February in the UK has been filled with rainbow colours as the countries celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) history month. But it can leave some people wondering “why is LGBTQ+ history month important?”
Well, we are here to give you several reasons why it is an important part of the UK and global history, because we believe it is something we should all know and learn from.
Reason 1: To remember those without rights
Whilst we have taken leaps in LGBTQ+ rights in the past decade, there are still many places in the world that criminalise “private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity”, according to Human Dignity Trust. The Forbes magazine stated in Nov 2021 that 375 transgender people were murder in that year alone, making it the “deadliest year” since records began, with “Nine in ten (96%) of those murdered globally were trans women or transfeminine people”. We need to keep fighting for equal rights and holding events that teach people about LGBTQ+ issues.
Reason 2: To discover hidden histories
The spectrum of sexuality is not a new phenomena, LGBTQ+ identities are as old as human existence and have been known by many different names in many cultures around the world. But history books tend to do one of three things; barely mention, completely ignore, or deliberately erase LGBTQ+ people’s existence and contributions. For example, did you know the war poet Wilfred Owen was gay? Or that there were black lesbian blues singers in the 20s and 30s such as Gladys Bentley?
There are so many scientists, politicians, poets, doctors and more who’s sexual identity was either ignored, criminalised, or erased from our history to fit a homophobic agenda.
Reason 3: To remember how we got rights
The decriminalisation of homosexuality only happened in the UK in 1967, which is recent enough to still be in the minds and lifetime of many UK citizens. The fight to get there was extremely hard both physically and mentally, and the path to full equality is still going on to this day. While the punishments such as chemical castration in the UK have disappeared into the history books, in many countries around the world people of the LGBTQ+ community can legally receive the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts. You can find a list of countries where it is illegal here
Reason 4: For LGBTQ+ children to know their history
The LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall found that two out of five LGBTQ+ children don’t learn anything about the community's issues in school. Leaving the question, what does it do to children when their own identity is not reflected back at them? In stories based on myths, parables and histories, as children, we find they inspire us to achieve our goals in spite of obstacles and barriers that have been placed before us. Seeing people you identify with not just merely existing in history but who achieved and conquered huge feats can impact and influence the next generation to keep climbing and reaching goals that generations before them could never reach.
Reason 5: To learn from history
With many issues facing marginalised communities they often overlap. Without heroes behind the Stonewall riots in 1969 we may not have triggers the huge gay rights movement worldwide. Individuals like Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Storme DeLarverie led the resistance against police brutality in New York at the gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.
They lesbian and transwomen of colour, the same identity that is murder more than any other LGBTQ+ identity. People from these communities deserve to learn about the courage and legacies of these people, and to keep their memory alive.