By Jack Bennett
Celebrated every February in the UK, LGBT+ History Month is an opportunity to bring light to the past and reflect on where we are today. As a member of the queer community I wanted to take this opportunity to give thought to its importance.
Conceptualised in 2004 by Paul Patrick and Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders in response to Section 28, the first LGBT+ History Month was held in 2005. Section 28 was a law passed under Thatcher’s government in 1988 that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities, meaning many community groups had to disband, saw the removal of queer literature from libraries, and meant that there could be no mention of LGBT+ issues in any sort of positive light in schools. Although the law was repealed in England in 2003 it left in its wake an environment hostile to LGBT+ individuals.
Growing up and attending school in Suffolk I experienced this first hand. Going through high school I barely heard a word from teachers about the existence of LGBT+ people, let alone about our history. The one safe space was an ‘Equality & Diversity’ lunchtime club primarily run by other students and discouraged by the school; a place where I learned about different identities, and where I could be myself. Although things have improved in schools since then, the effects of Section 28 can still be felt.
That's why now, more than ever, it's important to create and nurture LGBT+ friendly spaces and local projects within our communities. I was encouraged by ICM and given the opportunity to create a show on IO Radio with some friends, exploring LGBT+ topics. Through this, we took learning about our history into our own hands, and used our platform to share it with those who would listen. Such a fundamental part of LGBT+ History Month is educating young people about our past, and this was always at the heart of 'Over and Out'.
With this year's LGBT+ History Month theme being 'Behind the Lens', we celebrate the contributions of LGBT+ people to cinema. At a time where queer stories are in the limelight of the media, we encourage you to look behind the cameras, and listen to the experiences of those creating these narratives.
For myself personally, learning about Queer History and knowing where we've come from gives me a sense of belonging, helping me to see the community in a deeper context. In the face of growing unrest and heightened hostility towards LGBT+ individuals, especially in the trans community, I feel it is vital for everyone to learn so that mistakes of the past aren’t repeated.