LGBT+ History Month: When is it, when did it begin and how is it observed?

The annual event educates young people about the issues experienced by members of the LGBT+ community

Sabrina Barr,Emily Cope
Tuesday 01 February 2022 10:35 GMT
Thousands of people gather in London for Pride 2018

LGBT+ History Month is an annual celebration that provides education and insight into the issues that the LGBT+ community faces.

The primary aim of LGBT+ History Month is to teach young people about the history of the gay rights movement and to promote an inclusive modern society.

“LGBT+ History Month is a grassroot voluntary organisation,” Professor Emeritus Sue Sanders of the Harvey Milk Institute and founder of LGBT+ History Month tells The Independent.

“The team that brings you all the free resources to educate on prejudice and enable the rich diversity of LGBT+ people to be visible, safe and proud are all unpaid and work from home after a day’s work.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first official Pride event in the UK, which took place in London on 1 July 1972 and was attended by approximately 2,000 participants.

In 2019, the parade drew over 1.5 million people, making it the biggest Pride event in the UK. However, the events were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stonewall said the anniversary is a time for people to “ask what we want to achieve in the next 50 years”.

“What kind of world do we want to see for LGBT+ people in 2072? In the UK and around the world, LGBT+ people are still being abused, thrown out of their homes, bullied in schools and workplaces,” the organisation said on Twitter.

Stonewall and other rights groups are calling on the government to draw up comprehensive legislation to outlaw “all forms of conversion therapies in ever setting without loopholes”.

The group is also calling on the government to “make it easier for LGBT+ people to grow their families #IVFforALL, and to stand up for trans rights”.

Here’s everything you need to know about LGBT+ History Month.

When does it take place?

LGBT+ History Month takes place every year in the UK in February.

The month-long observance takes place in the US and in Canada in October.

The month is commemorated at different times of the year in other locations around the world.

In some countries, such as Greenland and Brazil, LGBT+ history is celebrated at the same time as their annual Pride parades during summer.

When did it start?

While LGBT+ History Month originated in the US in 1994, in the UK it began 11 years later following on from an initiative that was created by a couple of teachers.

In 2005, educators and activists Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick organised LGBT+ History Month as part of a Schools Out UK project, a programme that aims to educate young people about the issues members of the LGBT+ community face and to make schools feel inclusive for everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The event was held in February to coincide with the 2003 abolition of Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act.

Section 28, a piece of legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, stated that local authorities were not allowed to "intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality".

Between 150 and 200 events took place across the UK to celebrate LGBT+ History Month in the year of its conception, far exceeding the organisers' expectations of 15 to 20 events.

The event has been held in the UK in February every year since.

On 1 February 2019, Professor Sanders was honoured with the Prime Minister's Points of Lights Award, an award that recognises "outstanding individual volunteers" who are making a positive change in their communities.

Schools Out UK receives no core funding and is run completely by volunteers.

“While we can focus on the hate crime that LGBT+ people suffer and the appalling way the Home Office treats LGBT+ people seeking asylum, Schools Out UK in their projects seeks to be positive and, as they say, claim our past, celebrate our present and create our future," Professor Sanders says.

How is it observed?

LGBT+ History Month is marked every February by schools, colleges and various organisations across the country, who seek to increase young people's awareness of the LGBT+ community through education.

The theme for LGBT+ History Month 2021 was ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’, while this year it is ‘Politics In Art’.

The LGBT+ History Month website explains why the theme was chosen and says: “A popular slogan of the early Gay Rights Movement (the idea of the ‘LGBT’ community was some way off) of the time was ‘the personal is political’, and art is probably the most individual of pastimes.

“So it seemed logical, as we have a National Curriculum link to our theme every year, to choose Art for 2022.”

Five artists, including Keith Haring, Doris Brabham Hatt, Fiore de Henriquez, Jean-Michael Basquiat and Mark Aguhar, were chosen to represent the community this year because they “used their talents for ‘political’ ends or expressed their orientation through their work”.

"Over the last 17 years, LGBT+ History Month has grown to become one of the highlights of the year and something we always look forward to celebrating," Emma Meehan, assistant director of public affairs at national charity LGBT Foundation, tells The Independent.

"The fact that so many people nationwide take part shows just how vital it is.”

To find out more, visit the LGBT+ History Month website or Outing The Past.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in