Ben Summers is a project manager for Kier Specialist Services and deputy chair of the Kier LGBT+ and Allies Network. Here, Ben talks about LGBT+ History Month and why it's so important to look back and see how much the LGBT+ community has achieved, and also to look forward and see what is still needed to be accomplished.
"Every February, we celebrate LGBT+ History Month. The month gives us time to reflect, and exploring our heritage and history allows us to see how much the LGBT+ community has achieved. It also gives us a chance to look forward at what we need to accomplish next.
One question I often get asked as an openly gay man is: "Why do you need to celebrate being gay when we don't celebrate being straight?"
To answer simply, we celebrate because of what we had to fight for to get the same rights and freedoms as other members of society, and it's only recently that we have been given those rights here in the UK.
Here are some examples of recent positive steps forward for the LGBT+ community:
- It was only in 1992 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified same sex attraction as a mental illness, contributing to a change in how LGBT+ people were perceived worldwide.
- In the year 2000, section 28 – a controversial legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the late 80s, which prevented local authorities from promoting or talking about LGBT+ lifestyles – was repealed in Scotland. In 2003, it was also repealed in England and Wales.
- In 2000, the UK Armed Forces lifted the ban on LGBT+ people being able to serve, bringing an end to LGBT+ oppression within our Armed Forces.
These events have all come about through activism, which shows how important and crucial it is for the LGBT+ community.
This LGBT+ History Month, Channel 4 has aired TV series It's a Sin, by pioneering LGBT+ screenwriter Russell T Davies.
The show follows a group of friends living through the start of the AIDS pandemic that swept across the world during the 80s and 90s, predominately within the LGBT+ communities. It shows the hardship, loss and stigma faced by the LGBT+ community and how the world treated those diagnosed with the disease.
It's a Sin has encouraged discussions about the AIDS crisis and the treatment of the LGBT+ community, and it's also highlighted the importance allies play in the progression of LGBT+ rights and equality. Without allies, many communities wouldn't have the extra support needed to make change.
Celebrating our histories as a society allows us the chance to reflect and see the sacrifices and progressions made by those who came before us. Only together can we make change happen."