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What you need to know about LGBT+ History Month in the UK 

Robyn Exton

Aug 19, 2022

What you need to know about LGBT+ History Month in the UK 

Pull up a chair besties, it’s time to talk about LGBT+ History Month. Taking place every February in the UK, LGBT+ History month is a time completely dedicated to recognizing the advancements, tribulations, and milestones throughout queer history. Not only is it a great cause for celebration (rainbow pasties, anyone?), but it’s also an important time to honour our many fabulous queer icons.

After all, it wasn’t too long ago that folks in the queer community couldn’t safely be themselves. Heck, gay marriage wasn’t even legal in Ireland until 2015 😱.

From Marsha P. Johnson at Stonewall to “Mayor of Castro Street” Harvey Milk to the androgynous “Space Oddity” David Bowie, there are so many LGBTQ+ heroes who risked their lives in order to advance the queer agenda. And yes, while there’s still SO much work to be done— but there’s also a lot to recognise. 

By honouring LGBT+ History as a whole, we’re able to see how far we’ve come and better understand where we need to go. We can heal, cry, celebrate, and pay our respects. 

We’re offered the chance to reignite our passion and create a real, life-changing impact. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is LGBT+ History Month?

Fun fact: Though both amazing events, Pride Month and LGBT+ History month are not exactly the same thing. Here’s the dif: 

Pride Month, which takes place in June, is dedicated to the observance of LGBT+ visibility and the movement toward equal rights, while LGBT+ History Month is more focused on the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, pansexual, and nonconforming peoples’ rights. 

In other words, Pride month observes our present while LGBT+ History month honours the past. It encourages us to remember (and learn from) various historical milestones within the queer community. We get to shine new light on our past and carry those lessons with us into the future! 

Furthermore, learning about LGBT+ history is also a great way to stay passionate about social justice within the queer community. When we recognize all of the extremely powerful things our extraordinary, queer predecessors have done for us, it because impossible not to feel inspired

It’s a chance to remember. A time to heal our present wounds by seeing solace in our queer ancestors. A time to reflect on some of the most profound moments in queer history and celebrate how far we’ve come, all while using these lessons to inform our future.

What are the origins of LGBT+ History Month in the UK? 

LGBT+ History Month was first started by Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick, the co-chairs of Schools Out UK, in February 2005. 

The event began in the wake of the abolition of Section 28 in 2003, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, and so people were especially fired up (and rightfully so!) about advocating for LGBT+ rights. 

Beyond LGBT+ History Month in the UK, there are over 150 LGBT+ events (and counting!) throughout the entire year. Each event raises awareness of LGBT+ issues, honours the historical events, and creates a space where everyone can have a kickass time. 

Why is it important to celebrate LGBT+ History Month?

Honouring our queer icons? Check ✅ Celebrating their accomplishments? Check ✅ Understanding what we can learn from past LGBT+ movements? SO important. 

There are myriad benefits of recognizing LGBT+ History Month, but here are just a few: 

  • Build a better world for LGBT+ youth 
  • Increase the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other folks
  • Encourage more people to empathise with the LGBT+ community or to feel safe exploring their own queerness
  • Foster inclusive and understanding workplaces for LGBTQ+ folks
  • Honour historical LGBT+ figures, events, and milestones 

What are some key moments from LGBT+ History in the UK?

There have been hundreds upon hundreds of monumental moments in LGBT+ history within the UK. And while we could go on and on, here are just some of the most important dates to know:

  • 1553: The Buggery Act was passed by Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII and was the first time in law that male homosexuality became a target for persecution in the UK.
  • 1885: The Criminal Law Amendment Act took the Buggery Act a step further by making any homosexual act illegal, regardless of whether or not there was a witness present. This legislation was so ambiguous that many men were punished for showing any signs of affection toward men. In 1895, Oscar Wilde was sent to jail because of this amendment. 
  • 1966: The Beaumont Society was set up to provide information and education to the general public, legal and medical professionals about transitioning and transgender individuals. It’s now the UK’s longest-running support group for transgender folks and their families.
  • 1970: The Gay Liberation Front was founded shortly after the Stonewall Riots in New York and fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, encouraging them to question mainstream institutions that fueled oppression. The GLF also organized the UK’s first Pride March in 1972.
  • 2003: Section 28, which prohibited the discussion of LGBT+ issues in schools and books was repealed.
  • 2004: The Gender Recognition Act gave trans people full recognition of their gender and granted them the ability for a new birth certificate, though the options were limited to males and females.
  • 2004: The Civil Partnership Act allowed same-sex couples to legally enter binding partnerships.
  • 2005: LGBT+ History Month was created.
  • 2013: The Marriage (same-sex couples) Act of 2013 took the Civil Partnership Act a step further and allowed same-sex couples in England and Wales to marry. Scotland came next in 2014, and Northern Ireland made same-sex marriage legal in January of 2020. 

How is LGBT+ History Month celebrated in the UK today?

LGBT+ History Month isn’t just celebrated in your bedroom dancing to Janelle Monáe (though, ahem, we fully support this.) There are also nationwide events celebrated with parades, parties, concerts, educational seminars, and other events that honour queerness.

If you’re able, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to give back to queer folks less fortunate. You may choose to donate to LGBT+ causes or use your free time to help volunteer with LGBT+ organizations. 

Some people may even host or plan their own events, using their unique skills and talents to celebrate the LGBT+ community. Are you an expert cookie? Host a rainbow bake sale and donate the proceeds? Love to read? Sounds like the perfect opp for a big gay book club. 

The key is to find something that resonates with you! Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Host or attend a picnic where you share special moments and milestones throughout LGBT+ history 
  • Attend a workshop or symposium where you can learn more about LGBT+ history or current LGBT+ issues
  • Learn more about different LGBT+ musicians, artists, and performers 
  • Donate to LGBT+ organizations
  • Volunteer at LGBT+ events 

What was the theme of LGBT+ History Month in the UK last year?

The main theme for LGBT+ History Month 2022 was art. Five artists were chosen, each to represent the different letters of LGBT+— one for L, G, B, T, and +. 

Why this theme? Art has historically been used as a way to express identity or illuminate social injustice. By drawing attention to LGBT+ artists, everyone was able to learn more about the queer community’s triumphs and tribulations. 

When is LGBT+ History Month in other countries? 

While LGBT+ History Month takes place in the UK in February, it’s celebrated at different times throughout the world. In Berlin, LGBT+ History Month is celebrated in May as “Queer History Month.”

In the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the month is celebrated in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11th. It also honours the first and second LGBT+ rights marches that took place in Washington D.C. in 1979 and 1987. 

It doesn’t matter when it’s celebrated: the important thing is that LGBT+ History is getting the attention it deserves!

Remember: there is so much good that can come from participating in LGBT+ History Month. 

Not only does it connect us to our queer past, but it also helps us keep up the momentum so that we can keep working toward a more inclusive, compassionate, and colourful future. Not just for ourselves, but for our queer community— past and present. 

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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