LGBT History Month

Today’s guest blog is by Daryn Carter MBE, from Bristol Pride.

February marks LGBT History Month, an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. It has been marked in the UK since 2005, organised by Schools Out which evolved from The Gay Teachers’ Group, formed following the sacking of a London teacher in 1974 who was ‘outed’ to his managers by a student.

Interestingly in America LGBT History Month is celebrated in October, whilst in the UK February was chosen to coincide with the abolition of the harmful section 28, legislation put in place to stop to any dialogue on matters surrounding sexuality in local government and schools, meaning that many students had no voice and nowhere to turn for support.

For those of us who grew up and went to school under section 28 it had a lasting impact and a legacy still being felt today. So Bristol Pride and I always jump at the chance to work with local schools to help showcase positive LGBT+ role models, to help combat bullying and prejudice and generally just raise awareness of the power of diversity and inclusion.

Pride flag at City Hall. Photo credit: Chris Orchard

LGBT History Month is so important. It helps us remember our past, understand what has happened, but also look to our future. It raises awareness, stimulates conversation and, for teachers, community leaders and youth organisation, reminds them of their role to support young LGBT+ people, because whilst things have got better, we still have a long way to go.

In 2019, Avon and Somerset Police saw a 47% increase in reported hate crime based on Sexual Orientation and nationally there has been a 27% rise. Things are still really challenging for young people. 24% of young people who are homeless identify as LGBT+ and it breaks my heart to hear that 77% of those believe that coming out to their parents was the factor in their homelessness. This is one of the key reasons that people have been working hard to still make events happen online. Sadly, some of the community are having to live through lockdown in unsupportive environments or back with unaccepting parents. So, opportunities to bring people together, even virtually, are vital lifelines for some. For Pride last year we presented two weeks of events to help connect the community. It wasn’t easy to do and can’t compare to seeing 40,000 people at a festival or 18,000 people filling the whole of our colourful parade through the city centre but online events help show people that they are not alone and that there is a whole community out there to support you. It is a very odd feeling that the last physical event I went to was an LGBT+ History Month talk in Bristol last year! This year due to the pandemic these events are taking place online but are there to unite us while we are so very disconnected.

As I mentioned, LGBT+ History Month is a chance to look at issues that we might need to still address. As well as a historical talk on Michael Dillon, Bristol’s ‘Illustrious Trans Pioneer’, MShed are hosting a talk I’m really looking forward to with Hidayah, a volunteer group that offers support to LGBT+ Muslims who have become increasingly visible over recent years and are challenging the views of hetero-normative attitudes in Muslim society today. Whilst Bristol University Law School host Leading human rights lawyer, Jonathan Cooper who will discuss why, despite legal reforms, meaningful equality remains out of reach. You can check out some of these and other events taking place this month on the Bristol Pride Website.

Ultimately, we all work to create a better society for us all and like Pride, LGBT History Month is a reminder to keep striving to be better, to be there for each other and to just be kinder.

Photo credit: Dan Regan