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6th February 2019

LGBT History Month

To celebrate LGBT History Month, we take a look at its origins and how employers can support the month.

How did LGBT History Month UK start and what’s its purpose?

The Wolfenden Report 1957 was one of the first campaigns for LGBT equality in the UK. It was commissioned in response to evidence that homosexuality could not legitimately be regarded as a disease. It took 10 years for the Government to implement the Wolfenden Report’s recommendations in the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially legalised same-sex acts in the UK between men over the age of 21 conducted in private. Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit over a decade later, in 1980 and 1981 respectively. The Sexual Offences Act represented a stepping stone towards equality, but there was still a long way to go.

LGBT history month originally started in the US in 1994 to coincide with National Coming Out Day. It was first recognised in the UK in 2005 as part of the Schools OUT UK project. The overall aim of LGBT history month is to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public by:

  • Increasing the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) people, their history, lives and their experiences in the curriculum and culture of educational and other institutions, and the wider community;
  • Raising awareness and advancing education on matters affecting the LGBT community;
  • Working to make educational and other institutions safe spaces for all LGBT communities; and
  • Promoting the welfare of LGBT people, by ensuring that the education system recognises and enables LGBT people to achieve their full potential, so they contribute fully to society and lead fulfilled lives, thus benefiting society as a whole.

For 2019 the theme of the month is Peace, Activism and Reconciliation.

Why we all need to celebrate LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month means different things to different people. It is an opportunity to celebrate the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.

For example:

Barbara Gittings - LGBT Activist, 1932 - 2007 

Gittings is regarded as the mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.

Although Gittings lived in Philadelphia, in 1958 she started the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). Founded in San Francisco, the DOB was the first lesbian civil rights organization in the United States. From 1963 to 1966, Gittings was the editor of the DOB’s publication, “The Ladder,” the first national lesbian magazine.

Some of Gittings other key work included helping enlist activists for the 1st public demonstration for gay and lesbian equality. As well as waging a multi-year campaign for the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1970, until it was declassified in 1973.

Magnus Hirschfeld - Father of transgenderism, 1868 - 1935

Hirschfeld was a German physician who was an important theorist of sexuality and a prominent advocate of gay rights in the early 20th century. Hirschfeld is believed to have coined the term ‘transvestitism’. He established the world’s first gender identity clinic. 

In 1919 Hirschfeld opened the first sexology institute in the world, the Institute for Sexual Science, in Berlin; the institute and the considerable holdings of its library and archives were destroyed by Nazi demonstrators in 1933.

How employers can support LGBT History Month?

  • Be Visible: - Communicate to all staff and highlight activities, local events, articles, and blogs. Display them in lifts, corridors, intranet pages, email signatures and desk drops.
  • Be Inquisitive: -Attend sessions on LGBT History Month, take the time to research, and share your findings with others. Start a mentoring programme, and task yourself to learn something new every day.
  • Share experiences: - Write a blog on what LGBT History Month means to you, profile LGBT staff, share who your role models are and why.

On the 28th February, join us for our webinar on Sexual Orientation, Marriage & Civil Partnership Discrimination, where we explore the barriers faced by individuals, best practice to ensure a diverse and inclusive work environment and more! Furthermore, check out all our LGBT resources, which are free for Members, and find out how you can best support LGBT colleagues in the workplace!

For more information on LGBT History Month, check out the website, https://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/.

To find out what’s going on in England, Wales and Scotland, see links below:

We would love to see what your organisation is doing to celebrate LGBT History Month, so please email maxine.hurley@enei.org.uk and tell us what you have planned for the month, or send any photos of events you're hosting.