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LGBT History Month: Celebrating past, present & future of LGBT icons in Iowa

The idea for LGBT History Month first came from a high school teacher in Missouri.

DES MOINES, Iowa — October is LGBT history month. It's a chance for community members to recognize the progress that's been made so far— and recognize the leaders of the future. 

LGBT History Month first started in Missouri in 1994; a high school teacher named Rodney Wilson originally had the idea. 

"It's all about raising awareness and just bringing those conversations and normalizing them, especially for people who are potentially looking to come out or have those open conversations," said Darek Lambert with Capital City Pride.

Iowa has a strong connection to LGBT history; the state added gender identity and sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act in 2007, and legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, six years before it was federally legal. 

Now, members of the community are celebrating the legacy of those who came before.

"We're nothing without those folks," said Courtney Reyes, executive director of One Iowa. "I stand on the shoulders of giants, of people who were willing to come out. We've been able to really see the benefits of that, of people who were willing to come out and be their true selves."

Despite the progress that's been made, there are still struggles. In 2021, the Iowa legislature introduced 15 anti-LGBT bills, many of them targeting transgender Iowans.  

RELATED: 2021 record year for anti-transgender bills in US and Iowa

"While we did see attacks in the past on lesbian, gay and bisexual folks, the main majority of attacks are on our transgender and nonbinary community," Reyes said.

Even so, community members are taking the time to celebrate the people making a difference. One Iowa, an LGBT advocacy group based out of West Des Moines, will be giving out its Legacy Leader awards to six Iowans.

"They were formed to really make a hall of fame for LGBTQ folks who have continued to show up for their community have made impacts across our state," Reyes said.

There will be a virtual ceremony on Friday, Oct. 13 at 11:30 a.m. to recognize all of the winners. A link to the event can be found here.

WATCH | 60 Seconds of Pride: Landmark court cases in LGBTQ history 

RELATED: National Coming Out Day: Resources to help you live openly