Image Credit: Emily Phelan
In recognition of February being LGBTQ History Month, we have tailored this week’s The Weekly Nouse to feature some articles in celebration of it. In News you will find a report of all the events the University and YUSU are putting on for LGBTQ History Month, by Emily Hewat; a comment piece on the University’s new LGBTQ crossing, written by one of our YUSU LGBTQ Officers, Dan Loyd; in Politics, you will find Annabel Mulliner's analysis of trans policies in government over the past year; and a film and TV review on the sensational new TV show, It’s a Sin, written by yours truly.
One of the things I wrote about in that piece was the fact that we need to look back and remember those who came before us. Like so many minority groups in the world, the rights the LGBTQ community have today were not simply automatically granted - they were fought and suffered for by the brave people who came before us.
However, the one thing which has always scared me regarding this is that the ‘main’ LGBTQ movement is far too close to us in human history. The fact that there are a large group of people within the community today who were born at a time when homosexuality was illegal frightens me. The fact that if I had been born just a few decades earlier, many moments of my life would be punishable by the law - this is a horrifying reality. This puts the severity of the importance of this month into perspective. It’s also even more crucial to state that this ‘history’ isn’t over - we are still fighting for our right to exist in many parts of the world where it is still severely illegal to be simply who you are.
United Arab Emirates.
11 countries where death is a potential punishment for homosexuality.
Our fight is not yet over, and we must use the efforts of those who came before us to inspire our continued pursuit for freedom. It is not enough to fight for Anglophone and Western LGBTQ lives, we must make a conscious effort to help our brothers and sisters in countries where being yourself can be lethal.
This month is not about remembering a far off past which we have fully left behind, it is a month about recognising how close we are to that past and how it is not a 'past' and continues to be a reality for far too may people. Many criticisms of LGBTQ History Month and Black History Month etc. often correlate around this idea of ‘performativity’ - the idea that this is not activism, it is virtue signalling. I agree, there are too many instances where this is the case - especially when it comes to companies signalling LGBTQ support: LNER brings you Pride Month, no LNER, Martha P. Johnson and the other fighters during the Stonewall Riots bring me Pride Month. Anyway, I digress - yes, these are performative, but this month isn’t. If the government and education systems across the world are not going to teach us about LGBTQ history, we need times such as these where we can teach ourselves.
This is the crux of this issue; we are not taught it in school, so we must teach ourselves. I find it crazy how a large majority of my LGBTQ education comes from films - from watching Pride, and Stonewall - even Sex Education taught me more than my actual school lessons ever did. This month recognises that key imbalance in our knowledge and gives us a time to focus our learning.
So I am making an effort this month to take time to look at my own history - and I implore you to do the same. We need to remember these figures and these events that have shaped not only the LGBTQ community, but the whole world. Forgetting these does nothing but prove the bigots right, and we can’t let that happen. In remembering their struggles we can inspire ourselves to continue what they started.
I will finish this not with my words, but with the words of the inspirational LGBTQ figures from our community’s past. It is because of their sacrifices, determination and above all else - their love - that I am able to be who I am today, freely.
"History isn't something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.” - Martha P. Johnson
“You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all” - James Baldwin
“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” - Alan Turing
“I won't be a rock star. I will be a legend.” - Freddie Mercury
“Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time” - Sappho