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LGBT+ History Month
February is a month for celebrating and learning about the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender people. I’d love to share some stories on here of other people’s experiences over the years and help create a community of older LGBT+ people whose voices aren’t always heard.
I was born in 1981, so I’m a little younger than some of the Rest Less community, but I can remember being at school when Section 28 was introduced. I remember being quite confused because there was so much coverage of the law in the press. There were headlines shouting about the dangers of teaching kids about about gay sex and worries about pedephiles in the classroom. But at the time I didn’t realise what I was missing out on was an acceptance that gay people can have healthy, happy, stable relationships and families as much as straight people can.
I was born in the year before the AIDS pandemic would explode on to the world. Growing up no story about gay men was complete without an AIDS component or a tasteless joke. I think I was part of a generation that grew up to be so terrified by the tombstone advert that safe sex wasn’t “up for discussion” like it seems to be now for younger generations who perhaps think it’s not so serious any more.
I recently learnt so much more about the pandemic by reading How to Survive a Plague:
There are so many heartbreaking stories in there, and important lessons we cannot forget. I think it is absolutely essential reading for everybody.
There is also a terrific Radio 4 series on BBC Sounds which compiles some fascinating stories from people involved in the front line: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jvrf
The first Pride march I was part of was in Leeds, where I went to university. Leeds Pride was a fairly small event at the time. They organised a small parade which would start at one end of the city centre and work its way to the other. Since it was such a small event they wouldn’t close down the whole city centre they only stop the traffic as the parade goes by. Pretty much everybody who had come to celebrate Pride was in the parade so the only people watching were the people who had come in to town to do their shopping. As the parade went by people would stop and stare or clap and wave or just look on in confusion. It felt great to stop traffic on a busy Saturday afternoon. It felt great to be visible, to show the rest of the city that we’re a great community of all sorts of people. We stopped traffic, only for a few minutes, but in that time it felt like the whole city was ours! I wish I’d have seen a sight like that when I was younger. To see that my city was full of other people like me and when we all get together we can bring the city to a standstill, if only for a little while.
I feel very lucky that I now have gay friends who are married, work as teachers, serve in the army, have children and can be open at work without fear of being sacked. None of these would have been possible when I was younger. We’ve come a long way in the last 40 years but there are still so many ways in which LGBT+ people aren’t able to enjoy life as freely as the rest of society.
Especially overseas, where countries like Russia have implemented draconian “Gay Propaganda” laws which remind us of Secion 28 and Trump’s administration worked tirelessly to unpick employment rights and even the right to serve in the armed forces.
That’s why LGBT+ History Month is so important – to celebrate the progress that those who came before us fought for, and to continue fighting for change around the world.