What is LGBT + history month, and why do we celebrate it?

By George Ross

LGBT+ history month is celebrated each year in February. It is a time to commemorate queer activism and reflect on the challenges queer people still face today.

It is an opportunity for both queer people and allies alike, to learn about queer histroy, icons, and important figures in the gay rights movement. Many queer figures have been hidden or eradicated from history because of their sexual idenity. It is paramount that their stories are told and remembered after centuries of being silenced and mistreated.

The gay rights movement teaches people the generosity and resilience of the queer community, and their ability to fight for what they believe in. After the gay bar – the Stonewall Inn – was raided by police in June 1969 – who used excessive violence – there was a series of protests and riots. This lead to the first openly gay & lesbian march being held in New York a month later – a pivotal moment for the queer community globaly.

If you would like to get involved with the LGBT+ and Trans and Non-binary liberation groups on campus, or to find out more about events taking place both this and in future history months, please contact : lgbt@eusa.ed.ac.uk; or transnonbinary@eusa.ed.ac.uk.

Historical Figures:

Marsha P Johnson
August 24th 1945 – July 6th 1992

Marsha P. Johnson (the “P” stands for “Pay It No Mind”) was an African American transgender activist from New Jersey. She was very well-known in New York, and was an icon to those in Greenwich village.
She was a successful drag queen who toured the world with the Hot Peaches.

“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world.”

Marsha had a huge impact in the queer rights movement and community – especially in the 1960s and 70s. Johnson helped to lead the Stonewall protests and riots, which led to the Pride month celebrations that we have today. Due to this and her generosity towards the queer community in New York, she was given the nickname “Saint of Christopher Street”.
Along with her friend Syliva Rivera – also a trasngender rights activist – she founded STAR : Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. This organisation helped to support homeless gay and transgender people, who were often kicked out after coming out to their families.
STAR helped queer people in New York, Chicago, Califonia and England in the early 1970s but was eventually disbanded.

Johnson’s body was found July 6th 1992 in the Hudson River. The police ruled her death as a suicide despite claims from friends and the local community that she was not suicidal. Twenty-five years later, Victoria Cruz, a crime victim advocate of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) re-opened the case. The NYPD changed her cause of death from suicide to “undeterminded”.

Marsha’s legacy lives on today in organisations such as the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which says it “protects and defends the human rights of black transgender people”. In February 2020, the Mayor of New York renamed the East River State Park in Brooklyn, The Marsha P. Johnson State Park and created a state in honour of her in 2021.

C.P. Cavafy
1863 – 1933

Cavay was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 29th April 1863. He lived with his parents and eight siblings. He moved between Alexandris and Liverpool in his early life, before settling back down in Alexandria and working as his brother’s assistant in the Egyptian stock exchange.

He started writing poetry in his teens, and continued up until his death in 1933. He is noted to be one of the most distinguished Greek poets of the 20th century. Only a small collection of his work was published in 1900, with Cavafy circling his works with his friends instead. It is likely that not more of his work was published due to the homo-erotic nature, and how sexually explicit his poetry was. He drew inspiration from ancient Greek and Roman civilisations, with particular inspiration from their gods and myths. The history of the ancient world intertwines with his own work, and is said to have called himself a “Poet-Historian”. His work was eventually published in 1961 by W.H.Auden entitled The Complete Poems of C.P. Cavafy.

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