HAPPY LGBTQ+ history month! As you may know, this February marks the 14th annual celebration of LGBTQ+ history month in the UK, often referred to as ‘LGBT history month’.
It was initially created in 2005 by Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick as part of a Schools OUT UK project. This came in the wake of the abolition of Section 28, which stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
The introduction of the 2003 Employment Equality Regulations was also extremely important, as it prohibited employers from discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, religion or belief and age.
Despite these great strides in progress, a result of the painstaking work of activists, this month is still important as there is still so much to do. Research carried out by LGBTQ+ charity group Stonewall found that an estimated 20% of LGBTQ+ people experience a hate crime in the space of one year, whilst around 80% of LGBTQ+ students have not received relevant information on how to have safe sex. Additionally, 42% of trans people are not living in their preferred gender role due to fear that it would threaten their employment status.
Although positive, significant legislation has been passed, clearly, attitudes and actions are far behind.
LGBTQ+ history month differs from its more well-known counterpart of Pride month as it is not only a celebration of queer identities, but specifically focuses on history, and brings visibility to the struggles that the community are still working to overcome. For many in the LGBTQ+ community, this month is incredibly important. It provides an opportunity to learn about important moments of history that are completely absent from the education system, and it also helps community members feel supported and recognised.
With over 1500 nationwide events, there are opportunities for many to actively access tangible queer spaces where individuals will be accepted unconditionally. Here, it is much easier to meet new people with similar experiences than it is in day-to-day life. To just exist within these spaces can be a breath of fresh air, as you’re somewhere you don’t have to experience fear or judgement.
Even if you cannot attend the events yourself, the existence of them is reassuring in itself. The presence of LGBTQ+-centric events gives more visibility online, particularly on social media which can be instrumental in allowing isolated queer youth to feel much less alone. This can be incredibly comforting to those unable to come out to see alternative experiences, one of acceptance, not fear. Most of all, the celebration of LGBTQ+ identities provides hope.
The most recognisable names in LGBTQ+ activist history are often the more publicised Americans, such as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official, and Martha P. Johnson who allegedly threw the first brick at the Stonewall riots. However, there are many activists working in the UK even now, such as Lily Madigan, who became the first trans woman to hold the position of Women’s Officer, elected in 2017 to the Labour Party. Visibility for inspirational members of the LGBTQ+ community are now often most prominently in the entertainment industry, such as comedian Sue Perkins, or model Cara Delevingne, helping to normalise queer identities to their audiences.
LGBTQ+ history month is community-driven and promotes solidarity with activists who have paved the way for the liberation of LGBTQ+ people so far, whilst reminding us of the work still to be done. Its function of affirming these marginalised identities is vital to each of us, whether we are ‘out of the closet’ or not.
If you’re struggling with issues relating to sexuality, seek advice from charities such as Stonewall, the LGBT Foundation or get in contact with Wellbeing or local LGBTQ+ positive therapy services.