Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Why a History Month?

Click here for more detailsCelebrating LGBT History Month

While surfing the net the other day, I came across a chatroom for a gay youth support group. The members were writing about LGBT History Month; what they felt about it taking place and what they thought the benefits would be, if any. A comment that stuck in my mind was to the effect that poeple in the writer's school thought that gays had been invented in the 80's.

While this view of things is obvisouly wrong and does not stand investigation, I am afraid it is probably quite widely held in the straight population. My own aunt, who is now in her 70's, would not believe me a few years ago when I told her that greek society had not only tolerated homosexual relationships but actually actively promoted them (between older men and teenagers) as pedagogic device (the influence of the older, wiser man being given more strength by the close bond existing between the teacher and his pupil). On the same day (I think), she actually asked me if I was a faggot, saying that if I was she would slap me.... what sort of answer did she expect after that?

On the same chatroom, someone was making the point that history is a continuous thing, which should not be subdivided into categories like black or gay history. Everything was percieved to be relevant to everyone and therefore a history month was redundant and actually potentially alienating and divisive.

I do agree with this view to a certain point, History should be everyone's history. However, this is not currently the case; History is mostly straight and white (and Christian) at the moment. History Months are here to tip the balance back to equilibrium. They are a means to show people that every group can contribute possitively to society, no matter what they are.

I have now attended several LGBT History Month events; mostly with people talking about their experience of being gay in the "dark times", when homosexuality was a sin for most and illegal for all. It was very inspiring to see how people could muddle through and managed to find some sort of happiness and developped a positive perception of themselves (of course not everyone was able to do this: when you are continually told that a good homosexual is a dead one, some will end up believing it). On leaving these events, I always feel strangely elated too. Although the experiences that were described to me, are very much remote from my own (quite troubleless) experience, it always feels like these people are talking about me as well as about themselves. This is something a gay child growing up in an "heterosexist" environment will almost never experience. This is why History Months are important and will remain so until a none-heterosexual outlook becomes easily available for whoever needs it.

All this fantastic burst of energy created by the Month should not be put to sleep once the month is finished however. It is a long task to gather and transmit our history (any history) and it should be undertaken all year long. Knowing our past is what allows us to understand the present and possibly change the future or at least avoid repeating our mistakes.

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