LGBT History Month in 10 Photos
Hello, I am Finlay Bertram, Member of the Welsh Youth Parliament for Newport West. As some of you surely know, February is the official LGBT History Month.
As an LGBTQ identifying member of the Welsh Youth Parliament, I was offered to create a journal of my history month using photos. I accepted the offer at once as I believed it would be a great way for me to share why History Month is important to me, as well as educating others on why the fight for LGBTQ rights is not yet over.
LGBT history month allows both members of the LGBTQ community and allies alike look back over the history of the LGBTQ rights movement to see how far it has come; as well as looking towards the future and thinking about what changes must occur in order for LGBTQ individuals to be completely equal in society.
I believe LGBT History Month is the perfect opportunity to educate ourselves and others on the struggles LGBTQ people as a community have been through in the not too distant past to remind ourselves of why we should never stop fighting for equality and why we should always be proud of who we are.
I believe it is also a time to take a look back and thank those leading LGBTQ rights activists who although may not be in the history books, still should hold a dear place In every LGBTQ person’s heart.
26th January - Pride Cymru Youth Forum Workshop
Just before History Month kicked off, I attended a workshop hosted by Pride Cymru focusing on how an LGBTQ Youth Forum would operate if one was set up in Wales. The idea behind the youth forum is to give LGBTQ identifying young people in Wales a safe place online and in person where they can be unapologetically themselves without any fear of harassment. The forum would also offer specialist mental help on a case-to-case basis for issues specific to the struggles LGBTQ people go through.
I met dozens of hardworking and inspirational young people at the forum who all put forward brilliant ideas about how the forum should work should it be launched.
I believe it is incredibly important that LGBTQ identifying individuals have a place where they can go to express themselves freely and be themselves. I believe the high turnout to the workshop showcased how passionate young people are about helping others and why this kind of forum is needed.
5th February - Talking with my head of sixth form about the importance of LGBT History Month
Before I could do anything in my school for LGBT History Month I had to speak with my head of sixth form, Mrs James, about why it is important that the history of the LGBTQ rights movement is remembered and celebrated.
I explained to her that history month is a time to look back on the achievements of the movement in Wales and to celebrate prominent Welsh LGBTQ rights campaigners. Mrs agreed completely with everything I explained so we started planning what I could include in an assembly that I would present.
8th February - Gender neutral toilets in Cambridge
From Thursday the 7th of February to Saturday 9th of February, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Cambride university Student’s Union Shadowing Scheme. During my time in Cambridge I was able to meet the team behind the first gender-neautral toilets in Cambridge University.
Ali Hyde (left) and Lara Parizotto (middle) were two members behind the toilets which were implimented on the 1st of February 2019, coincidentally the first day of LGBT History Month. Ali Hyde, Vice President of the JCR or student’s union, campaigned for gender neutral toilets for over four years as a part of her college’s students union LGBTQ campaign.
To distinguish the two toilets there are mini icons of urinals or seated toilets on the doors. Both Ali and Lara believe that toilets should not be gendered as, in gendered toilets, trans people can have their gender identity policed by other people and therefore left feeling unsafe. They also said that non-binary people see their identity invalidated by the traditional toilet signs of men or women.
11th February - Assembly on LGBT History Month
After my meeting with Mrs James, I knew what I had to research in order to complete my assembly on LGBT History Month. I decided to look at prominent figures from British history who fought for the LGBTQ rights movement such as Mark Ashton as well as a few current famous faces including Gareth Thomas.
I also included the four main figures officially representing LGBT History Month this year: Mariella Franco, Magnus Hirschfield, Robert Graves and Marsha P Johnson. These heroes give a wider and more diverse view of LGBTQ history than even what most LGBTQ identifying individuals know of.
I believe it is extremely important for people – especially young people – to know about the history of the LGBTQ rights movement as well as important figures from the past so that they can better understand how far the movement has come. I believe It will also allow people to better understand why saying seemingly trivial things to them like the phrase “that’s so gay” has large scale consequences to the underlying homophobia and transphobia that exists in our society
12th February - Pushing for LGBTQ rights to a key topic in the Newport Youth Council
At our monthly Newport Youth Council meeting, we were asked to name three topics which are important to us as young people in Newport. The three most picked topics from all of the members of the council will be carried forward for the next year. As one of my topics I chose LGBTQ protection and rights education in schools. As interim chair of the council, I will use all the power I have to respectfully push for the topics that most matter to me and young people across Newport.
