- What is LGBTQ+ History Month?
- LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK
- An overview of LGBTQ+ history in the UK
- Ways to get involved with LGBT+ History Month
Much like Black History Month, LGBTQ+ History Month exists to draw attention to the struggles and progress made by a community that has faced severe adversity and is still fighting for equality today. 💪
So, who is LGBTQ+ History Month for? And who are the people behind the histories? Read on for an overview of LGBTQ+ history in the UK as well as some top tips on how you can get involved and celebrate this year.
What is LGBTQ+ History Month?
Founded around the mid-nineties, LGBT+ History Month is an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history as well as the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements associated with the wider LGBTQ+ community. 🏳️🌈
Expression of same-sex love and gender non-conformity has been constrained by both repressive social attitudes and criminal persecution. Despite this, individuals throughout history have lived radical private lives outside the accepted sexual and gender norms of their time. LGBTQ+ History Month is a time for us to spotlight, admire and celebrate the truths that have previously been hidden from view.
LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK
Schools OUT UK – an LGBT+ Education Charity – is the founding organiser of LGBTQ+ History Month UK. Schools OUT evolved from The Gay Teachers' Group, a socially-supportive network established in 1974 following the sacking of a London teacher who had been 'outed' to his managers by a student.
LGBTQ+ History Month is celebrated in various countries around the world – including Australia, Canada, Hungary, United Kingdom, United States and Ireland to name a few – at different times of the year. 🌍
Here in the UK, it is observed during February to coincide with a major celebration of the 2003 abolition of Section 28 – a series of laws introduced by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities – more on that below.
An overview of LGBTQ+ history in the UK
As far back as the Celtic and early Roman eras, homosexuality was not only permissible but widely accepted and celebrated. Far from shameful, it was considered insulting to refuse the offer of same-sex intercourse in Celtic Britain. Similarly, it is widely understood that Roman men were free to enjoy sex with other males without a perceived loss of masculinity or social status. 👬
Equally, there are rich histories of people transcending gender norms throughout English history dating as far back as Roman Britain. Gender nonconforming people appear in court records, popular broadsheet ballads and newspapers.
So then, when and why did gender neutrality or fluidity and homosexuality become problematic, unacceptable and even criminalised? 👮
The Buggery Act
The Buggery Act of 1533, passed by Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII completely outlawed sodomy in Britain. This was the first time that male homosexuality was targeted for persecution by law in the UK – convictions were punishable by death. It was not until 1861 that acts of sodomy be made punishable by a minimum of 10 years imprisonment instead.
By comparison, female homosexuality was considered to be far less prevalent in society and was therefore never explicitly targeted by any legislation. 1921 discussions in Parliament around discriminatory legislation against lesbianism were halted for fear that they would draw attention and encourage women to explore homosexuality. 👭
Early transgender identities
In the post-war period, transgender identities started to become visible. In May 1951 Roberta Cowell, a former World War II Spitfire pilot, became the first transgender woman to undergo vaginoplasty surgery in the UK. Cowell continued her career as a racing driver and published her autobiography in 1954. 🏳️⚧️
Meanwhile, a significant rise in arrests and prosecutions of homosexual men were made after World War II. Many held positions within government and national institutions, such as Alan Turing, the cryptographer whose work played a decisive role in the breaking of the Enigma code.
The Wolfenden Report
In 1957, the Wolfenden Report was published. Commissioned in response to evidence that homosexuality could not legitimately be regarded as a disease, it proposed that the state should focus on protecting the public rather than scrutinising their private lives. It took 10 years for the Government to implement the Wolfenden Report’s recommendations in the Sexual Offences Act 1967. ✊
Gay Liberation Front and Pride
The UK Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was founded in 1970. The GLF protested in solidarity with other oppressed groups and organised the very first Pride march in 1972 which is now an annual event. 🌈
The Tories take a step backward
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, introduced by the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher prohibited councils from funding educational materials and projects perceived to 'promote homosexuality’. Section 28 was repealed in 2003 and Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the legislation in 2009. 😕
Same-sex marriage legalised
In 2004 the Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed same-sex couples to legally enter into binding partnerships, similar to marriage. The subsequent Marriage Act 2013 then went further, allowing same-sex couples in England and Wales to marry. Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit in 2014 and 2020 respectively. 👰
The Equality Act
The Equality Act 2010 gave LGBT employees protections from discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work. The legislation brought together existing legislation and added protections for trans workers, solidifying rights granted by the Gender Recognition Act. The LGBTQ community continues to fight for equality and social acceptance. 🧑⚖️
Ways to get involved with LGBTQ+ History Month
LGBT+ History Month provides role models, builds community and represents a civil rights statement about the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community. Brushing up on your knowledge and having conversations with your children, friends, colleagues and family during this month is a brilliant way to celebrate. 🥳
LGBTQ+ History Month is for everyone. Whether you are a member of the community, a parent of an LGBTQ+ child, a friend, a supporter or an ally, there are plenty of ways to amplify your voice and impact this February should you like to do so. For example you could:
- Buy and wear official LGBT History Month badges and lanyards
- Research and download further LGBT History Month resources
- Enter the LGBT History Month badge design competition with your child
- Attend an OUTing the Past event
- Connect with others online using: #LGBTHM22
- Talk to your child’s school to see how they are celebrating LGBTQ History Month
Take a look at what other organisations in the UK – like Stonewall, LGBTQ+ History month, All Out and Diversity Role Models – are doing for further ideas, inspiration, learning and events for you and your child to get involved in. 🎟️