Monday 01-02-2016 - 14:15
Every year in February we celebrate LGBT history month, and every year we get the same questions, “You have equal rights now, so what’s the point?”.
Since 1997 progress has been made in the United Kingdom around protective legislation, gender recognition and same sex marriage has been passed through the Houses of Parliament. But the battle for the liberation of LGBT people doesn’t stop at the altar, in fact – it’s quite the opposite.
None of this legislation truly goes far enough to protect LGBT people and to ensure that they have equal treatment under the same laws as people who don’t define. Take for example same sex marriage, this isn’t equal. For the trans community there is still the spousal veto included within same sex marriage, which can stop a person from getting the gender recognition one deserves and adding another ‘gate keeper’ to an individual from being able to transition.
This year in London alone we have seen hate crime soar for the LGBT community. We are still hearing about students’ experiences in education, and not just in schools but in colleges, apprenticeships and universities. Our education system still doesn’t reflect our identities – our history or even our relationships.
Now I firmly believe that LGBT history month shouldn’t just be a month, we should celebrate our identities, our history and our lifestyle each and every day.
This year the theme of history month is Religion, Belief and Philosophy – a taboo subject within the LGBT community, but one that we must start creating dialogue around. For too long it has been seen that you can only have one or the other, but we know that’s not the case, this narrative is not one that is incorrect but one that sets a dangerous narrative for LGBT people of faith.
We’re often told that in life you don’t discuss two things: politics and religion. But for those of us involved in student activism both subjects are pretty unavoidable. We’re often told that politics has no place in religion and religion has no place in politics. Again we only have to look around us to see that again this is both not true and unfair to say.
This history month we should highlight the brilliant work that is being doing within this area of LGBT activism from Keshet, an LGBT Jewish organisation or Imman an Islamic LGBT organisation. We must do our best to educate not only the LGBT community, but society as whole.
We have come a long way in the UK, but I know all too well this is not the case for LGBT people across the world. LGBT rights are considered human rights by Amnesty International but as of July last year, 72 countries still have laws criminalising homosexuality. Countries in Asia and Africa have some of the worst LGBT related legislation, with Iran and Saudi Arabia where its punishable by death, however imprisonment, fines or whipping are commonly used. It is worth noting though that Lebanon has an internal effort attempting to legalize same sex relationships. LGBT people living in countries where it is legal still face discrimination laws against the ‘promotion of homosexuality’. Countries such as Morocco, Romania and Lithuania all have so called Anti-Homosexuality Bills that restrict the distribution of ‘propaganda’ promoting homosexuality. This is especially enforced when considering children.
Attitudes towards LGBT people have begun to change rapidly in the 20th century. While overall the trend is towards acceptance, areas of society such as sports are lagging behind. LGBT athletes still face many challenges and international sporting organisations come under much scrutiny for hosting competitions where LGBT equality is not enforced at all. Although there are plenty of campaigns to help LGBT participate in sport, still there are many issues that LGBT people can face, from attitude from fans watching the sports, or gendered sports kits can be a barrier for many trans people who wish to participate in sports. There have been a lot of high profile athletes to come out in sport from Nicola Adams to Tom Daley, but there are still many athletes who have decided not to come out in fear of public reaction.
We must educate; that there people LGBT people of faith, but also that we must
remember our history and our heritage. This is particularly important to me for many reasons, given that I have been campaigning for equality for the LGBT community for many years now, and this month gives hope, education and empowerment to so many LGBT people. It gives us a chance to get out and campaign around issues that are important to us from lifting the blood ban for men who sleep with men, fighting stereotypes that are forced upon us by society and celebrating the wins that we have made as a community, but also how much further we have to go.
In my opinion, every day should be history day for LGBT people and there is work to be done all year round to ensure that we as a community get equal rights. This history month, if people ask you “Why do you get a month to celebrate an Identity?” remind them that in most areas of life, there is no or little celebration of LGBT people. From adverts, to our education system, our national sports teams and even still at most places of worship. Our liberation won’t come from sitting down and waiting for change to happen, it takes campaigns, education and time. So if people ask you why have a history month, I think the best response would be – you should feel privileged that your identity hasn’t been oppressed or deleted within our society in order to warrant one.