What is LGBT+ History Month and Why Does it matter?
1st February marks the beginning of LGBT+ History Month. Launched in 2005, LGBT+ History Month is a time when people come together to share and tell stories of the experiences, lives and achievements of LGBT+ people throughout society. Just like with Black History Month (October) or Disability History Month (which runs from November into December), it's typically filled with events (check ours out here) and discussion. LGBT+ History Month reminds us of the progress we've made, but also warns us about the injustices that we have only recently escaped - and injustices that are still with us.
Back in 2005 when LGBT+ History Month was first introduced in the UK, things were quite different. Section 28, which "prohibited the promotion of homosexuality" by public authorities, had only been off the statue books for two years in England; there was no same sex marriage (and civil partnerships only came into effect in December 2005); and the life blood donation ban for men who have sex with men was in full effect. In 2021, things are different in lots of respects (see the Plus and Stonewall timelines of changes). But we still have ongoing challenges, and the wounds of the past - which are in living memory! - are still with us and shape our community and perspectives.
Stories do matter - whether they're represented in fiction or non-fiction. This year we've experienced the huge cultural impact of Russell T Davies' 'It's A Sin', which has been hugely impactful for many LGBT+ people. This has been true for people who lived through the period as well as those who didn't. These stories do really matter: they personalise and they humanise. LGBT+ people deserve better than to be written out of our cultural memory. To be without their stories is an affront to their dignity, and does nothing to help us tackle the biases and stigmas that still pervade in our society today.
In the UK we might focus primarily on the decriminalisation of sex between men (1967), the introduction and scrapping of Section 28 (1988-2003 in England/2000 in Scotland) and same sex marriage (2013). But there are stories from right across the world for us to explore and understand. Same sex sexual activity is still illegal in at least 72 countries. Of those, 11 have the death penalty as a possible punishment. And at least 15 countries criminalise the free expression of one's gender identity (with many more than 15 proving a hostile environment to trans people) (See Human Dignity Trust for more).
Throughout February we'll be writing and talking much more about LGBT+ History - from darknesses that we cannot let be repeated to iconic figures and their work to make the world a more just and equal place. LGBT+ people infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Their stories are not monolithic, or constrained to a few niche areas. LGBT+ people exist and always have existed throughout our societies. Their stories matter and they deserve to be told.