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22 February 2023

Is LGBT+ History month still relevant?

When I was 16 years old, I wrote to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to say that it was unfair and frankly ridiculous that at 16 I could marry a woman and join the army to fight for my country, that I could drive a car all over the UK at 17, and I could drink and be merry at 18… But that, legally, I couldn’t have a same sex relationship… until I was 21! Drink, drive, fight for your country – just don’t be gay.

NOT a positive message as you are setting out to discover who you are as a teenager.

Just last month I found the response to my original letter (annoyingly not from Thatcher herself) dated September 1984. The contents were polite enough, explained the legislation history, but basically said there were no plans to change anything.

What I didn’t know then was that within just a few years, the same Government and PM would launch Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ or ‘pretended family relationships’, including any funding of educational materials, and even prevented the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues and stopped pupils getting the support they needed.

Section 28 was repealed in 2003, and PM David Cameron apologised in 2009. The whole thing was ridiculous and in a world of confusion, coupled with the AIDS pandemic of the 80s and early 90s, there was little to no help for young people growing up then.

I’m happy to say that the UK modernised its views and attitudes fairly quickly after those trickier dark days, with laws and legislations improving, and common sense around equality prevailing.

So, I was preparing to write a celebratory piece here about being grateful for everything that had changed since I was 16, and to say that perhaps LGBT+ History Month had had its day.

However, as I was preparing this on 31st Jan (2023), one Donald Trump is on the radio exclaiming that the first thing he will do should he return as President of the USA, is to ban doctors from helping or treating young people who are confused about their gender, and most worryingly, that Trump would push schools to “promote positive education about the nuclear family,” and pass a law that would recognize only two genders – male and female – under the U.S. government.

I read that as ‘Section 28 – the US version’ coming to a state near you…’

I didn’t have to look far for some other worrying headlines closer to home, with Hungary only launching their own version of Section 28 in late 2021, and some regions of Poland only introduced “LGBT free zones” in 2019 – although the EU stepped in last year to state this was unlawful.

A recent Human Rights report reminded all of us that homosexuality is still a crime in dozens of countries, from Qatar – home of the recent World Cup and much controversy – and also most of Africa, Tunisia, Barbados, St. Lucia, the Maldives, Malaysia, and more. A dozen countries including Iran and Brunei, still carry the death penalty for those people found guilty of being gay.

Trans people are currently facing a slew of toxic headlines similar to the ones we saw about gay people in the ‘80s. People might argue that the conversation is difficult with the gender critical movement suggesting trans women pose a threat to biological women’s safety, but these examples are few and far between.

Trans women are women in their own right, and it could reasonably be argued that both sides of this conversation are vulnerable, and both need our love, support and safety. Some of the more extreme right wing news agendas don’t help, when it is calm debate and reasoned discussion that is required for everyone involved.

Luckily, LGBTQ+ inclusive education is now part of the curriculum in schools. It wasn’t so long ago that it would have been illegal to discuss these sort of subjects, under Section 28 laws.

And to counterbalance the tougher headlines, there was better news this month when the Church of England finally announced that for the first time gay couples will be able to receive a blessing in the Church of England. This has been debated for several years, and this decision was a hugely emotional success for many.

So, LGBT+ History Month is of course still highly relevant and critical to create awareness, as we all live through constant change and challenge.

I’m proud to work at Bauer which encourages every member of its teams to bring their whole authentic selves to work. Every one of us, whether part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, is unique and every one of us deserves to be able to live our lives as we want, to love who we want to and to be treated with respect for that.

The story of our community and how we got to where we are today can help us with that understanding and that is why LGBTQ+ History Month will always be important.

Steve Parkinson, Chief Strategic Partnerships & Events Officer

If you work at ѨƵ and would like to contact a colleague from the LGBT Pillar team or get involved in the work we do, please contact pillar lead Ross Tilley.