The British LGBT story is both central to our history, and a particular strand of it. You couldn’t tell British history of the last 150 years without, for example, the WWII codebreaker Alan Turing or the writer Oscar Wilde. Without their important and distinctive contributions, we’d be living in a very different country today. By highlighting the stories of LGBT Britons, we are able to reveal the vital role those individuals have played in shaping our society.
While celebrating the centrality of these LGBT people to our national history, we also have to reflect on their treatment by society at the time. In the end, Wilde and Turing were not well treated by the societies they did so much to shape. For most of its existence, the LGBT community in Britain was not openly recognised. Much of LGBT history is unknown to us – written out of history, or deliberately hidden away by LGBT people themselves.
We have the living monuments of the LGBT communities. Think of Soho or Canal Street – places where people have been able to explore their identity, become part of a community and express themselves for generations. These cultures helped shape the UK and the wider world.
The LGBT community is receiving more recognition and respect – LGBT History Month both reflects and reinforces that. Many of you reading this may be LGBT yourselves, exploring your identity, or have LGBT friends and family. In magazines and newspapers now we can see proud LGBT people like Caitlyn Jenner or Cara Delevingne. And LGBT people are more prominent than ever across our society, including in our politics.
As Labour’s Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, I’m proud that the UK Parliament has one of the highest – if not the highest – number of LGBT MPs in the world. This increasing recognition in our democracy became very personal to me when in 2010, I was married in the Houses of Parliament. With more LGBT people than ever coming out, and more recognition than ever being given to LGBT stories, I’m proud to support LGBT History Month 2015.
So let’s use this month to celebrate the long-standing and continuing centrality of LGBT to our history and national life, and to celebrate the increasing openness and recognition of the LGBT community.