FEBRUARY is LGBT History Month in the UK – marked every year in the UK since 2004 to remember and celebrate the lives and achievements of LGBT people past and present.
It was set up by Sue Sanders, founder of Schools Out, a group for LGBT teachers since 1974.
LGBT History Month is a wonderful opportunity to explore the lives of people who have come before us, those who have made an impact on the way that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people can live their lives today.
Each year LGBT History Month has a theme – The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Coded Lives’, featuring people from history who have lived ‘coded lives’ – i.e. hidden their true identities in various ways: diaries, slang, artwork and clothing.
- Lesbian – Anne Lister, a diarist from the 1700’s who wrote in code to record her intimate feelings for other women
- Gay – Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, actors who performed on BBC Radio in Polari, the language used by gay men to communicate with each other to avoid detection when their relationships were criminalised
- Bisexual – Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter who portrayed her ‘otherness’ in striking self-portraits
- Trans – Chevalier d’Eon, a diplomat who lived publicly as a man and a woman
My contribution to the campaign was to find new ways to share stories I have previously posted on this blog.
My first story: A reflection on a homophobic incident, and how far we have come from the days when gay men needed to talk in code to avoid discovery. Originally posted here, I submitted it to Guardian Witness in response to the story of two male radio presenters in Luton conducting an experiment to see what reaction they would get while holding hands around the town. They hit upon the idea after someone called their radio show to share his experience of homophobic abuse while holding his boyfriend’s hand.
In a comment piece for the Independent, Lee wrote: “A number of people have also responded by calling me brave for doing it. Brave? All I did was hold a fella’s hand.It’s pretty nuts that two people can’t walk down the street holding hands for fear of reprisals. How do we stop it? I haven’t got a clue. Having argued with homophobes on and off air, there’s very little chance of the majority of them changing their minds. But, if we see someone being abused, in whatever form, isn’t it our duty to at least say something?”
Guardian Witness asked people to share their experiences of homophobia, and whether they think the situation is improving. I submitted an updated version of my story from September 2013:
My second story: In 2014 the LGBT rights charity Stonewall turned 25. As part of their LGBT History Month campaign they invited us to share our stories of achievements in the LGBT rights movement since 1989. I shared one of my blog posts about our civil partnership – the first registered in a place of worship in the UK on 6th May 2012. Originally posted here, it is now on the Stonewall 25th anniversary website here:
My third story: At the end of 2013 I trained as a volunteer for Diversity Role Models (DRM), a charity which actively seeks to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying in UK schools by educating young people about difference, challenging stereotypes and addressing the misuse of language. To celebrate LGBT History Month they are featuring a series of guest blogs from volunteer role models about their personal histories. The story I share in DRM workshops, originally posted here, is now on the DRM blog here:
My fourth story: In August 2013, on the Sunday after Liverpool Pride, my partner and I led the Sunday morning service at the liberal Anglican Church in the city where we worship and volunteer in the community. Every month for its Sunday morning services the St Bride’s community reflects on a monthly theme, on which members of the community lead reflections on issues which are important to them. I led the reflection on the theme of identity, taking inspiration from the song I Am What I Am, from the musical La Cage Aux Folles, in which I shared some of my story, and encouraged others to do the same. Originally posted here, I presented an updated version at the church’s monthly evening service for the LGBT community, known as Open Table. The new version is now available on the church’s website and on Youtube here.