LGBT History Month Founder: There’s more to be done
As LGBT History Month draws to a close, we share some words from its founder, Sue Sanders, who visited Haringey to talk about our borough’s proud history on equality.
Sue is Professor Emeritus at the Harvey Milk Institute, a trailblazing campaigner and a former drama teacher who has worked on equality in Australian prisons and with the police. She has been integral in the battle for LGBT+ equality for decades, but says there is still more work to be done.
LGBT History Month UK was initiated by Schools OUT UK LGBT+ teachers’ group in February 2005. They set up a calendar online where people could post LGBT+ events and share them with the community. There were 100 events for LGBT History Month 2005. This year there were 1,200.
Sue, who worked with campaigner Paul Patrick to launch the month, says:
“Paul and I were very passionate. We’d seen that Black History Month had been effective and politicians had recently started talking about organisations having a ’public duty’ to make equal opportunities happen and to educate people about each other.
“We thought, ‘let’s try it’ and went to the Department for Education about LGBT History Month. I said I wanted to set up a website so that everybody could put up events. It took forever, but eventually it was confirmed. When we launched it, I wanted it to be clear I really meant we’d include every part of LGBT and every part of the community.”
Sue says it is vital that we remember the fight for equality that has taken place over many years. She says:
“We cannot fight homophobia before knowing what has gone before. We need to stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before us. Haringey has an amazing record on LGBT rights and it should be known.”
Sue was working with teachers in 1988 when section 28 came in, banning local authorities from “promoting homosexuality in schools”. After years of hard work it was repealed in 2003.
Despite the progress that has been made, Sue - who is chair of Schools OUT UK - says she knows of many young teachers who are still afraid to be out at work, and that frightens her.
“We’ve had to push, we’ve had to fight. We can’t assume that because we’re here now in 2018 celebrating, that we can do that next year, or the year after. There’s always a chance the clocks can turn back. Homophobia is still there.”
Sue also highlights the importance of the whole community working together to tackle inequality. She says:
“Wise Thoughts [the LGBT+ and BAME arts charity here in Wood Green] are a unique, wonderful organisation who make the LGBT+ BAME community visible. Wise thoughts is so supportive.
“As a community, we need to be linked with campaigns like Black Lives Matter and Me Too. It’s so important we all work together.”
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