LGBT+ History Month started after Rodney Wilson, a 29-year-old history teacher in Missouri came out to his class in 1994. Rodney has been teaching children about the Holocaust and said that he could have been killed for being gay if he had lived during that time. LGBT+ History Month takes place in different months in countries around the world, and in the UK it takes place every year in February.
The month is all about teaching LGBTQIA+ history and recognising how important it is that we educate ourselves about a subject which has, at times, been systematically erased from our collective memory. The existence and visibility of LGBT people has become more widely accepted and celebrated. However, unfortunately, there are instances where our existence is still controversial.
This year, there are a number of anniversaries to mark or celebrate. 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the very first Pride March in the UK. The march, in 1972, took place just three years after the Stonewall riots, which were a series of protests by the LGBTQIA+ community in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
It is also the 22nd anniversary of the first attempt in the UK Parliament to repeal the homophobic Section 28 legislation by the then Labour government. Section 28, which was introduced by the Conservatives in 1988, forbade the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, leading, some say, to decades of homophobia and wider queerphobia in schools, which remains an issue to this day.
As professionals in the environment and sustainability sector, we should use LGBT+ History Month to celebrate queer champions who have paved the way for us. People like Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, who helped launch the modern environmental movement has latterly been recognised as a lesbian, even though she wasn’t ever ‘out’ during her life. She lived during a time when homosexuality was illegal and seen as a mental illness. Rachel destroyed the correspondence she had exchanged with her friend, who is now accepted as her partner, to avoid publicity of their relationship.
A massive amount of progress has been made since Rachel Carson started the environmental movement, with queer people elected as heads of state and LGBTQIA+ groups formally endorsed in major organisations. IEMA’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative aims to support organisations and individuals to “build a profession and sector that, over time, is reflective of modern Britain by using education, connection and transparency.”
To take part in LGBT+ History Month, we encourage you to consider what you think is missing from your organisation. Would you like to learn more or teach your colleagues about LGBTQIA+ history? You might want to consider hosting a meeting during LGBT+ History Month and getting a speaker in to teach you and your colleagues about the rich history of queer people in environmentalism. And please do get in touch with IEMA’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative to find out how we can support you to improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace.
Posted on 1st February 2022
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