An annual month-long observance, LGBT History Month honors the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and the history of the gay rights movements. Founded in 1994 by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson, every October we create space for reflection — noting how far we’ve come, and the work that still needs to be done. In addition, National Coming Out Day is today, October 11th. Every year on this day, we support people who are "coming out of the closet." The history of weed and the LGBTQ+ community are intrinsically tied together, so we asked some leaders in cannabis to share how they’re honoring the occasion.
1. PAX Labs Chief Operating Officer Steven Jung
PAX is committed to advancing causes of equity and access in cannabis, both within our own walls and across the industry. LGBTQ+ advocates have been a driving force behind the cannabis movement, and it's imperative that the industry support and protect the rights of this community in turn. Equality CA is one of the leading organizations doing exactly that, and I’m excited that PAX is continuing our support of their critical work this LGBTQ+ History Month with a $15,000 donation.
2. Artist Emily Eizen
The history of cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community goes way back. After his partner died if HIV/AIDS in the '90s, gay activist Denis Peron fought for medical cannabis in San Francisco, and eventually the state of California though Prop 215. He also opened the first dispensary called the San Francisco Buyer’s Club, servicing all folks, but especially those who used cannabis to ease the pain of HIV/AIDS — along with other powerful women such as Brownie Mary who was a volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital where she was known for giving cannabis infused brownies to AIDS patients.
This is just a brief history of the interconnectedness of the cannabis and LGBTQ+ communities. It's essential to mention how the LGBTQ+ community needs to show up now for our mostly Black and Brown brothers and sisters who are still in jail for cannabis. With the spirit of resistance and activism in mind, the LGBTQ+ community must continue to carry the torch of Peron and many others to end the War On Drugs and free all cannabis prisoners.
3. POSIBL CEO Jesus Burrola
Throughout history, the LGBTQ community, like the cannabis community, has suffered through the stigma and persecution from those that seek to limit their rights. We stand beside persecuted groups and minorities to form a better and more inclusive future.
4. Eminent Consulting Educator Emma Chasen
Coming out and into my queer identity has always been inextricably tied to coming out of the proverbial green closet. To impress the first woman I had a crush on, I asked her to teach me how to smoke weed. Up until this time, I'd been rather puritanical in my disregard of all mind-altering substances, especially cannabis. Sitting in her dorm room in college, I watched her grind the weed and pack the bowl and then she lit it for me as the sexual tension buzzed through the air. After a couple of hits, I pretended to be high (I wasn't) and asked her to cuddle. That night turned into a two-year relationship where I simultaneously discovered my queer identity and my love for cannabis.
My cannabis experience has always been inherently queer and cannabis history is also queer. The industry would not be as vibrant as it is today without the queer activists who paved the way — thank you Dennis Peron and many others who fought for this freedom!
5. Honeysuckle Magazine Founder Ronit Pinto
There are many versions of “coming out.” Just being “yourself” in today’s world can be tumultuous, if you aren’t just like everyone else in your environment. For the LGBTQIA+ community, this struggle can escalate to new heights, as there’s a history of discrimination — in their own families, throughout society, legal frameworks worldwide, and social systems at large.
LGBTQIA+ communities are some of the most caring, loving and productive communities. No one should be ashamed of who they are, what they are, and certainly not who they love. National Coming Out Day is a day for LGBTQIA+ to loudly and proudly claim who they are, for those who aren’t LBTQIA+ to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and overall as an opportunity to diminish homophobic and oppressive views.
6. Tokeativity Co-founder Lisa Snyder
I am proud to be a lesbian woman and represent in the cannabis space. I have been out since I was 17 and in 1999, we were only just beginning to have clubs like the "gay/straight alliances" in school. My parents didn't support me at the time and tried to convert "dating women" out of me via therapy. Soon after, I found an LGBT club in college and created a network of amazing women who helped me to create the supportive family I couldn't access.
It was only just 6 years ago in 2015 that I was legally allowed to marry my wife, Catherine. Being able to celebrate our love and connection in front of our friends and family one year later and get full legal rights as wives was the best and proudest day of my life. I am so grateful to all the folks who have continued to break down the walls that keep the LGBTQ community oppressed. The entire community has made incredible milestones over the last 2 decades, but there are still many more to go.
7. Mommy Jane Founder Jessica Gonzalez
It's perfect that I am being quoted for National Coming Out Day because this morning, over breakfast, I came out to my girls about my bisexuality, very casually. It wasn't planned. They asked me questions over waffles and I answered honestly, stating that I did indeed date women in the past and still identified as bisexual. The response from both my kids was better than expected and their awareness blew me away: they were supportive and understanding that bisexuality is a valid and stable sexual orientation regardless of experience or current relationship status. They also both understood that identifying as bisexual does not mean being attracted to only man or woman, and quickly chimed in that friends of theirs identify as gender fluid — reinforcing they are aware there are many options out there and they are open to it all.
A majority of LGB parents do identify as bi, but I often wonder how many of them have come out to their kids. When I came out to my community this year, so many other moms chimed in that they are indeed bi like me. What many people do not realize is that bisexuality has been an invisible sexuality, and many stay in the closet because we are often questioned more than validated.
I am hoping that the more we normalize conversations with our community, the more we can normalize it. To hear the encouragement from two young minds today, two humans who may one day embark on their own journeys in love, makes me have hope for the future of my children, and their friends. I hope they know they can come to me, and I will always have an ear, so they can always have a voice.
8. Napa Valley Fumé CMO Ian Hackett
Growing up in San Francisco in the 1980s was magical for me personally but it was also a time of great conflict in the LGBTQ+ community; a community I had yet to realize I was a part of. The cannabis industry we know today has the LGBTQ+ community of San Francisco to thank for the advancements made in the medical use of cannabis. Let’s remember and applaud those who came before us allowing us to be out, proud, and loud members of the cannabis community today.