LGBT history: the memory of a forbidden Love.

I set out on the task to write about the LGBT history and its importance with the a feeling that I knew nothing about it, and that all I knew was taken from films like Milk and TV series and documentaries, together with the update from last year about Oscar Wilde. And it is true, my knowledge about LGBT history was and still is limited, but I asked a few friends and important scholars to give me their view on it, and I would like to thank them all for their help and comments, Thank you so much, you know how you are!

LGBT history, which in Britain is celebrated with a LGBT history month in February every year, is in basic terms the history of the developments in legal, political and cultural acceptance of LGBT persons throughout the world. It is a kind of history which very much is a pert of our daily lives and is unfolding as I write. For throughout the world are LGBT persons still prosecuted for being who they are, or for manifesting their love, or fighting for the right to say the word GAY, or even the right to live. Although many gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people in the western world are living a good life with what appears as equal rights, are there still a need to remember the past so that none takes the right for granted, and so that young LGBT people and others can see and know the wonderful heroes and role models that have done so much for the LGBT fight for equality.

LGBT history, which developed in the second half of the 20th century, seems to consist of two different things, namely the narrative of the development of suppression and liberation for LGBT rights on the one hand. On the other a series of biographical accounts of LGBT personalities and heroes. This was at least what it appeared to be for me when I started to research the matter through the material available online for LGBT history month, yet I kept getting the feeling something was wrong, or missing from this picture, that LGBT history had to be something more that just that. Many of have/had their first encounter with LGBT History through seeing the film Milk, or the documentaries about the Stonewall event. For those that don’t know this event was it a police raid on a LGBT friendly bar in New York that sparked the fight for equal rights and recognition for LGBT people. That’s why some LGBT history might refer to before and after Stonewall.

Yet turns out, LGBT history is the story of sexuality, acceptance, prosecution, sacrifice and love. It is a kind of history which can be seen as slightly different that political and religious history, for its appeal is International, and its relevance is so as well. Many forget that LGBT history is just as important for equal rights studies as Black history or Women’s history, yet LGBT history is less studied and taught at universities in Britain.

LGBT history have within it a core of hope, a hope for a better tomorrow, as well as a remembrance of those who sacrificed much or all for their love and the modern freedom of love and sexual diversity. LGBT history is studies and celebrated so that young LGBT persons can be taught that they are not alone, and to give them awareness of what have passed so that they can enjoy the freedom of the western world. Scholars have argues that LGBT history is the history of sexuality, and that this history is short, for as the modern definition and understanding of sexuality is only very recent and can not be applied to persons which lived before this definition came into place. For these definitions talk more about the individual identity in relation to sexual preferences of the individual rather than the sexual life of the individual alone. For as David M. Halperin points out in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader; sexual practises in Hellenic Greece and in the Roman Empire seem to him to be more like dietary preferences today, as long as one kept it between a citizen and his social inferiors of either gender. In the sources Halperin uses does it not seem to be a difference between strictly homosexual males or heterosexual males, neither are lesbians considered to be different from heterosexual females, which in a way just leaves the idea that they are all bisexual. It has to be added that in general does it not seem to be a label used about sexuality or that sexualities existed, it seems just to have been sex. Although I personally think it’s a bit far-fetched to claim that certain named characters in antiquity were gay, after all who have used a time machine to go back and ask them if they identified themselves as Gay, for it is easy to argue both sides of that case in retrospective. Lets just settle with the knowledge that the cultural and social acceptance of sexual activities between same-sex partners was more accepted in some at least in social classes than it is in many nations throughout the world today. LGBT history today includes more than just the traces or references to gay sex in sources or prohibitions against such sexual activities. For LGBT history as a friend of mine reminded me is all around, it includes the way we think about Sexual transmittable diseases(infections) and HIV/AIDS, and it also includes the legal battles fought so that LGBT people today can live openly and have (in the best cases) same rights as other members of their nation. Yet LGBT history is so much more, it’s every coming out story that have ever happened, it’s the It’ll get better campaign which took place after a series of suicides in the USA, it includes also all the hate crimes which have and will take place against LGBT people throughout the world, it includes how societies and nations deal with and relates to LGBT issues and so much more. All of this is LGBT history. A history which when taught in schools aim to decrease homophobia and increase awareness and acceptance among young members of society. This have also been the overall aim of the LGBT  history it seems, to remember the past to create a better future.

As part of the work for this blog article I asked Professor Elisabeth Stuart what LGBT history meant to her and she kindly answered; –‘It means honouring those who risked and suffered so much to be themselves and to fight for the freedoms we enjoy’. I further asked her if LGBT History and research have a value in society and if it affected the identity of the community, and her response; -‘Owning a history is an important part of forging and claiming an identity but it is only by learning from the histories of others that we expand our minds and souls beyond concerns just for ourselves.’ tells us that LGBT history have a meaning and need to be valued, not only in Britain but throughout every nation which wishes to see its LGBT population fully and equally integrated into its society.

To my question if LGBT history and science have made a difference, Professor Stuart responded; -‘Well, I have been involved in the development of Queer Theology which has questioned the notions of gender and sexuality as theological categories.  Queer Theology has certainly made an impact on theology as a whole.’

I also asked Professor Eric Anderson the same questions and his answers in comparison to Professor Stuart, show the complexity of the LGBT history. Professor Anderson said in response to the question about what LGBT history mean to him that;    -‘Well, what’s great about this question as that we are currently in a period of massive expansion of our history! We are quite literally living in the most historical LGBT moment ever. I must also, of course, criticize this stuff a bit. We far too often include trans issues, or bisexuality, when were really only talking about gay men, and maybe lesbians. These are separate issues, with vastly different understandings in contemporary society. I’m very pleased that LG progress seems to have helped trans and bi progress, but there is still a very long ways to go, particular with trans issues.

But for the spirit of corporation, I look forward to the day, which is eminently approaching, in which LGBT students do not need to know of their history – of the struggles that went before – that they can just live their lives with joy and love (that sounded corny) without having to fear or reminisce about how awful things used to be. That is what we have been fighting for, political apathy.’

On the question about the LGBT history and research have any value in society and its effect on the identity of the community he answered; -‘You are essentially asking me why LGBT history is important. It’s not. What is important is LGBT legal and social equality. And to the extent that understanding our history, i.e. comparing the anti-gay marriage arguments to previous arguments about blacks marrying whites, helps us ascertain that equality, well then it is important.’

Finally I asked if the LGBT history and science have made any difference and if it is governed by the same rules as other sciences, to which Professor Anderson stated; –‘Oh very much so.There is fascinating work occurring sexual minorities at the sociological,psychological, social-psychological and biological levels. Now, I restrict my comments toward that of empirically based sciences and social science, post-structuralism, by it’ own admission is not concerned with empiricism, validity, or reliability. But if you look at the brain imaging of sexual desires, it’s startling! If you look at the hormone research and epigenetic effects on sexuality, it’s at the forefront of science. If you examine the changing nature of homophobia, sociologically, or the impact this has on one, psychologically, the findings are vastly different from they were just a decade or two, and certainly three, ago!’

As a few final concluding remarks I would like to say that although some of you who read this might not know any Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual or Transgender persons, you should know that their lives and love is just as natural as yours. In addition have I personally learned that LGBT history is not only the narrative of prosecution and liberation, but also the story of hope, diversity, sex and Love. And remember when you next time talk about human rights and equal rights history that it does also include the rights of the sexual minorities, not just what Women’s history and Black history. Just imagine how boring would this world be if we all were the same?

After all it is just Love.

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