2020’s LGBT History Month theme is ‘Prose, Poetry and Plays’, the three pillars which frame what we understand as literature.
By delving into works created by LGBT writers, from the poet Sappho writing two and a half thousand years ago to the critically lauded ‘Burgerz’ by Travis Alabanza, we can broaden our understanding of LGBT history. For as long as there have been writers, there have been LGBT artists documenting their experiences. By learning about our history we can better comprehend where we are as a community today.
By learning about our history we can better comprehend where we are as a community today.
Literature created by LGBT writers acts as a gateway into understanding the landscape for LGBT people of the time, with so many authors forced to conceal queer characters between the lines. When their literature wasn’t written out of the canon altogether, their queerness so often was, rendering our comprehension of these texts limited.
This practice still happens today, with the lives of queer writers so often sanitised and diluted for students, as if LGBT lives are inappropriate for today’s youth, despite the LGBT experience being a large part of modern life.
Stonewall was founded in response to Section 28, an act that saw queer texts stolen from library shelves and with it LGBT role models lost for a generation.
However, the effects of Section 28 are still apparent in how we teach LGBT writers in our classrooms.
While the majority of his sonnets were aimed at an unnamed man, Shakespeare’s work is still encountered for the first time by young people without so much of an acknowledgement for who the majority of his sonnets were written for, suggesting to LGBT teenagers that their identity is something to mask, as if who they are is not appropriate for the classroom they inhabit.
By studying the plays of Oscar Wilde or the novels of Virginia Woolf without space afforded for their identity, we risk mimicking the oppressive society that forced writers to bury queer themes deep in the subtext.
In decades to come, we have an obligation to centre queer themes when examining the novels of Yrsa Daley-Ward and the poetry of Ocean Vuong, and when those works are taught, as I hope they will be, they will grant students an insight into the LGBT issues of our today.
Created by Schools Out, LGBT History Month is every February.
Stonewall works with primary schools, secondary schools and colleges to create LGBT inclusive settings. Find curriculum guides for primary and secondary, lesson plans for LGBT history month and join the Stonewall School & College Champions programme to continue LGBT inclusion all year round.