LGBTQ+ History Month

LGBTQ+ History Month

The approximately 172 days of January have passed, and we’ve made it into February. For those of us in the UK, that means it’s LGBTQ+ History Month, which exists to raise the profile of the often under-acknowledged history of the LGBTQ+ community. The theme this year is ‘Poetry, Prose and Plays’, highlighting four LGBTQ+ authors spanning the time period from 1564 to 2000. A time-line produced for History Month 2016, when the theme was ‘Religion, Belief and Philosophy’, takes a similarly long view, unexpectedly charting that history from as far back as the 6th century. I’ve been wondering recently about the benefits of this kind of history month. Of course there’s a question of justice – it’s important to recognise and amplify voices that have been marginalised. And there’s the famous idea that those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But perhaps we don’t have to look back quite as far as the 6th century to find stories that can help us make sense of where we are now; maybe there is value in taking time to reflect on more recent history.

I work on a University campus. Recent conversations have touched on Section 28, the first UK civil partnerships, the death of Princess Diana, the introduction of a national minimum wage – and as the students kindly reminded me, they’re too young to remember these things in person. As well as making me feel old, these conversations highlight the ways in which histories can be forgotten or held, acknowledged or not, remembered accurately or otherwise, even by those of us with personal memories of those times. Many of us today owe a great deal to those who lived and struggled through events just before our own memories, events not necessarily seen as ‘historic’; This History Month I want to acknowledge that debt.

Even closer to the present day, there can be value in reflecting on our own history. This year’s History Month is dedicated to the memory of Lyra McKee, the Northern Irish journalist killed in 2019. At the age of 24 she published a letter to her 14 year old self. In it she says:

Life will not only get easier, it will get so much better. You will walk down the street without fear. Teenage boys you’ve never met will not throw things at you and shout names. Your friends will be the best anyone could ask for. You will be invited to parties. You will have a social life. You will be loved…Keep hanging on, kid. It’s worth it. I love you.

Full letter here.

The ways in which we’ve changed, the ways in which things have got better (or worse), the things we’ve survived; all of these make us who we are but are easy to forget in the everydayness of life. This History Month I want to remember those things too. Acknowledging our history – of our communities, of ourselves – can give us a sense of belonging, remind us of where we’ve come from, and inspire us for what is still to come.

Anthea Colledge, Trustee