Why is LGBT+ History Month important

Our Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultants Addison Barnett (Addie) and Steven Copsey (Steve) discuss a little about their lives and why LGBT+ History Month is important to them. 

Addie: Thanks for giving your time to us today Steve. I know you have such a busy celebrity schedule, especially as our CMI Inclusion and Diversity Professor! As an LGBT+ icon, can you tell you why LGBT+ History Month is important?

Steve: Hahaha, you’re very welcome Addie – it’s a pleasure to be here… For me, LGBT++ History Month is a wake-up call (every year!). I spend most of my year relatively happy with who I am and how I interact with my world, but History Month almost gives me a kick up the bum to look into the ‘how and why am I able to be so comfortable?’. To think about the people who went through absolute hell to change laws, to change hearts and to change minds.

It gives us a chance to continue to educate ourselves on our history as a community, to take stock and realise just how good some of us have it. Find out more about why LGBT+ History Month exists here. But it’s also a chance to look at what hasn’t changed, whether that’s in the UK or worldwide, and what we can do to really embody the spirit of those LGBT++ heroes that came before us.

Addie: I’m similar. It reminds me that we do have a history as the LGBT++ community – a long and deep history too. As a trans person, but also as a member of the LGBT+ community more generally, so many of our contributions and achievements have been ignored, erased or rewritten by the history books. So, February is a reminder every year that we have always existed, and to be proud of that.

Could you tell our wonderful readers what you do to celebrate LGBT+ History Month?

Steve: I’m less about the celebration and more about the education. If I can learn a lot about one person or group who’ve been a major influence on gay rights in the last 100 years, I’ll be happy. Because then I can talk about them to everyone. In a different world, I would try and get to as many different events as possible and maybe go for a drink or two (Leeds is allegedly home to the oldest continually gay pub in the UK!). 

I’ll also be refreshing myself with Inclusive Employers’ amazing LGBT+ History Month resources– full of facts, best practice and even a fun quiz!

Addie: Amazing. I also have a book recommendation if anyone wants to top up their knowledge of LGBT+ History, it’s called We Are Everyday: Protest, Power and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown. It was written with inclusion and intersectionality in mind, so it’s a great book for people starting their LGBT+ inclusion journey.

Speaking of people – which LGBT+ Hero would you like Inclusion Allies to learn more about and why?

Steve: When it comes to LGBT+ Heroes – I could say my disabled lesbian gran who used to go out clubbing in her 50s/60s on her crutches, who had to escape a burning building set on fire by her ex who had just taken out a life insurance policy on her… (true story!) but me and my mum are still working on those memoirs!

So instead, I’ll say Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. He was actively campaigning for sexual orientation and gender identity rights over 150 years ago. He was coming up with theories and ideas and really was a pioneer. Reading about him really inspired me – if each one of us was more like Karl, how much could we accomplish? 

Addie: Wow, your gran sounds amazing Steve! Please do finish that memoir, I’ll read it. 

If you could ask Inclusion Allies to do one thing to embed LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace, what would it be?

Steve: Challenge visibly. Some people try to avoid conflict, but as an ally you need to be actively turning conflict into opportunities to educate. If you’re wearing a rainbow lanyard or you’re the office inclusion champion and you don’t challenge inappropriate comments or behaviours, the negative impact due to your lack of action may in fact be larger than the positive impact you could have had by actively engaging. There’s a section in the LGBT+ History Month package that can help you have those courageous conversations.

Addie: Final question: What is your favourite LGBT+ themed Book/TV Show/Movie, etc.?

Steve: I could be very cliche here and say RuPaul’s Drag Race (I love it!) but I think I’m going to go a little off the beaten track and say Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s about a girl who’s a little different to other people, she has a secret that only her close friends and family know about, she has to learn to accept that she is who she is, that she’s pretty amazing because of her differences and that your family isn’t necessarily the one you’re blood related too.  

Even though Buffy herself never came out as gay on the show, her experiences and perspectives resonate pretty strongly with LGBT++ people of a certain generation. The show is also regarded as having one of the most influential LGBT++ relationships on mainstream television – I just think it’s an incredible journey of a show! 

Addie: Amazing! My favourite LGBT+ themed piece of media is a film! In 2018 at the Chinese Visual Festival Closing Gala I watched Alifu: the Prince/ss – a wonderful Taiwanese film about identity, gender, and family. It handled the topic of gender identity in a way that felt very compassionate and genuine. 

Thank you for your time Steve and have a very Happy LGBT+ History Month!