8 February 2017
February is LGBT History Month and there are many small things we can do to make sure we use this opportunity to enhance our equality and diversity work and celebrate our LGBT+ communities. Here are five suggestions:
Fly the flag
Did you know you can buy a rainbow pride flag for less than a fiver online? What better way to show you celebrate diversity? Or you can go one better and fly the rainbow, bi, and trans flags together! Flying from a flagpole or hanging from a balcony, little things like this show a warm welcome to LGBT+ staff and students. Feedback from students tells us this has a big positive.
Start saying LGBT+
Acknowledge the huge diversity of gender and sexual minorities that are out there, and the fact that other cultures have other words and traditions for what we call “LGBT”. Remember what Maya Angelou said: “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. Younger people nowadays are creating a new language to express the complexities of their identities. That little plus sign acknowledges this and leaves nobody excluded!
Share images and stories that encompass multiple differences
Did you know Freddie Mercury was bisexual, not gay? That he was a man of colour, and an immigrant to the UK? Did you know the Pride tradition was started by the 1969 Stonewall protest, and central to this was a trans woman of colour, Marsha P Johnson? (pictured, more info here). Did you know that before British rule, India and what is now Pakistan celebrated transgender people, but the British Empire criminalised them? By sharing these histories we build bridges between different minority groups rather than falsely dividing them, and we acknowledge people can belong to more than one minority group at a time. It doesn’t hurt to remind people that LGBT+ people have been around forever, either!
Involve LGBT+ Students
A thriving peer network is one of the best ways to make sure LGBT+ students feel safe and supported. Getting LGBT+ students and their allies involved in a History Month project can bring people together to form friendships that may transform their lives and reduce their isolation.
Use the month for reflection and improvement
This is a good time for a health check for the organisation – how up to date are your policies, how well are you tackling homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying? How often does gender identity and sexuality get mentioned and acknowledged here? How supported do your LGBT+ staff feel? Don’t be afraid to do a survey to see how well you’re doing. Look to organisations like Gendered Intelligence, Stonewall, and the resources on the History Month website as well as best practice guides to enhance your work.
Sam Hope is an EMFEC Associate Trainer specialising in Mental health and LGBT+ Awareness training, as well as a trauma therapist. They can be found at http://hopecat.co.uk and @Sam_R_Hope on Twitter
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