LGBT+ History Month is an important opportunity to raise awareness about the experiences of the LGBT+ community and celebrate its history. In the UK, the event takes place in February and every year there is a new theme to explore and a new focus for the event.
LGBT+ History Month Aims and Focus
The overarching aim of LGBT+ History Month is to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the general public. The organisers want to do this in a range of ways, including:
- Raising awareness and advancing education on the matters most affecting the LGBT+ community
- Increasing the visibility of LGBT+ people, including their history, lives and life experiences in schools, educational institutions, workplaces and community spaces
- Endeavouring to make the world safer for all LGBT+ communities
- Promoting the welfare of LGBT+ people, ensuring the education system in the UK recognises and enables people to achieve their full potential and contribute significantly to society
LGBT+ History Month is a recognised charity and organises events, educational programmes and related activities to promote the campaign.
The Beginning of LGBT+ History Month
LGBT+ History Month is observed in many countries around the world, but not always on the same dates. It is an observance of the history of LGBT+ people and also the equal rights movement. The first LGBT+ History Month took place in 1994 in the USA, and it was founded by a high school teacher called Rodney Wilson.
In the UK, LGBT+ History Month takes place in February. This month is significant as it coincides with the celebration of the abolition of Section 28 in 2003.
2023: Behind the Lens
2023 marks 20 years since the repeal of Section 28, a British law that banned the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’. Thankfully, things have improved significantly since such regulations were allowed, but many parts of the LGBT+ community are still under attack and their stories need to be heard.
In 2023, the theme of LGBT+ History Month is #BehindTheLens. It’s celebrating LGBT+ people’s contribution to the world of cinema and film from behind the camera. The spotlight is focusing on the directors, screenwriters, animators, set designers, costume specialists, makeup artists and everyone else behind the scenes.
In addition to the practical application of the theme, it is also an opportunity to consider #BehindTheLens of the average LGBT+ person. The ‘always-on’ and social media-led nature of the modern world means we sometimes forget to think about the reality of people's lives when the camera isn’t on. This awareness month is a chance to think more deeply about LGBT+ people’s lives and real experiences.
Five Facts about LGBT+ History
The history of LGBT+ people and their rights has only really begun to transform in the last century. Here are five facts about seminal moments in LGBT+ history:
1. The Stonewall Riots took place in 1969
In 1969, a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations took place across New York City. In response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, patrons of Stonewall and other establishments in the area stood their ground and fought back when the police got violent. UK LGBT+ charity Stonewall is named after the riots and their integral part in pushing forward gay rights across the world.
2. London’s First Pride March took place in 1972
London Pride is one of the most important annual occasions for the British LGBT+ community. The first London Pride March took place in 1972 and attracted approximately 2,000 participants. Today, millions attend.
3. Same-sex attraction used to be considered a mental illness
The World Health Organisation categorised same-sex attraction as a mental illness since its inception in 1948. It remained this way until 1992 when the WHO finally declassified the label.
4. Section 28 was finally appealed in 2003
Margaret Thatcher’s government put Section 28 into the Local Government Act in 1988. It had banned local authorities and schools from ‘promoting homosexuality’. This translated as educational institutions feeling unable to or banned from teaching anything relating to LGBT+ experiences in any classroom. The impact of this was far-reaching, with LGBT+ people never hearing about similar experiences or understanding that they weren’t isolated in their feelings.
5. Same-sex couples were finally given equal rights in 2004
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 granted civil partnerships to same-sex couples in the UK. This was followed in 2013 by the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act, legalising same-sex marriages. LGBT+ people gained more rights with the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, giving trans people full legal recognition in their appropriate gender. However, there is still more to be done and that’s why events like LGBT+ History Month are so important.