15th February - Draft of my speech
Before the first residential Welsh Youth Parliament meeting on the 22nd of February, we all have to write a 2 minute speech about one of the issues we believe the Welsh Youth Parliament should focus on over the next two years.
I chose LGBTQ rights as my topic as I believe it is generally dismissed as having already achieved its end goal since marriage equality has been achieved in the UK. I do not believe this is the case as I can see that in society, there are still many ways in which LGBTQ individuals are objectively not equal. I believe that marriage equality was a great step in the right direction for LGBTQ rights, but should never be considered the end goal of our equality.
In my speech I discuss why LGBTQ rights are important to me and why things need to change in society. I reference conversion therapy, the outdated Gender Recognition Act and societal homophobia and transphobia to showcase the true inequality of our society, as well as ways we can reverse this injustice.
20th February - Looking at LGBTQ books in Newport library
I was extremely pleasantly surprised to discover that Newport City Library had a full section dedicated to LGBTQ literature. There were many different types of book in the section ranging from homo-romantic fiction to books on advice of how to come out to different people to books focussing on LGBTQ history both in Britain and globally.
I think it is absolutely amazing that Newport Library offers such a broad range of LGBTQ literature as it allows people to learn more about their history and the struggle to get to where we are now. The breadth of LGBTQ books offered is also very important to young LGBTQ or questioning people as it offers them a place to feel accepted as themselves, even if they don’t entirely know who that is yet.
I also believe that the extent of LGBTQ fiction available free of charge in the library gives an amazing opportunity to those who want to see themselves and their love represented on the pages of a book. I believe that representation is highly important to both the overall aim of LGBTQ rights, and to LGBTQ individuals.
Once again I am very thankful to Newport Library for offering such a wide selection of books which allow LGBTQ folks to feel more accepted and represented.
How things have improved
It would be ridiculous to say that there has been no positive social and political change towards the LGBTQ community. Even in as less time as in the past generation Wales has become a far less intolerant place for LGBTQ identifying individuals.
Legislative changes such as revoking section 28, huge bounds in legal recognition of transgender individuals and obviously the fact that same-sex marriage has become legal nationwide, showcase the leaps in the right direction Wales is taking towards LGBTQ folks. Organizations such as Pride Cymru, Stonewall and many others have allowed LGBTQ people to be unapologetically themselves and to collectively overcome societal prejudices.
Prominent Welsh LGBTQ rights activists such as Griff Vaughan Williams, Dai Donovan and Gloria Jenkins as well as LGBTQ identifying AM’s including Hannah Blythyn have helped the movement in its struggle for acceptance. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we cannot ignore the changes we’ve already made. That’s what I believe History Month is all about.
What needs to change
Despite the positive change we have seen in Wales I still do not believe that LGBTQ identifying individuals experience the same quality of life as our heterosexual peers. According to the largest survey of its kind, two thirds of same sex couples do not feel comfortable holding hands with their partner in public. No one should feel scared or uncomfortable showing off their love to the world.
The national rate for suicide within LGBTQ individuals is 3 times higher than that of heterosexual individuals. That is no coincidence. Society needs to drastically change and I believe the best way of achieving this is through education on equality and difference starting at a young age. As well as gender and sexuality specific support in schools.
LGBTQ individuals have to deal with negative media reports mocking them, the threat of losing friends and family after coming out, the fear of being bullied for who they are as well as verbal and physical hate crime and discrimination for showing their love in public. This to me - and I believe to any compassionate person - is incredibly wrong and must be changed. Together we can help to make a difference.
23rd February - Speech at Senedd
I am hugely honoured to be able to say that I spoke in the Chamber at the Senedd, about an issue I am deeply passionate about. I hope that I opened at least one of my fellow Welsh Youth Parliament Members eyes to inequality LGBTQ people face in Wales, for if I made even just one person more accepting of the LGBTQ community, I can sleep easy knowing I am slowly making the world a better place.
A video of my speech can be seen here: