This February, LGBT+ people and their allies across the UK are celebrating the community’s achievements and campaigning for equality as part of LGBT+ History Month. We caught up with YouTuber, safe sex campaigner and LGBT+ activist Calum McSwiggan to find out how he’s celebrating this important month, and how you can help bring equal sex and relationship education (SRE) to British schools.
Happy LGBT+ History Month! What does this month mean to you?
LGBT+ History Month is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the lives and achievements of all the amazing LGBT+ people who have come before us and fought for everything we have today. Our history is absolutely fascinating, rich in culture and curiosity, and filled with lessons that are still important to this day. It’s only in recent years that I’ve taken an active interest in our history, and I urge everyone LGBT+ or otherwise to take an interest too.
What does the community have to celebrate this year?
Our community prides itself on always having something to celebrate, no matter what we’re faced with, and we demonstrate that with the vibrant pride parades and parties that break out around the world every year. There’s a great deal to be said for the way we tackle everything that is thrown at us with positivity and togetherness. LGBT+ activists threw a dance party outside Mike Pence’s house to challenge homophobia and transphobia from within his administration, and vigils broke out around the world to bring us all together in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Our history is filled with tragedy, and some of those tragedies continue to happen to this day, but our community is as bold and brash as ever, and our celebrations are our way of standing up and being unapologetically defiant.
And what are some of the challenges still facing LGBT+ people in the UK?
Many people believe that the fight for equality is won, but there are still countless inequalities faced by LGBT+ people in our own backyard. Homophobic and transphobic bullying continue to rage across the country; LGBT+ people are still disproportionately affected by poor sexual and mental health; a worryingly large number of our homeless youth identify as LGBT+; and young LGBT+ people still struggle for role models in a world that is dominated by cisgender straight white men. The closer you look, the more problems you will find, and although it’s important to celebrate the immense progress we have made, it’s also still paramount that we continue to address the issues that are still affecting us today.
You’re campaigning for inclusive Sex and Relationship Education this Valentines Day. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Terrence Higgins Trust are collaborating with Student Pride and the National Union of Students (NUS) to raise awareness about the need for inclusive sex and relationship education in schools. They’re encouraging people everywhere to send a Valentine to their local MP to remind them of the importance of inclusive SRE and to ask them to support the amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill that is passing through parliament right now. I already sent one off to my local MP who has already responded saying that she 100% supports the campaign and requested that further letters be sent instead to an MP in need.
What was Sex and Relationship Education like when you were at school?
The only sex education I had in school was focussed on straight sex and biology. I could have labelled the anatomy of a penis or told you what a zygote was, but I couldn’t have explain consent. I couldn’t tell you how to put on a condom, or how to protect myself from HIV.
Why is inclusive SRE so important to LGBT+ people?
Not only is it crucial that young LGBT+ people learn how to safely navigate their first sexual encounters, but it’s also an important part of helping them to feel accepted. Learning to come to terms with your sexuality can be tough, and this is made even more difficult by the fact that you’re not seeing yourself represented in something as simple as a science or PSHE class. I know I wouldn’t have felt so ostracised as a teenager if I heard just one of my teachers say something accepting of LGBT+ people.
And why do you think LGBTQ issues aren’t covered properly in schools yet?
Historically our society has been ridden with homophobia and that’s lead to the incredibly heterocisnormative school system we still have today. We’re still recovering from things like Section 28 which made criminals of any teachers who attempted to educate their students on LGBT+ issues, it takes decades for a society to recover from something like that.
How can our readers get involved with the campaign?
Anyone reading this can get involved by writing to their MP! There are even card making classes popping up around the country to make it a fun and inclusive event for everyone. You can find out more here:
Are there any ways young LGBT+ people who don’t feel clued up about sex and relationships can find out more about the subject?
Organisations like Terrence Higgins Trust offer inclusive information on all aspects of sexual health. There are even YouTubers out there like Alex Bertie, Arielle Scarcella, and Laci Green who create informative videos everything LGBT+. If a young person wants to talk to somebody face to face, their local LGBT+ centre or sexual health clinic will be able to offer confidential support and advice.
And do you have any more romantic Valentines Day plans?
I’ve got a hot double date with a couple of boys named Ben & Jerry.
If you had to pick one fellow YouTuber to spend a romantic Valentines Day with, who would it be? What would you do together?
Jack Merridew because he’s the ultimate boy next door, video games and pizza would be a dream.