The last few weeks have borne witness to a distressing round of news stories about gay teens committing suicide, and an increase in hate crime. What can be done about this? A practical example of what can be done has been put forward by a London school. Inspired by LGBT History Month, a class on gay historical figures that has been taught over the last five years has all but eliminated homophobic bullying.
“I’ve had pupils say ‘Miss, you are trying to turn us gay’ and I ask them, ‘do you turn black during Black History Month or Turkish during Turkish month?'” Elly Barnes, a music teacher at Stoke Newington school in north London, is used to tackling such questions. Prompted by seeing homophobia around her in school on many occasions, she now runs Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) History Month here every February.
The great lesson of history is not to teach dates, or about plaster cast saints who bear no relation to the original, but to teach children how the world works. It is satisfying to see a case of this principle in action. It is also a good argument for such a course being included in the national curriculum.
October is GLBT History Month in the US. February is LGBT History Month in the UK. This story is a testament to the significance of both.