Winston Churchill famously said: “History is written by the victors” and some historians have proved him right by writing somewhat biased accounts about people in power, sometimes ignoring various social sectors and marginalising whole communities in the process. Last year, we wrote about how Black History Month was important to try to redress the balance of written history to include the contributions made over the centuries by Black people. This month we look at how LGBT History Month can do the same for the LGBT community and why it is important to celebrate it.
What is LGBT History Month?
LGBT History Month runs for the whole of February every year and is organised by Schools OUT, a UK-based, LGBT education charity. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) community is one section of society which has often been ignored or overlooked and much of the contribution of LGBT people to society has been overshadowed for years. Some communities have been disregarded, ostracised and even criminalised just for being themselves, and it has taken a lot of sacrifice, activism and time for a lot of LGBT people to be accepted for who they are.
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1967 and same-sex marriages were only legalised in England and Wales in 2013, with the first wedding in 2014. Acceptance and equality have been a long time coming, and even today, forms of discrimination, fear and misunderstandings exist. There have been LGBT people within all communities since the beginning of time, so isn’t it time that their contribution was recognised and celebrated too?
What are the aims?
The overall aim of LGBT History month is to “promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public”, because if we can accept others for who they are, then we are more likely to be accepted for who we are. For all establishments, including nursery schools, talking about LGBT matter is NOT about trying to influence anyone’s sexuality, in the same way that teaching the history of the holocaust is not about promoting the views of the Third Reich.
However, it IS about:
- normalising language used when talking about LGBT matters
- not being afraid to mention that people in current life and history, for example, Oscar Wilde, were gay, and this influenced much of their work
- challenging homophobia or bullying of LGBT people, and
- promoting tolerance and acceptance of all people as human beings, regardless of their sexuality
There are five British Values which are educational establishments are obliged to teach:
- The rule of law
- Individual liberty
- Mutual respect
- Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
These values underpin our very society and are used to protect British citizens by creating a sort of ‘code of conduct’ which we aim to adhere to. The last 3 values are vital in accepting, promoting and celebrating our diversity, so that people of all creeds, races and sexualities can feel safe and valued.
The theme for the month is “Poetry, Prose and Plays” and there are resources on the website to celebrate ‘The Four Faces Of 2020’, being playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author E.M. Forster, William Shakespeare and biographer Dawn Langley Simmons.
LGBT History Month is a time to:
- Increase the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – not only acknowledging them, but celebrating their history, their lives and their experiences – as ‘agents of change, not just as victims of discrimination’. Introducing some of them or their work to the children in your setting can promote tolerance and understanding from an early age
- Raise awareness and increase understanding on matters affecting the LGBT community – see the website for various events you could attend or set up an awareness day, perhaps focusing on tolerance or acceptance
- Ensure all educational places and organisations are safe spaces for LGBT people so they can live without fear of intimidation or bullying; you could run a general anti-bullying message for a week and include LGBT issues
- Promote welfare for LGBT people so they can reach their full potential and contribute to society by living fulfilled and effective lives; if you employ any LGBT people, make sure they have access to CPD and career advancement in line with their experience and aptitude.
Tips on talking about LGBT in your setting
One of the things that stops people talking about LGBT matters, is that that they may not feel comfortable about addressing the topic, or they may feel they do not know how to appropriately introduce the topic to colleagues or children. If this is the case, both the Schools OUT website and the LGBT History Month website include many resources to help educational staff with lesson plans and ideas.
There is no one right way to tackle these issues, everyone will have things that they feel more comfortable talking about. Some people cannot talk to others about anything related to sexual relationships, even in a biological context. So here are some tips to help:
- Practice with your colleagues so that you feel more comfortable answering if a child asks you “what does gay or lesbian mean?”
- Use the language in a normal way. Don’t try to use euphemisms or ‘imply’ things – use the words, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
- Keep it simple and talk about love and relationships first and foremost, and do so in an age-appropriate way. You could say, “Gay means two people of the same gender who love each other – two women or two men.”
- You might want to give an example of couples that the children may know from TV or celebrities. Like Elton John and David Furnish, who loved each other and got married.
- Think about introducing gender-identity into your setting using appropriate children’s books like “Red” by Michael Hall or “Not Quite Narwhal” by Jessie Sima. These books introduce the idea of accepting people for being themselves to children in a charming and insightful way. There are many others.
- Sometimes the questions you get are not really about what gay is. For example, if a child says to you “Jess says Billy’s dad is gay, what’s that?”, consider if you need to respond with an answer about what being gay is, or is this a case of tackling some name-calling or bullying first?
Whatever you do, let us know by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your news and photos.