Today, Thursday, 1 February 2024, is the beginning of LGBT+ History Month.
This annual event was founded in 2004 to enable the LGBTQ+ community to claim our past, celebrate our present and create our future. It’s a dedicated opportunity for us to share our rich and diverse history so everyone can learn more.
To mark the start of this year’s celebration, we’ve interviewed one of our members, Mehul, who attends our social events for older people. Mehul has kindly shared his thoughts about LGBT+ History Month below. We hope you enjoy reading them.
Please could you tell us about yourself?
I’m 59, live in Brighton and Hove and have worked as a self-employed mortgage adviser for ten years. I originally qualified as a chartered accountant, which enabled me to live and work in Hungary and the USA in the early 1990s. I then spent about 16 years talking to people in the investment industry and trying to explain the jargon in the worlds of venture capital, stock markets and hedge funds.
What does LGBT+ History Month mean to you?
I’m happy to support LGBT+ History Month if it gives people who are uncertain about who they are the chance to recognise themselves in others, understand their journeys, and inspire the courage to become their true selves and to love and be loved.
Is there anything or anybody that it makes you think about, reflect on or do? Do you celebrate or mark the month in a certain way?
It reminds me of the people who fought for the rights that I can enjoy without lifting a finger in protest, and of those people who helped change perceptions and allow greater transparency, tolerance and acceptance.
Who are your LGBT heroes?
Peter Tatchell for protesting about everything; Matthew Shepard for the changes in hate crime brought about from his brutal murder; the lesbians and gays who supported the Miners’ Strike that paved the way for equality laws.
And all the LGBTQ+ folk who inspire and entertain us: Andrew Haigh, Armistead Maupin, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, Boy George, Graham Norton, George Michael, Bronski Beat, Christine and the Queens, Anohni, and Sir Elton John, to name only a few.
The theme of this year’s LGBT+ History Month is #Medicine – UnderTheScope – what does this make you think about?
All the scientists who worked on HIV drugs, and all the doctors and nurses who were not afraid to help and treat people with HIV/AIDS with dignity, and who continue their work in a judgement-free manner with all the other diseases associated with sexual activity.
Are there any moments in LGBT history that resonate with you or mean something to you? If so, how do they do this?
The introduction of civil partnerships, and eventually legal marriage, was important in enabling LGBTQ+ people to have their relationships witnessed, blessed and accepted by society in the same way that heterosexual people have enjoyed for millennia!
How would you encourage readers to celebrate/mark LGBT+ History Month?
Support and encourage anyone you know who may be struggling with their identity by showing and demonstrating your acceptance and encourage our heterosexual friends and families to ask questions and understand us rather than ask us to change our behaviour to allay their imagined fears.
What would you say about Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard’s place in LGBT history?
Switchboard has been around since 1975 when there was a lot less tolerance and it would have been even more critical to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive resource where LGBTQ individuals could find friendly and professional help, and a sense of community, especially for those of us who had to deal with the impact of being excluded because of our sexuality.