LGBT+ History Month: we all have a part to play in creating a fairer world.
I consider myself very fortunate indeed. I realised I was bisexual when I was in Year 9 (although in hindsight I always have been), I had a group of very supportive friends, experienced no homophobic bullying, and never had to officially come out to my parents, nor have to justify my sexuality to them. It has been a comfortable part of my life ever since. When Lockdown #1 arrived, and we all found ourselves with some extra thinking time, I realised I am also non-binary: that I am somewhere in the middle of the wonderful spectrum of human gender. This was something of a surprise revelation at first, until further reflection made clear that – like my sexuality – it has always been true. My family, friends, colleagues, and students have been wonderfully affirming.
I consider myself fortunate, because many members of the LGBTQ+ community have not had – are not having – as easy, accepting, comfortable, nor safe an experience. Homophobia and bigotry still loom, both in individuals’ private lives where they should be safest, and in the public sphere where it often goes hand-in-hand with broader systemic social injustice and discrimination: racism and xenophobia, ableism…
It has pained me that the author of one of the most successful book franchises of all time – whom I started reading when I was in year 6 – now openly expresses transphobic views. This author is not alone in doing so, but very few other individuals have such an enormous audience and influence. For one whose most famous protagonist stands against a foe who ranks ‘purity’ of blood above all, the hypocrisy cuts deep. Our children deserve better role models than those who would deny their existence.
I lived through the times of Section 28 (albeit unconsciously in my early years). Many other staff may well have taught in schools at a time when their lips were sealed by the spectre of prosecution should they dare to tell students that being gay was just as valid as being heterosexual. In 2011, eight years after Section 28 was repealed, the ghost of it haunted education again, when one politician added a clause stipulating that the benefits of marriage be part of the curriculum in academies and free schools. At a time when same-sex marriage was 3 years away from being legalised, the young members of the LGBTQ+ community were again being discouraged from being their truest self.
Thankfully, in 2005, two teachers took it upon themselves to establish LGBT+ History Month. They acknowledge the debt they owe to Black History Month in terms of the structure and framework of the event. Perhaps coincidentally, LGBT+ History Month in the UK coincides with Black History Month in the USA, and vice versa. All marginalised groups have experienced their own unique, but linked struggles for equality in the face of individual and systemic injustice, which are far from over. As Emma Lazarus – an American poet whose most famous work is inscribed on New York’s Statue of Liberty, welcoming the homeless, tempest-tost – once wrote, against growing American anti-Semitism: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Black Lives Matter. Trans Lives Matter. Queer Lives Matter.
The world can be a scary place if you don’t feel like you fit in. Even throwaway comments describing something rubbish as ‘gay’ can hurt members of the LGBTQ+ community; one papercut of a thousand. This should not be their problem to “deal with”. We are each responsible for our own behaviour, and must accept responsibility for it. The fight for equality depends upon us all standing proactively against social injustice, in all its forms. Bigotry will not be solved by social media posts or rainbow lanyards alone. Staff, students, parents: we all have a part to play in creating a fairer world…and not just in the month of February.
Mx Jay Wood
LGBT+ History Month: https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/
Stonewall, the charity for the LGBTQ+ community: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/
Mermaids, a charity devoted to supporting gender-diverse young people and their families: https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/
2BU, a local organisation providing support services for LGBTQ+ young people in Somerset: https://www.2bu-somerset.co.uk/
Carrington Library – Miss Lockwood has a huge selection of articles and resources!
Categories: Blog Senior Sixth Form