Ali Kerr, our Head of Partnerships, shares her reflections on LGBT History Month
Let’s get this out the way at the start; I am getting old. Stairs are getting harder and the 80’s feel fairly recent. Which should make LGBT History Month right up my street, and yet until a few years ago I didn’t even know it existed.
Not knowing much about LGBT history is one of the crucial differences between old timers like me – who were at school before and during the time when Section 28 made it illegal to ‘promote homosexuality’, particularly in schools – and young people at school in Scotland now, who learn in one of the most inclusive curriculums in the world.
LGBT History Month came about because of that very thing. Section 28 (or 2A in Scotland) was in place from 1986 to 2003 (2001 in Scotland), and in 2005 LGBT History Month was created to ensure we remember, and never let that kind of human rights violation happen again.
Part of my role as Head of Partnerships here at LGBTYS, is to build a network of allies; people who support and speak up for LGBTQ+ young people. Allies are incredibly important – they increase the social power of any group, and in doing so turn up the volume and enable them to be heard. And when enough people listen, real change happens. In summary, allies are superheroes!
I often share the explanation of why and how LGBT History Month came about when I speak to groups right across Scotland, and I am always delighted when people cannot believe that something as extreme as Section 28 existed so recently, and often without them even having been aware of it. They are incredulous. And that is a very appropriate response.
It is easy look at that incredulous reaction and celebrate just on how far we’ve come – and it is so important to do that. But more often than not, this also leads to a discussion around the current situation for trans and non-binary individuals in the UK, particularly young people, and the sense of history repeating itself.
LGBTQ+ is a broad and diverse term, and in many ways all letters within that acronym share rights which have equal legal protection in law. But in practice, our trans and non-binary friends and family are experiencing the same stigma that lesbian, gay and bisexual people faced decades ago. They need allies more than ever. And as allies we need to make sure we are visible and loud, using the privilege of our own voice, to speak up in support of others.
I feel proud of Scotland. I am proud of its inclusive curriculum and its passing of the Gender Recognition Reforms, despite Westminster eventually blocking that becoming law. I am proud of the people who stare back incredulously when I speak about Section 28. And I am so proud of the individuals who go through life as allies to LGBTQ+ young people.
And it is those people, in their thousands all over the country, who come together on the last Friday of LGBT History Month every year to celebrate Purple Friday – turning Scotland purple as their collective light shines in every community across Scotland – showing LGBTQ+ young people that they are worthy of the love and support of a whole country as they work towards a brighter future as our colleagues, leaders, carers, doctors and teachers.
As someone with several decades under their belt, LGBT History Month gives me pause to look back and see how far we’ve come, and to feel optimistic and hopeful about a country where there are just too many good (and incredulous) people to let the mistakes of the past be repeated. And that gives my aging old self a proper purple glow.