shortly after.
"He was a hugely important person. He was one of the very first, out folks who identified as HIV positive," Lazin said. "Real World was hugely important in changing attitudes. Pedro became a part of the family. He was among the very first to be out as a gay person. He was bright and engaging and charming and amazing. A remarkable spokesperson."