A year ago, the Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin became the most binge-watched show in the channel’s 40-year history. It smashed C4’s record for the most-watched first episode of any drama when it first aired, won 10 international awards, and received a 97% approval rate among viewers aged 16-34.
For perhaps the first time in history, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) story stood squarely at the very forefront of the cultural consciousness.
Some of you reading this might wonder what all the fuss is about, perhaps because there’s a popular perception that LGBTQ+ rights has long been centre stage in social commentary, or – and let’s be honest about this – because some people think the subject has been afforded a disproportionate level of significance in modern society.
But here’s the thing. It’s only in the relatively very recent past that politics and media have recognised the LGBTQ+ community as a marginalised community, much less given it the legislative protection it needs and deserves.
For proof of this, you need look no further than some fairly stark and indisputable statistics.
This one, for example: 40 percent of the UK’s current adult population were alive in 1967 when homosexuality was decriminalised.
Or this one: It is only a little over 30 years since AIDS patients were effectively imprisoned in hospital wards, their food passed through hatches and left to die alone so that their carers could ‘enjoy’ the least possible physical contact with them.
And how about this: there are only 3 million people among the 67 million alive in the UK today who can legitimately say they hadn’t been born yet when same sex marriages were allowed by law in this country.
So, what does that all mean? Well, at the very least it proves that we’re a very long way from LGBTQ+ rights being fundamentally accepted throughout the fabric of our society.
Just how far away can be reasonably estimated from a comment someone made to me at the start of this month-long celebration of the global LBGTQ+ community. “Isn’t it great,” they said, “that the history of LGBTQ+ is finally being recognised with a dedicated awareness month?”
It’s a comment that came from the right place, of course, but LGBTQ+ History Month is not new. It was first marked in 1994 – nearly three decades ago. So, yes, there’s much still to be done to create the inclusive and aware society that the majority of us would wish to see.
That’s why February’s LGBTQ+ History Month is so incredibly important to the ongoing fight for true equality and inclusion that properly and adequately reflects the diverse range of communities and their characteristics which together help to define modern society.
We celebrate our LGBTQ+ communities in February because it’s the month in 2003 when Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act was finally abolished. Section 28 prohibited schools and councils in England from the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ or including awareness of homosexuality in life skills or other teaching.
This celebration is important not just in terms of championing the civil rights arguments in which LGBTQ+ equality is immersed, but also in tackling the fear that exists around language and behaviour.
A fear of saying or doing the wrong thing is often the greatest barrier to progress because it has the ability to paralyse people and organisations into a quagmire of inertia.
Organisations feel they are under so much pressure to be seen to be ‘doing something’ about LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion that they are inclined to act in haste, if they act at all, and often without really understanding the intention behind that action, its impact on inclusion and the outcome they are looking for in the first place.
The perception that an organisation is paying lip service to such an important issue poses a far greater threat to progress – both in promoting inclusive workplaces and in preserving brand reputation – than doing nothing at all.
Instead of pressuring people and organisations to act, we need to use this month – and every other day of every other month – to help them to understand that it’s okay to not have a plan yet, as long as they have the desire to be a force for positive change.
That no one expects you to be experts in LGBTQ+ equality or inclusion, as long as there is a genuine will to understand the issues and learn how you or your organisation can make a positive difference within your own social or professional orbit.
That once we accept we all have a collective role to play in helping to foster a social landscape in which everyone is unquestioningly valued, encouraged and accepted, we will make far greater progress than we can possibly achieve individually by posting a series of scheduled tweets for 28 days.
If your organisation is ready to take the next step toward building a truly inclusive and safe space, we’re ready to help you.
Please contact us to find out just how we can take you on that journey.