Why do we need LGBT history month?
Sexuality can still be an issue. Discrimination still exists. Teachers must still decide how or whether to come out to their colleagues and pupils, and homophobic language still runs rife in the playground. For all these reasons, LBGT History Month remains of great importance; it helps raise awareness of the need for equality, understanding, and crucially, the need to accept difference and to celebrate it.
Looking back over my past columns for SecEd, there seems to be a bit of a theme: awareness days and months. World Mental Health Awareness Day, World Teachers' Day and National Stress Awareness Day have all featured in recent articles and I could have written about even more: Black History Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Volunteer Week, Holocaust Memorial Day or International Women's Day. The list goes on.
I tend to write about these days and months as they provide a useful route into a theme that deserves highlighting. World Teachers' Day, for example, allowed me to discuss the public's perception of teachers and, more importantly, call for the teaching profession to be properly celebrated. Similarly, World Mental Health Awareness Day led to a discussion on the disturbing rise in teacher suicide.
I know that schools, in particular, are key targets for this manner of raising awareness. There will have been and will continue to be mailings, emails and advertisements to teachers and school leaders and you must decide what to ignore, commemorate or add to the curriculum, which in itself can be difficult. You will then also be deciding what appeals to donate to, fundraise for or have the school 'dress down' for.
February is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender History Month. There will, no doubt, be various events, publications, fundraisers and articles that celebrate LGBT communities. Teacher Support Network, for instance, will be running a series of articles from School's Out's Sue Sanders and, top of the Independent on Sunday's 'Pink List' of most influential Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, Elly Barnes on incorporating LGBT into the classroom and saying 'Goodbye to the gay lesson'.
Yet, awareness days and months as a linguistic tool aside, why do we need them?
For many charities and organisations, it is not really about the day, the week or the month at all, but an opportunity to focus people's minds on a single objective. Practically speaking, these larger events are more likely to encourage participation, media interest and, for charities, donations. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender History Month website suggests the month is "an opportunity for all of us to learn more about the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain and Northern Ireland".
Similarly, Black History Month aims to "promote knowledge of the Black History, culture and heritage", "disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society" and "heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people to their cultural heritage".
There is a school of thought, however, that believes these kinds of days, weeks and months are not necessary and can even potentially harm the causes they aim to promote. These issues should not be thought about on a day or a month once a year, but thought about or acted upon every day, every week or every month, particularly when it comes to issues around equality. Then there is the thought that, if, again in the case of equality, all people are to be equal, then there is no need for a day, week or month to focus on a particular race, gender or sexuality. In fact, it could be argued that any efforts to raise awareness are divisive. In an ideal world, where a person's sexuality is not an issue or cause for discrimination, then there is no need for a special month, is there? Much the same has been said about Teacher Support Network. Why do teachers need their own charity? Stress and poor wellbeing do not simply affect teachers, but all professions, what makes teachers so different? Well, in an ideal world, there would be no need for Teacher Support Network. Teachers would not need coaching, counselling, information or support to help them in their roles or to assist them in getting back into the classroom. But the world is far from ideal.
In fact, today teachers face unprecedented change, increased expectation and often, uncertainty about their future; this is why,135 years since it came into existence, teachers still need their own charity.
Likewise, sexuality can still be an issue. Discrimination still exists. Teachers must still decide how or whether to come out to their colleagues and pupils, and homophobic language still runs rife in the playground. For all these reasons, LBGT History Month remains of great importance; it helps raise awareness of the need for equality, understanding, and crucially, the need to accept difference and to celebrate it.