Educator, activist and co-founder of LGBTHM
First UK LGBT History Month
‘It is vital that the diversity of the LGBT community is visible and safe especially in schools’
Sue is an LGBT+ activist and educationalist. Her work has focussed on women’s issues, lesbian politics, human rights and education. Sue has taught drama, directed plays and managed a theatre, in both London and Sydney. She has supported many women’s campaigns such as Women against Violence against Women. She has been a member of many national advisory groups and regularly speaks at conferences.
For many years Sue was a freelance management consultant. She worked on Equality and Diversity courses for police officers and staff from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). She helped to set up the first LGBT advisory group to the Metropolitan Police.
Sue has been active in Schools Out UK (SOUK) since the 1980s. SOUK campaigns to make schools safe and inclusive for everyone. It supports people who want to raise the issue of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexism in education. In 2004 she was co-chair of the organisation with Paul Patrick. Together they started Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month (LGBTHM).
Sanders and Patrick saw LGBTHM as one way to raise awareness of, and fight prejudice against, the LGBT+ community. It is also a way to celebrate the community’s diversity and achievements and make LGBT+ people more visible. Every year hundreds of individuals and organisations across the UK plan their own events and share their experience.
The idea for the history month came after important changes in the law. In 2003 Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales. (Section 2A in Scotland had been repealed in 2000). Public institutions were no longer prevented from ‘promoting homosexuality’. There were also new employment regulations across the UK. The regulations protected people from discrimination and harassment in employment because of their sexual orientation.
Sanders and Patrick were both involved in education and training. They wanted to take advantage of the new opportunities the laws presented. They knew that public institutions such as schools and colleges would need some help. They approached the UK Government for support to develop the history month. Money was promised for two years. A website was built with an interactive calendar. An event to provide information was held in November 2004 at Tate Modern, in London. The first LGBTHM was in February 2005 with over a hundred events across the UK.
The Scottish Government also supported the event. In 2007 they gave money for two years for a worker at LGBT Youth Scotland. They would help history month reach more people.
History Month has been a great success. In February 2019 there were seventeen hundred events.
A development from LGBTHM is ‘OUTing the Past: The Festival of LGBT History. It was started by Dr Jeff Evans and 2019 was its sixth year. There were seventeen large regional events called ‘hubs’. These have speakers and workshops about LGBT+ history. For the first time the festival was international. The festival conference, for activists and academics, was held in Belfast.
Sanders has received a number of awards recognising her lifetime’s campaigning for LGBT rights. Her archives and those of SOUK are now held in the Bishopsgate Institute in London.