LGBT+ History Month, the annual tribute to the lives and achievements of the queer community, is in full swing. This year’s events naturally look a little different due to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean the celebration of love and diversity won’t go on.
Throughout the month, KU’s LGBT+ union has delivered a program of events tailored to fit our unusual situation.
For many years, the LGBT+ union has used this month to honour the wide-ranging queer culture through debates, lectures, and parties. The person behind the organisation of this year’s History Month is Shane Simpkin, KU’s LGBT+ union officer. They think the pandemic has led to a feeling of isolation for all of us, hitting minorities and marginalized groups in society extra hard. Possibly, making this year’s gathering more important than ever.
“We as humans thrive on communities and social interaction, so isolation is hard. We’re still isolated to a certain extent when we’re virtual but I believe people benefit from being part of something, even if it is virtual,” Simpkin said.
Even though they admit that it has been difficult to replicate previous history months in a digital environment, they are happy to be able to welcome people to join them virtually.
Film screenings and guest talks will discuss significant moments in LGBT+ history, explore the queer community, and pay tribute to those who have fought for diversity and equality. Simpkin believes that although we have come a long way towards equality, there’s still a long road ahead.
“Although attitudes have changed throughout the recent decades it’s clear that society is just warming up to the idea that someone can identify and express themselves outside of the cliche normative.
“It’s less about “breaking out” from these norms, and more about trying to be the most authentic version of yourself while also being aware and protecting yourself from possible harm.”
As a person expressing gender in a way that challenges society’s expectations, Simpkin has more experience with finding oneself than most. They believe a big part of the issue is the social norms embedded into our everyday lives leaving those who stray from these ideals to be looked at like a freak.
Simpkin identifies as trans non-binary. That is, not defining as, or associating with the gender assigned at birth, leaving them feeling unsure and uncomfortable with their own gender their whole life.
“I never knew how to define or what exactly I wanted. Growing up I just thought well maybe I’m a feminine flamboyant boy. But this also posed an internal conflict. I’ve always battled with the ‘you don’t fit in as a girl or a boy, what are you?’ internal conflict,” Simpkin continued.
“This conflict kept happening until one day I realised that I really didn’t have to identify or choose those options. They’re not for me. From that moment I felt incredibly free and ready to move from the gender binary and to truly explore who I am,” they said.
Recognizing how important the community is to provide necessary affirmations, Simpkin hopes students and staff join in this very important month. Many may not be living with housemates or family who are accepting of who they are, making national lockdown extra tough on queer people. Therefore, the events scheduled for LGBT+ History Month are intended to provide an open and affirming environment.
Last week the KU LGBT+ union invited Paul Harfleet from the Pansy Project to kick it all off. In light of his most recent art project on homophobic abuse, Harfleet delivered a talk on the powerful impact of raising awareness.
What’s on for LGBT+ history month at Kingston University?
The theme for LGBT+ History Month this year is Body, Mind, Spirit an several events will carry on throughout the year.
All events are free and open for all students and staff. Head over to their website to have a closer look at the events or sign up.