Blog: Reflecting on LGBTQ+ History Month
Written by PhD English Literature student Clem Atkins
I have a complicated history with LGBTQ+ History Month. For as long as I can remember, I have identified as bisexual. However, like many bisexual people, I often struggled with my identity being dismissed and being incorrectly labelled as straight. I was worried that LGBTQ+ History Month celebrations were somehow not really for me.
To complicate matters, I was a closeted transgender man until age 25. I had struggled with gender dysphoria from a young age. On the few occasions I had ‘come out’ throughout my life, the reactions were generally not positive. Being closeted, it was hard to express myself authentically when it came to talking about love and my identity - not without outing myself - and so often I clammed shut and distanced myself from LGBTQ+ spaces.
It was during the lead-up to LGBTQ+ History Month that I first began to be open about my identity at work. I was working in a College. The staff LGBTQ+ network – which I’d initially been too shy to join – were making plans for Pride, and introductions on Teams. I stated my former name, and that I was bisexual.
At this moment, I was painfully aware of my hair, which had grown long during lockdown. I had painted some half-hearted smears of makeup on my face to appear livelier. To others, I didn’t look like the image of masculinity. But then, as I began to feel slightly more comfortable in the company of others like me, I continued: "And... I am also a transgender man."
I love to see colourful crowds participating in celebrations when I walk around Birmingham during LGBTQ+ History Month. There’s comfort whenever I see a flag on a building, or in a doctor’s office or library. Seeing those flags makes me feel welcome. There’s also an increase of people walking past me wearing badges, sometimes with rainbow flags draped over their shoulders like superhero capes. I love those little moments where I exchange glances with strangers. I smile at their clothes and they at my mullet and the wispy beginnings of my moustache.
I often eye-roll when I hear the same old criticisms about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community: "I don't mind these people… but they should keep it behind closed doors. They don't have to be so loud and in-our-faces about it”. Pride month can be about being loud and proud, yes. It's about boldly celebrating our visibility after lifetimes of silencing. But Pride is more than a party. It’s about shining a light on our history and mourning the histories that were redacted or stolen from us. It’s for the generations lost because of the AIDS epidemic and those who continue to be lost to hate crimes today. It is for allies – a time for education and listening. LGBTQ+ History Month month is for all the people who for whatever reason can’t be loud and proud.
I wish I could go back and tell myself as a teenager, hiding behind closed doors, that LGBTQ+ History Month was always for me.
Join us in celebrating at UoB by visiting our official LGBTQ+ History Month events page. If you have a story you'd like to share, please reach out to The Student Communications Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!