February of each year has been set aside in the UK to mark and celebrate the lives and achievements of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Trans people.
Why Has This Happened?
LGBT people have often hidden themselves in society for their own safety and have also frequently been ignored by others for their achievements and contributions. The month will begin to rectify that.
Why Do We Need to Do This?
Because the lives and achievements of LGBT people have been hidden, it has been easy for others to stereotype and distort the reality of their lives. From this ignorance comes the prejudice that shows itself in homophobic bullying and negative discrimination. By presenting an honest appraisal of LGBT lives we seek to replace ignorance with knowledge and understanding.
Where Did the Idea for an LGBT History Month Come from?
An LGBT History Month was first initiated in the USA in the month of October 1994. LGBT History Month UK was initiated by Schools OUT in February 2005. Both were based on the creation of the highly successful Black History Month which first occurred in the UK in October 1987 (Black History Month USA takes place in February).
Who Are Schools Out and Why Did They Decide to Do It?
Who Runs History Month Now?
LGBT History Month is run by a voluntary steering group but local organisations and individuals are invited to create their own events.
What About Funding for the Project?
We are continually looking for sources of funding. Our website contains a model union motion asking branches, divisions and national unions to subscribe to this work. We are also seeking individual sponsors donating a minimum of £10.00 each – You can also find a link to support us from that same page. We are working to gain sponsorship from a wide variety of public and private bodies so that we can continue to develop this work. A list of our sponsors is available at the bottom of the home page.
Is it national or Local?
Both. It began as a national organisation but most London boroughs and many provincial authorities and individuals have their own pre-launch and brochure with events listings. Norfolk and Nottingham organise more events per head of population than anywhere else.
How Can it Benefit Schools?
Schools should be safe spaces for their whole communities, but we know the reality is often different. LGBT History Month gies people an opportunity to raise the issue of LGBT people and their achievements. It provides a platform.
Is there an LGBT History?
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans are all twentieth century terms but they describe same-sex desire and gender identity, which have existed in all times and in all places.
Is there any Proof of This?
Yes. To celebrate the LGBT History Month Pre-launch at the British Museum, the Museum created an on-line Same Sex Desire and Gender Identity Timeline, which provides us with material evidence that we impacted on people’s lives among Native Americans, Japanese in the 19th century, The Maori, Pakistanis, Malians, ancient Romans, Greeks and possibly Egyptians. You can find it here. Joan Roughgarden’s The Evolution of the Rainbow demonstrates gender variance and same sexual orientated behaviours in a host of animal species. You can read about it here.
Is there a Reason for This?
There are theories. One such is that a same sex couple in a species could adopt an orphan in the community. Since most animal species are prey to others this is perfectly plausible.
Was Florence Nightingale a Lesbian?
Simone Rich quotes Florence Nightingale as having written: “I have lived and slept in the same bed with English countesses and Prussian farm women… no woman has excited passions among women more than I have”, according to Parted Lips: Lesbian Love Quotes through the Ages (2002). As a statement it seems pretty unambiguous. Successive biographies, however, portray the founder of modern nursing as heterosexual and often refer to her devout Christianity, implying that the latter proscribes the former. It suggests there is an underlying heterosexism in our historical sourcing here: are we unable to accept that our cultural icons can be anything other than heterosexual? If we are, then history is telling us that we are second best. This is unacceptable.
Was Shakespeare Gay?
You cannot apply the term ‘gay’ to a man who was born in the 16th century. The word didn’t exist then. Nor did ‘homosexual’ or bisexual. Shakespeare was married with children. However, he spent his theatrical career away from his family in an all-male domain. Most of his sonnets, which were not to be published before his death, concerned the narrator’s love and desire for a young soldier. Traditional gender-roles are challenged in a number of his plays, including Twelfth Night. Bassanio’s love for Antonio proves greater than his love for Portia when it is put to the test in A Merchant of Venice. So there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest he had relationships with other men. He wouldn’t declare it because sodomy was a capital offence at the time; even though James I was on the throne!
Does it Matter?
Yes, because if it is left unsaid everyone will assume Nightingale and Shakespeare was heterosexual. And this distorts out history and isolates us by rendering us invisible.
What Harm Does That Do?
President Ahmadinejad of Iran told US students that there were no homosexuals in his country. President Kim Il Sung of North Korea denies there is homosexuality in his country, condemning it as a capitalist disease. These men are tyrants and lead particularly hardline regimes within their nations, but as long as we are invisible from history they can peddle this nonsense. Meanwhile, closer to home, Premier Thatcher fulminated at the Conservative Party Conference in 1987 that: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay”, reasserting the absurd myth that sexual orientation is some modern lifestyle choice. We need our history to challenge wrong ideas when they spout forth from the mouths of people who have power.
Are there any Other History Months?