Thursday, 2 February 2006

The Need For a History Month

LGBT History Month 2006

I was forwarded a link to this post yesterday about the apparently irrelevance, meaninglessness and uselessness of LGBT History Month. While this is obviously the result of very little reflection on the subject (I invite the author to attend History Month events, particularly the Outspoken events organised by Southwark LGBT Network) and, I suspect, simply provocative, the post raises a legitimate question. I already partially reflected on it last year after the first UK Month but I would like to had a few extra thoughts on the subject.

The past few years have seen momentous advances for LGBT rights in this country. In 2003, discrimination in the workplace on the ground of sexual orientation was made illegal. In 2004, Section 28 was eventually repealed, paving the way for History Month and a series of innitiatives aiming at fighting homophobic bullying in schools. Last year alone, saw the introduction of Civil Partnerships and of the right to adoption as well as the end of discrimination in the provision of services.

One might think that the battle has been won. LGBT people are now recognised in the eyes of the law and full equality seems finally at hand. Incidentally, this might herald a further slump in the level of militant engagment by LGBT people, especially among the younger generations, widening what appeared to be an already gaping generation gap. This could also, in the longer term, be the end of the so-called "gay community", which, in my view on only held together by external social pressures.

Politically and legally, without wanting to sound too jubilant, it seems we have almost arrived. However easy it might be easy to forget it in the relative security offered by London, there is still a big section of the population, which, not only is not happy with letting LGBT people get on with their lives, but is also ready to take negative actions against us. Schools are still not safe places for pupils perceived as different. Changing this can not be attained through legislation.

There is little doubt that in most cases, homophobia is none other than a serious case of xenophobia (fear of what is foreign, unknown); witness, this story. The only way to reach those people who, not being religious, still find themselves with homophobic prejudices is through education. If they get to see that LGBT people are actually not that different from them, then there is a chance that they will change their minds.
History Month is I think an excellent tool to do just that. Just like Black History Month fights racism while empowering black people, LGBT History Month is a none confrontational way (and I think this is very important) to show people there is no need to be scared.

As I already mentioned above, we are at a turning point for the gay rights movement and it is or will soon be time to redefine our goals and aspirations. Knowing the past allows us to understand the present and prepare for the future. History Month can help us do just that.

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