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LGBT History Month 2019

LGBT History Month 2019

Have you ever wondered what LGBT History Month is all about? A Together Housing staff member has written a blog about it...

February in the United Kingdom is designated as LGBT History Month. Hang on a minute though; wasn’t Pride month in June? Why is there another one? What’s the difference?

Pride is a celebration of diversity. An opportunity to tell the world you are proud of who you are and not ashamed of your sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT History Month aims to examine how we got to this point by looking at the events and people who have shaped the lives of LGBT people today and what we can learn from the past.

As with many of our “traditions”, LGBT History Month began in the United States. It was founded by high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, in Missouri, and he chose October as LGBT History Month to coincide with National Coming Out Day which was already established and relatively well known. He wanted to shine a light on the hidden history of LGBT life and the gay and civil rights movements which paved the way for a much more accepting society.

In 2005 Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick, two veteran LGBT rights campaigners, began LGBT History Month in February as part of a Schools OUT UK project. The aim of Schools OUT UK is to offer a formal and informal support network for all people who want to raise the issue of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexism in education. February was chosen as it was the second anniversary of the repeal of Section 28.

For those who may not know, in 1988 Section (or Clause) 28 was added to the Local Government Act of 1986. It stated that any Local Authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained (state) school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". Although objective discussions of different sexualities were technically not illegal, due to concerns about the interpretation of the word “promote”, many of those in education were fearful of mentioning it at all. There were no books in school libraries from which young people could try and make sense of their feelings. It wasn’t possible for a pupil to discuss their concerns about sexuality with a trusted teacher as a failure to condemn homosexuality could be seen as promotion by default. For those of us over a certain age, our formative years lacked any education around sexuality, and LBGT people had almost no positive representation anywhere in the media. It took me a long time to understand what being gay actually was and what that could mean for me as a person. I knew I was “different” but didn’t have any frame of reference. What might have been useful would have been to learn not only that LGBT people existed outside of tired sitcom stereotypes, but that there was a rich and varied history of LGBT people and that they have been making positive contributions for millennia.

And that’s what LGBT History Month is all about; recognising that LGBT people have always been around and ensuring that their stories are heard and celebrated. Because the history of differing sexualities was so often shrouded in secrecy, there often isn’t much obvious evidence. But there are many people who historians now believe were LGBT based on what evidence exists or has been recently unearthed. This has been controversial at times, with accusations of people trying to make history “more PC” and being part of some sort of agenda. But that isn’t the case at all, it’s about re-evaluating what we already know and considering any new information discovered. And although sometimes all we can do is speculate, it’s important to acknowledge that heterosexuality is not always the default position of humans (or even some animals) and that people have always been as diverse and interesting as they are in the twenty-first century.

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