‘Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future’: Honouring LGBT+ History Month

Every year, the LGBT+ community unites to observe the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other civil rights movements. Founded in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school teacher from Missouri in the United States of America, LGBT+ history month represents a time for recognition and appreciation for the contributions of the LGBT+ community.

The overarching objective of this period of observance is to promote equality and diversity across society; by virtue of increasing visibility of LGBT+ people and their history, lives and experiences, by raising awareness of the advancement in education on LGBT+ matters, and by working to make educational and other institutions safe spaces for LGBT+ communities.

The majority of countries across the world mark this time during the month of October, in order to correspond with National Coming out Day (11th October), and the first and second marches on Washington for LGBT rights, held in 1979 and 1987.

However, in the United Kingdom, LGBT+ history month is held throughout February, to coincide with the 2003 abolition of Section 28; a 1998 law enacted to prohibit schools and councils from “promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” In the wake of such ground-breaking legislative progress, the inaugural LGBT+ history month in the UK took place in 2005, and has been an annual event ever since, driven by three core objectives: ‘Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future’.

While it took until 2005 to officially mark a period of observance for LGBT+ rights in the UK, the fight for equality and acceptance for LGBT+ peoples, is a battle that has spanned many generations.

In particular, the sporting world has provided a forum for the fight for equality for the LGBT+ community. Many athletes have become trailblazers in their respective fields, for taking a stand against the prejudice and injustice they themselves have faced due to their identities.

For example, the late Lily Parr, star of the world-renowned Dick, Kerr Ladies football team, was an icon in the sport, for her work battling against the sexist policies of the English Football Association. Throughout her life and career, Lily Parr remained true to herself, being open about her same-sex relationship with a woman called Mary, remaining undeterred by the hostility directed towards LGBT+ peoples at the time.

Parr and her teammates were cruelly denied careers in English professional football, by a 1921 ruling that deemed the sport “unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” Despite this disappointment, Parr and her teammates continued to play the game, instead opting to tour internationally, by means of circumventing the ban. Most notably the team played a series of exhibition games across the United States of America, drawing record crowds along the way.

In 2002, in recognition of her achievements, Parr received a posthumous induction into the English Football Hall of Fame, fittingly, becoming the very first woman to receive this honour. Due to the bravery and courage that she displayed, both in her fight for equality for women in football, and for LGBT+ rights, Parr became an icon for the LGBT+ community.

At present, not only in women’s football, but across women’s sport, there are countless women and men who are embodying the bravery of past trailblazers like Lily Parr, by being open about their identities, and being proud of showing who they truly are. These LGBT+ athletes, coaches, and contributors to sport, are role models for fans and fellow sportspeople alike, who are able to gain reassurance and confidence from their bravery.

As stated by the late Nelson Mandela, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” An ally for the LGBT+ community himself, the late South African president’s words are befitting of the role that athletes, coaches and contributors in the sporting world must assume, so to strive for equality for LGBT+ peoples in society. Now more than ever, in such a divisive and turbulent social climate, it is vital that all sporting figures take on the mantle of raising awareness and increasing visibility for the LGBT+ community.

Above all, the inclusive and open nature of women’s sports represents an arena in which LGBT+ peoples can be open with their identities. It is a space where they are safe to flourish, and safe to become the best versions of themselves, whether they are athletes, coaches, contributors, or fans. Of course, a whole host of actions can be taken to further support LGBT+ peoples in all areas of society, including women’s sports, and this must come from LGBT+ allies, as much as the LGBT+ community itself.

Here at the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA) , we stand with members of the LGBT+ community, and commit to raising awareness of LGBT+ issues and successes, especially within women’s sports.

This month, the WSA will be sharing stories from elite female athletes, coaches, and contributors in sport. So, we encourage you to take the time to head over to our Instagram (@wsportsalliance), and other social media pages, to keep up to date and informed on all of these exclusive stories.