Nothing shows the need to remember queer history more than the attempts to misuse the language of LGBT rights.
This misuse has been even more visible than usual during LGBT History Month, which finishes today. Ironically, it is the very misuse of LGBT History Month that shows the need for LGBT History Month.
During this month, it’s been good to see so many groups comment on the importance of LGBT+ rights and their history. They include trades unions, schools, universities, faith groups, local authorities and small businesses. They also include large, powerful and exploitative corporations.
The fact that so many organisations want to declare their support for equality is a sign of how much progress has been made. On the other hand, if we’re really celebrating LGBT history, we’ll remember that LGBT+ rights movements have always challenged comfortable, mainstream, unequal, class-based convention. They can’t simply be co-opted into capitalism without losing their essence.
Some people are claiming to celebrate LGBT History Month while actively promoting homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence have been posting on social media throughout February, claiming to support LGBT rights. Meanwhile, they are providing military training to the armed forces of homophobic regimes around the world.
Today, the organisers of Pride in Surrey lied on Twitter when they posted about the first Pride in Surrey event in 2019. They claimed it was “the free event that welcomed everyone”. In reality, people were told by stewards to leave the event in 2019 when they peacefully carried placards objecting to the fact that Pride in Surrey was sponsored by the arms company BAE Systems – a major supplier of weapons to the regime of Saudi Arabia, whose forces lock up, torture and kill LGBT people.
It seems that some of the celebrations of LGBT History Month involve forgetting some very recent history.
History is about learning from the past for the sake of the present and the future. History involves asking difficult questions about messy, complex and controversial issues. History is something you do, not simply something you talk about. History cannot be neutral. LGBT History Month cannot be neutral in world in which there is so much to celebrate, and so much that needs to change.