The LGBT+ History Month 2023 theme, #BehindTheLens, aims to celebrates LGBT+ peoples’ contributions to cinema and film from behind the lens. Directors, cinematographers, screen writers, producers, animators, costume designers, special effects, make-up artists, lighting directors, musicians, choreographers and beyond.
LGBT History Month is celebrated in October in the US. The UK chose to celebrate it in February because it coincides with the abolition of Section 28, which formerly stated that local authorities were not allowed to “intentionally promote homosexuality”.
One thing I would love to celebrate this LGBT History month is that for the first time in England and Wales History, in over 200 years, LGBT + people in England and Wales are now officially part of the census. 1.5 million people in England and Wales identify as LGBT+. This is great news because with visibility comes acknowledgment and validation. We exist. We are part of the community. We can officially look at providing the services the LGBT+ citizens need to live as their authentic selves without fear. To aim to put in place the necessary policies and amenities to protect the human rights and dignity of members of the LGBT+ community.
While we celebrate this development, I cannot help but be sad also. It is not yet Uhuru for our LGBT+ community. This has been a very tough month for the LGBT community in UK, especially the T part of our community. Transgender people are constantly under attack.
It has now been exactly 20 years since Section 28, the draconian law that criminalises the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ was repealed. While we have made progress in the rights of LGBT+ in the UK, we still have a massive section of our community that are constantly under attack. People are still abused and beaten up on the streets for being gay, bisexual, non-binary or Trans. Children are still being bullied in schools for identifying as LGBT+. Trans rights are heavily under attack.
Which brings me to the tragic case of Brianna Ghey. Brianna was a vivacious 16year old trans teenage girl. Brianna was found with stab wounds in a village park in Cheshire on Saturday, February 11, where she was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to her family, Brianna was a “much-loved daughter, granddaughter, and sister”.
According to the News, Cheshire Police initially said they did not believe the attack was a hate crime but now detectives said all lines of inquiry were “being explored”, including hate crime. A boy and a girl, both 15, have been charged with her murder.
It is heart-breaking that this crime was committed by anyone, and even more so, by teenagers who are children themselves. How did we get here?
It is quite common nowadays to see adults openly mock the preferred pronouns of trans and non-binary identifying people. A case in point is how the popular singer- songwriter, Sam Smith is constantly mocked on social media after they came out as non-binary.
When we disrespect peoples’ pronouns, laugh at them, or give a like on social media to comments disparaging trans and non-binary people, we lay the foundation for a hate crime. By our action or inaction, we are telling everyone, including impressionable children, that it is ok to mock LGBT+ people.
No one is born with hate; it is a learned behaviour. When children commit such atrocious hate crime, as adults, we should also take a hard look at ourselves.
Brianna suffered bullying at school but nothing much was done to address it. Her live was cut short by hate. Lots of vigils have been held in her honour. It was a shame and appalling that anti-lgbt hate words were shouted at mourners at her vigil in Birmingham. We need to do better. It is all our responsibility to demand change, not just that of the LGBT + Community.
Also, this history month, I would like us to spare a thought for the Black/ Brown LGBT+ migrants and asylum seekers who escaped draconian laws and persecution to seek refuge in UK. Most often than not, the policies we have in place further degrade them. The requirement to share graphic details of their personal lives including pictures of their sex life to prove their sexual identity is very degrading and dehumanising.
The fact that many would have to wait for years for a decision on their case is very frustrating. Also, during this period they are not allowed to work and must live on stipends. This further exposes them to exploitation from those who prey on vulnerable members of our society. Also, even if they get a favourable decision after years of waiting, they face another obstacle, that of getting a job.
Many of the LGBT + Asylum seekers are educated, have degrees, and some have postgraduate degrees. However, they soon learn that Racism is a big impediment in career choice for Black and Brown immigrants in UK. They also now have gaps in their CVs due to the years of waiting for a decision on their right to stay and work. Some employers do not value ‘overseas’ academic qualifications, especially when it is from the African continent and the Caribbean. The previous skills they had from their home countries are often sniggered at. Many are forced to apply for jobs they are overqualified for. This affects their earning power, further entrenching a poverty circle for Black/Brown immigrants.
As we celebrate this year’s theme, #BehindTheLens, let us take a closer look at the lives of our LGBT+ communities and ask ourselves, are we really doing enough to remove the barriers they face? How will history portray us when 2023 is showcased 20 years from now?
Could we make this year the turning point when we say no one is free until we are all free?
Could we make it the year we stand up for the rights of every LGBGT+ person regardless of class, gender, religion, or race?
Today, let us put ourselves right in front of the camera and act so history can record us favourably.
This LGBT+ History Month, let us learn from our past and keep standing in solidarity to make history for our communities.
Happy LGBT+ History Month.
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