Opinion: Why we still need LGBTQ+ History Month

Kay 
Woking Labour’s LGBTQ+ Officer

February is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans+ (LGBT+) history month where the lives and contributions that LGBT+ people have made to society are acknowledged and celebrated. Today, some people ask why we still need History month and Pride celebrations when the LGBT+ population has all the rights it needs.

Although there have been a great many advances in legislation and rights, there is still a lot of stigma and homophobia present in society that continue to have a derogatory, negative effect on LGBT+ people which often affects their self-esteem and sense of wellbeing. The least LGBT people can expect to experience can be verbal name calling, belittling. The worst can be actual physical violence and sometimes death. This has the effect of making LGBT+ people feel vulnerable and excluded simply for who they fall in love with. We cannot choose who we fall in love with. Most LGBT+ people feel they have to modify their behaviour in public so as not to attract negative attention. For example: not holding hands with their partner in public which heterosexual couples can take for granted and not even consider having to do.

From the 16th to 19th century, same sex attractions were criminalised with severe penalties in place. Gay rights were almost unheard of although attempts were made to make changes to the law. The gay rights movement gathered momentum and pace after the Stonewall riots in the United States. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in New York which was regularly raided by the police, but on this day the gay community had, had enough of the continual brutality and nearly 400 people joined a riot that lasted 45 minutes and continued over a number of nights. This event was commemorated annually after this which was the beginning of Gay Pride celebrations.

In the 1970s and ’80s many political organisations were formed particularly in the United States and Europe, which began campaigning for legal and social reforms. Fast forward to today and we have the Equality Act of 2010 that provides protection in law for people with protected characteristics. LGBT+ people now have protection at work, in wider society and can have their relationships recognised and legitimised through Civil Partnerships and Civil Marriage. 

These rights and freedoms have been hard fought and won by LGBT+ people being very brave at times when the penalties were extreme, without the protection of law. People Like Oscar Wilde and Alan Turin who made great contributions to society in spite of being excluded, discriminated against and reviled by it. More recently, Ian Mckellen, Angela Eagle, Catherine Smith to name a very few of a great many LGBT+ people fully participating and contributing to society.

Rights and Freedoms that are still very fragile and could very easily be taken away. There are still over 70 countries in the world where it is not safe for LGBT+ people to travel to. Society in parts has reached a level of tolerance and living in the shadow of this is not easy and the reason why LGBT+ history month is still very important.

The Rainbow Flag has been adopted as a symbol of pride by the LGBT+ community since 1978 representing peace and diversity.

 

 

LGBT+ labour members, if you would like to get in touch, contact me on lgbtq@wokinglabour.org.