Geffrye Parsons (He/Him): CEO of the inclusion imperative
LGBT+ History Month is important to me for a number of reasons. Quite apart from its role in helping to dispel the popular (mis)perception that LGBTQ+ activism happens only during Pride Month, which is crucial in order to maintain awareness and progress, it also resonates strongly with me as someone who has always loved history, even majoring in modern history for my undergraduate degree back in the 1980s. History teaches us valuable lessons. I am appalled to think that, when I was born, it was still illegal to be gay in the UK. Like every LGBTQ+ person alive in the UK today, I am indebted to the heroic efforts of those that went before us and fought for the freedoms that many of us are now fortunate enough to enjoy.
Yet so many people who should be celebrating with us today are no longer here to do so. This is because of all the onslaughts suffered by earlier LGBTQ+ generations – from those who succumbed to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, to the many who were murdered by their peers, and the many who committed suicide due to shame, ostracism, internalised homophobia or lack of social or familial support. Charitable organisations like Opening Doors London now do magnificent work to benefit aged LGBTQ+ people who are especially prone to isolation as a result of the paucity of support networks which these factors have caused. So it is incumbent on us all, and especially those of us with a degree of privilege, to fight vigilantly to ensure that their legacy lives on and that their sacrifices were not in vain – because, more than ever in recent history, LGBTQ+ rights are now under attack on many fronts.
Examples abound – just recently, the parliament in Russia voted (jaw-droppingly, unanimously!) to blanket-ban the promotion of homosexuality in books, films and social and other media; in Qatar, a government ambassador for the football World Cup described homosexuality as “damage in the mind”; and in Turkey, the Interior Minister labelled LGBTQ+ as “cultural terrorism”.
And even in countries like the US and the UK, where a greater degree of inclusion might be expected, there is a real risk of backsliding – witness the horrific mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs recently, as well as the dozens of anti-LGBTQ+ bills which are currently under consideration in many US states, and the appalling attacks on the human rights of trans persons which continue to be perpetrated by the so-called ‘gender critical’ lobby in the UK.
So we should know our history (perhaps consider marking it with a visit to Queer Britain, the UK’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+?), commemorate it, honour it, and learn from it. We will all be much richer for doing so!
Luke Seraphin (They/Them): Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Sky Studios
LGBTQ+ History Month is a vital event in my opinion. It’s only by knowing our past that we can really understand the context of the challenges for the present and future and build on the shoulders of giants in terms of the work that has been done to date.
Michael Ayre (He/Him): Co-Founder of SHEHETHEY
As a child, I never considered that other people like me existed, let alone that we had a rich and diverse history. As an adult, LGBTQ+ History month is a chance for me to stop and reflect on what I missed as a child. I always exit the month feeling enriched, and filled with pride. I understand myself and my community a little more and feel grateful for the trailblazers and changemakers that are making history today. TV, books, film and YouTube are filled with incredible content, dedicate one day to Queer history…you won’t regret it.
Michael Gunning (He/Him): Jamaican Swimmer
LGBTQ+ History Month is important to me because it's not just a celebration of authenticity (like we have in Pride Month), but it's an incredible chance to educate one another and learn about things that aren't always spoken about in society. The World Cup last year showed us all that unfortunately we are not yet in a place where everyone can be themselves, even at sporting events, and personally, I'm doing everything in my power to help create change globally. With my heritage, I grew up under the shadow of colonial laws criminalising LGBTQ+ people, and as a former professional swimmer, I use the platform I've got to try and change this for young LGBTQ+ people, so they have a better experience from growing up being part of the community.
Matthew Mitcham (He/Him): Australian Olympic Champion diver
Being the first openly gay Olympic champion is something that makes me extremely proud. It’s validation to feel like I’m part of history. It would be remiss of me - especially during LGBT History Month - not to acknowledge the people before me who fought for the rights and freedoms that created an atmosphere in which I felt comfortable competing at the Olympics as an openly gay man. I specifically want to pay tribute to my all-time queer hero and friend, Greg Louganis, who has been a source of inspiration and advice for me in many ways.
Sam Winton (He/Him): Founder and CEO of Here in Sport
The tendency is to think of the past when it comes to LGBTQ+ history months. In years previously I have taken the time to learn about pioneers of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement and try to honour their work, standing on the shoulders of giants to help promote inclusion in sport. Yet, I prefer to focus on the history still to be made and connect to that long lineage of work. In sports particularly we are still seeing far too many historic moments, with many sports in recent years seeing their first openly gay athlete. Some still refuse to include trans athletes; there are still too many firsts to come and too much history to be made.
Joel Mordi (He/Him): Founder of MIF Nigeria
We are reclaiming space and owning our achievements, no longer shrinking to accommodate our oppressors. There's still more work to be done and there's always ground to cover in England and in my home country Nigeria, as well as globally. My hopes for Nigeria are high especially seeing other young people advocating beyond the walls of social media, notably during the ENDSARS protest [against police brutality] and how the LGBT+ community stood up in solidarity to campaign for our rights. It's a long walk to freedom, however - but not beyond the LGBT+ community, as love will find a way. It can be delayed yes, but not completely halted, that is what we should remember more than anything.
Jae sloan (They/Them): Development Consultant and Executive Coach
LGBTQ+ people have been present as part of our history since records have been kept of our humanity. However, queer history has often been erased to the point that many people think being queer has only emerged in recent years. LGBTQ+ History Month shines the light on the truth, allowing queer people to reclaim their narrative and place in history. Incidentally, this allows all human beings to broaden our understanding of the human experience, so we better understand the whole of who we are. For these reasons, LGBTQ+ History Month is not just important, but necessary.
Jane Traies (She/Her): Historian and Author
LGBTQ+ History Month is important because history generally is important.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and our history has always been so hidden. Like everyone else, LGBTQ+ folk need to know that people like ourselves existed in the past. I love History Month because it brings people together to uncover those hidden histories and to give us back our queer ancestors.
Published Online: 26/02/2023