Celebrating Our Past: Why I Love LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month

The inimitable Dolores Delargo, The Toast of Chicago, gives Beige the lowdown on the vital importance of LGBT History Month.

“I dunno. It was before I was born” is a phrase I have grown to despise.

The idea that the whole “gay world” is somehow entirely based upon the latest club, the latest fashion, the latest fad, and is somehow only relevant to the 21st (or even at a stretch the 20th) century is such a lazy and shallow perspective.

Did you know that gay men flocked from the outskirts of the metropolis by public transport to go “gay clubbing” or cruising back in the 18th century – just as they do now – that gay marriage ceremonies were performed in medieval times, gay erotica existed before even the Roman and Greek empires, drag queen contests were held as long ago as the 1720s, lesbian pirates fought and robbed alongside their more famous male contemporaries in the 16th century, or that the battle for gay equality was being fought in the Victorian age?

LGBT History Month throughout February in the UK provides a vital focus on the art and writings of our predecessors, and the many and varied events that are organised across the country foster and improve our knowledge of LGBT history and experience, celebrate positive LGBT contributions to British society, and heighten the confidence and awareness of LGBT people and their cultural heritage.

“Queer history is about queer experience, not about straight attitudes. Queer history is about love amongst queers, not about laws against queers. Queer history relies more on information from queers than information about queers.” – LGBT historian Rictor Norton.

In Islington and Camden alone, we have more than 45 events on a variety of topics including LGBT historical perspectives on science, religion, political activism and sex, drama, poetry, literature, comedy and film, and in a range of eras from the phallus-worship of Ancient Egypt, to the infamous “molly-houses” of Georgian London, to the lives of 19th century gay eccentrics Tchaikovsky, Aleister Crowley and the magnificent “Fanny and Stella”, to lesbian and gay oral history in the 20th century and the impact of the AIDS crisis.

Read the full list of events here:

Above all, LGBT History Month is about us. It is for us. There is something for people of all ages, societies and backgrounds. As civil rights campaigner Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Without a knowledge or understanding of where our cultural identity came from, how can we understand where we sit in current society?

It is AIDS activist Larry Kramer who sums it up best of all in his play “The Normal Heart”:

“I belong to a culture that includes Proust, Henry James, Tchaikovsky, Cole Porter, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Christopher Marlowe, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Tennessee Williams, Byron, E. M. Forster, Lorca, Auden, Francis Bacon, James Baldwin, Harry Stack Sullivan, John Maynard Keynes, Dag Hammarskjöld… These were not invisible men.”

Words: Jonathan Clarke, Co-chair of the Islington Council LGBT staff forum AKA Dolores Delargo

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