LGBT History Month - If not now, when?
LGBT History Month is a key point in the LGBTQ+ calendar – a time for us to seek out the histories of our communities and share our stories. It is a refresh. A check-in. Our history defines us. Sure, there was the Stonewall riots and the Gay Liberation Front which formed in its aftermath, but what about the Barbara Gittings and the Bayard Rustin’s who paved the way before. LGBTQ+ people have always existed, but parts of our communities history often go untold.
Our history is a series of events, pioneered by the most incredible trailblazers such as Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, and Sylvia Rivera. Yet, these are more than just events, these are states of mind, glimmers of hope for LGBTQ+ people around the world who struggle today – whether that’s in Chechnya where authorities continue their anti-gay purge denouncing the detention of gay men and women or in Poland, where parts continue to identify as ‘LGBT free zones’.
Knowing our history helps us to see where we have come from and acknowledge those who came before us. It allows us to learn about those who fought for the rights we have today, whether in big strides or in the revolutionary act of quietly living as their authentic selves.
But even today, there are stories within our history which are overlooked, and parts of our community who still struggle to have their stories told.
Selective documenting of history and culture has been a pervasive issue for centuries, and the stories of LGBTQ+ people of colour are notably underrepresented; not least within the LGBTQ+ community itself. This marginalisation is not limited to race, as we have seen similar side-lining of disabled LGBT people, transgender people and women. To tell the story of LGBTQ+ activism, our triumphs and our tragedies, we should seek out and share these stories, as there is empowerment in representation. This LGBTQ+ History Month, it is time to seek out a full and varied range of stories and make sure that everyone’s voices are heard.
From Audre Lorde and her work that shaped intersectional feminism, to Alice Walker whose work as a queer woman of colour has been vital to the civil rights movement. These women and many more have been instrumental to the rights of our every day. Barbara Jordan was a political pioneer and is considered an LGBTQ+ icon, who fought hard to protect minority voter rights throughout her life, and her story deserves to be told alongside all others. The fact that she was disabled too often goes untold even though more than one-third of LGBTQ+ adults identify as having a disability.
So, this LGBT History Month, don’t just watch It’s a Sin and recoil at the terror that is presented in front you. The aids pandemic killed a generation and was the lived experience of many of our older community.
Show up. Educate yourself. Listen and support. Let’s not erase vital parts of our shared history. We have always existed, but not always been heard. Let’s ensure all voices are included and uplifted. Let’s speak for those who can’t, won’t or still don’t have the confidence to. Let’s celebrate the history that is representative of us all, and united, march forward on our journey, because if not now, when?