Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thoughts on the importance of LGBT History Month

Thoughts on the importance of LGBT History Month


As a writer of LGBT Historical Fiction, it will be of little surprise to you that I am excited by the idea of an ‘LGBT History Month’. To me, it is by learning about history that we can learn from history. 

But whose history do we usually learn about and when? When and how was it that you discovered that the there was once, in the world of ancient Greece, an army of gay men called the Sacred Band of Thebes? Or that there was once a lesbian poet called Sappho who lived on the island of Lesbos and set up a school for young women? Did you study the LGBT literary circles of Paris in the 1920s and 30s when you did literature at school or was it much later, perhaps not until you came out? Do you know how gay men in the UK coped with a law that made it illegal for them to make love until this law was abolished in 1967? And what questions about the LGBT past do you still have? Do you know for example, what it was like living as an LGBT person in 19th Century? Have you read the stories of the 1970s lesbians who were excluded from the feminist movement even though many fought ardently for the rights of straight women regarding marriage and reproduction? You may have seen several historical dramas where the lives of LGBT folk from the upper classes were portrayed but what of the lives of the ordinary folk who worked in the fields and the factories? There are so very many histories out there. Some are thoroughly documented and to those of us who belong to the LGBT community extremely well-known – such as the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for sodomy or the court case surrounding the publication of The Well Of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. Yet there are countless parts of LGBT history that have hardly been told at all and may never come to light unless we commit to researching them. And what of the older LGBT generation who are still living? How will we know their histories if we don't record them now?

Most of us who are LGBT and living in western democratic countries where the laws regarding our basic human rights have started to change in our favour, know that things have not always been this way. We are aware that these freedoms to be ourselves and to love and be loved in ways that feel are right for us, are relatively new. Some of us are also fearful that no matter how far we have come, these very freedoms could, if there were a sudden change in the political climate, be taken away from us. I am reminded here of a friend who, a couple of years ago, when I talked of how much better things were for LGBT folk these days, said to me, “I am sure the gay people of Berlin in the 1920s thought that too...” Little did I know then, that by June 2016, during the Brexit debate, I would see members of the British public with swastika tattoos on their arms being interviewed on BBC news and their views taken seriously. Or that within just a few short months of the Brexit vote, attacks on LGBT people would increase by 147%! 

It is due to this worrying trend, and some of the horrendous homophobia I have heard coming from the mouths of some of those in and supporting the Republican Party and specifically the Trump campaign in the US over the last few months, that makes me mindful that we need to remember what happened to us in the past to ensure it does not happen to us again in the future. We need to know what life was like when it was good and what life was like when it was bad for LGBT people. We need to analyse how our rights and status as valid and equal human beings got taken away in societies that were once liberal, and we need to understand how the rights we now have were fought for through the struggle (and sometimes deaths) of those brave enough to stand up for them.

So this brings me to the point of why I write this blog today. Last weekend, I had the privilege of showing my latest film A Delicate Love in a town called Shrewsbury, in England as part of the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival. Whilst I was there, I met a group of wonderful people who are trying to raise money to run a ‘hub’ there for LGBT History Month in February 2017. 

Their aims are to:
  • educate children in school specifically about the history of LGBT individuals and communities.  
  • give access to people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds, to the many histories of LGBT people and communities by means of: talks, discussions, exhibitions, films, art, theatre, music and photography.
  • give a whole range LGBT people who have led ordinary and extraordinary lives the chance to talk about their own experiences and histories, and to record this oral history so it is not lost. 
  • help make sure that LGBT people are not written out of history again!

These lovely organisers are trying to raise £2,000 to put on this event, which will have a far reaching impact on not just those from the surrounding area but also across the world. (Last year Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk, came to Shrewsbury to speak at this event, this year they are also planning to have equally prestigious guests.)

So PLEASE MAKE A DONATION AT THE 'JUST GIVING' CROWDFUNDING SITE to help the 2017 National Festival of LGBT History (Shrewsbury Hub) happen! No matter how small your donation is, it will make a massive difference to getting this event off the ground and will allow LGBT history to be preserved, spread and indeed recorded. For together we can keep making history positive and making a positive history!

Here is the link: 

Below is a glimpse of what happened last year. Let's help them make this one even bigger and better!