Mr Johnson's assembly to mark LGBT History Month
  • Assemblies

An extract from Mr Johnson's assembly on Monday 10 February. Mr Johnson is St Dunstan's Deputy Head Academic.

Last year when I spoke in assembly at the start of LGBTQ+ Week I outlined the origins of Pride Week because it was the 50th anniversary of the festival.

Pride and equality movements and groups, like our own Equalities Society, strive to celebrate diversity, enhance understanding and respect for difference, and to challenge prejudice. They are educational movements combatting ignorance and we applaud them.

I wonder what has been achieved since last year?

In 2019, Austria, Taiwan, Ecuador and Northern Ireland all legalised same-sex marriage.

Just yesterday in Switzerland a referendum voted to introduce laws to protect LBGTQ+ rights under law, like our  Equality Act.

The work of promoting equality is global.

In the US, the Supreme Court is set to decide whether LGBT people are protected from discrimination at work by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Pete Buttigieg is now the first openly gay candidate to seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Laws that criminalise homosexuality are being challenged in Barbados, Botswana, Singapore, Jamaica, Kenya, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica.

In Hong Kong there are legal efforts to permit same-sex marriage in the city.

Amnesty International handed a 300,000 signature petition to Russian authorities calling on President Putin to end the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya.

As a child who grew up in the 1980s and a tennis fan, one story particularly caught my eye last month:

Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe, heroes of mine as a child, broke the conventions of the Australian Open Tennis tournament by unveiling a banner calling for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed as the Evonne Goolagong Arena.

Margaret Court is an Australian 24 times Grand Slam singles winner – a tennis legend. She is also an outspoken homophobic.

Goolagong is an indigenous Australian and 14 times Grand Slam winner.

Court and Goolagong actually won the Australian Open Doubles together as a pair in 1971.

The arena was named after Margaret Court back in 2003. Goolagong has ten fewer Grand Slam titles, but no history of discriminatory speech.

What would be the implications of changing a building’s name based on what we now know of somebody’s values and have come to realise as a society about equality and diversity?

Perhaps those implications could be a topic of discussion for you this week.

  • LGBT History Month