As part of LGBTQ+ History Month 2022, Sachika Bhojani, a Fashion Design and Development student, has written about the past, present, and future of LGBTQ+ History Month.

 

It’s February again! Not only does that mean that it’s the shortest month (and also the coldest it seems), it’s also the month of love. With Rose Day on the 7th and Valentine’s Day on the 14th, this month has petals falling from the sky!

These are, however, not the only important events taking place in February, especially here in the UK. February also happens to be LGBTQ+ History Month, which is a great time to spread the message of Love is Love, regardless of whom you love.

Personally, I had not heard of such a thing before I moved here for my degree. I’m from India and while I love my country, we’ve still got a long way to go in terms of inclusivity. However, being part of the queer community myself, as well as loving to learn, this intrigued me and piqued my interest as the LGBTQ+ community is close to my heart.

This month is only celebrated in a few countries and aims to educate people on the history and the struggle of the queer community to achieve liberation and equality. Unlike Pride month which is in June all across the world, the month for LGBTQ+ History Month varies by country. It’s celebrated in October in the United States in conjunction with their national coming out day. It is celebrated in February in the UK, because that’s when Section 28 was abolished in 2003.

 

IMPORTANT EVENTS IN QUEER HISTORY

 

Throughout history, queer people have faced many struggles to be where we are now. It may seem unbelievable in this day and age, but there are still countries and people who put their queer people through things like conversion therapy, concentration camps, and jail. Personally speaking, until about 2018, being gay was essentially a criminal act in India according to Section 377. However, things are a lot better than they used to be and people who have struggled and died for this cause should be appreciated and celebrated.

To begin with, the first sex change surgery took place in 1951, which was a huge step for the trans community.

The next widely known event was the Stonewall Riots in 1969. This is, across the world, considered the true start of the LGBTQ+ rights movement because of its scale and the fact that Pride Month takes place in June each year to commemorate the Stonewall Riots. The truth is that the struggle started well before that, but nothing on this scale had been done yet.

In 1978, Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag that we all know and love today. (Notwithstanding the recent changes made in 2018 by Daniel Quasar to include trans pride as well as people of colour- called the progress pride flag)

1988 was when the Stonewall UK branch was created, and in 1992 the WHO declassified homosexuality as a mental illness, which was a huge step in the right direction.

Section 28 was repealed in the UK in 2003 - which led to the creation of the LGBTQ history month in 2005. It was a controversial piece of legislation in the Local Government Act 1988 which banned the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities, meaning that a generation of queer children were unable to access vital LGBTQ+ education.

2014 is when same sex couples could legally get married legally in England.

In 2019 - only 3 years ago - the WHO declassified transgender health issues as a mental illness.

 

IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN QUEER HISTORY

 

We spoke about important events, but what about the people who played a key part?

2 people absolutely everyone knows about are of course, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Both of them were at the Stonewall Inn the night the riots broke out, and the friends are rumoured to have thrown the first brick/Molotov cocktail. They then went on to start S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and were key figures in the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Bayard Rustin was the right-hand man to Martin Luther King Jr. and identified as gay. He’s not as well-known as MLK because the opposing party threatened to use Rustin’s sexuality against the 2 of them, leading to him having to essentially go “underground”. Rustin focused more on behind-the-scenes work because of this, instead of being in the spotlight.

Another is Frida Kahlo, someone that we - as art and design students - should absolutely know about. The famous artist was openly bisexual and was known to have relationships with women, including Josephine Baker. Josephine Baker was a bisexual French jazz entertainer who also served as a spy for the French in WW2.

Billie Jean King, a tennis player, was the first openly gay athlete after she was outed in 1981.

This list would of course not be complete without RuPaul, Anderson Cooper, Laverne Cox and Elliot Page to name just a few.

 

ARTS SU AS AN ALLY

 

To begin with, UAL has its own LGBTQ+ Society, which students can join for just £5.They host get-togethers, events, and much more – it’s a fun time all around! Click here to buy your membership.

Arts SU also gives queer students unique opportunity to showcase their work - this month the VISIBLE exhibition opens at the CSM Window Galleries (9th February - 6th March). Plus, there’s lots more interactive events taking place through the month and beyond to celebrate queerness at UAL.

One of the key things that the Arts SU does is to identify and, wherever possible, increase inclusivity for all students.