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Lesson

LGBTQ+ History and Why It Matters (UK)

Students learn about two millennia of LGBTQ history and reflect on how that history is represented in their textbooks and curricula.

Published:

This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — UK

Grade

6–12

Duration

One 50-min class period
  • Human & Civil Rights

Overview

About This Lesson

LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and questioning) history is often underrepresented in the curriculum and the UK’s wider history. While many students have heard about some events in LGBTQ+ history (such as the Stonewall Riots or the story of Alan Turing, the mathematician whose work was central to cracking the wartime Enigma codes, but who was convicted and chemically castrated for being gay - he later died by suicide), many significant people and events in the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement remain unacknowledged in schools. In this lesson, students will learn about LGBTQ+ history spanning from the Roman Empire to the year 2021 by participating in a human timeline activity. The resources in this activity have been created using information and resources from Stonewall, an international organisation with the mission “to stand for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people everywhere,” so that they can express themselves freely and without fear of discrimination.

By examining the broader sweep of LGBTQ+ history, this lesson helps students put people and events into more meaningful context. This lesson also gives students the opportunity to consider whose experiences are included in the history taught in schools, whose are often left out, and how that may reflect and perpetuate the “in” groups and “out” groups in our society. Over the course of this lesson, students will practice important skills such as summarizing, inferencing, and presenting material orally as they learn about LGBTQ+ history and reflect on how that history is represented in their textbooks and curricula.

How can the way that history is taught and remembered create or reinforce “in” groups and “out” groups in a society?

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-minute class period and includes:

  • 4 activities 
  • 4 teaching strategies
  • 2 handouts
  • 2 extension activities
  • 1 classroom-ready PowerPoint

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Lesson Plans

Activities

  • Tell students that in this lesson they will be learning about LGBTQ+ history but first, they will reflect in their journals on whose stories are represented in their history and literature classes, whose stories are often left out, and how that exclusion might impact the identities and experiences of individuals in those groups.
  • Ask students to create a pie chart in their journals that represents, in their experience, the groups of people whose stories are represented in their history and literature books and classes, and the percentage of time devoted to each group. You can let students define the groups themselves, or you might all work together to name some specific groups (such as LGBTQ+, heterosexuals, women, men, Black Britons, Asian Britons and White Britons in a British history course, persons with disabilities). List them on the board to help get them started.
  • Underneath their pie charts, ask students to respond to the following questions in their journals:
    • What conclusions about your history and literature curriculum can you make based on your pie chart?
    • What questions does your pie chart raise for you?
    • Before teaching this activity, print and cut apart the LGBTQ+ History Cards. Please note, although there are forty-four years on the timeline, there are only thirty cards. We have opted to focus on the years/events that include the name of a well-known location, public figure, organisation or historical event to help students guess where their card comes in the timeline. If you have fewer than thirty students in your class, reduce the selection as appropriate, though it might be wise to include cards that span the entire timeline, which starts in 130 A.D. and ends in 2021.
    • If you plan on using the activity in multiple classes, consider copying the cards on cardstock or laminating them so you only have to make one set. You might also choose to hang four to six signs along the length of your classroom with dates between 130 A.D. to 2021 to help students space out their human timeline.
    • Tell students that they will be making a Human Timeline of significant events in LGBTQ+ history. After distributing one LGBTQ+ history card to each student, ask them to respond to the following prompts in their journals before you begin the human timeline:
      • Summarise your event in your own words.
      • What do you already know about your event? (Skip to the next question if this event is entirely new to you.)
      • What do you want to know about your event that is not included on your card?
    • Invite students to stand up one at a time and place themselves where they think they fall on the timeline. They should share their summaries as they do so. They might also volunteer to share an idea or question that arose in their journal reflections. You might ask students to infer any connections to the events that precede or follow their place on the timeline. As more students join the timeline, invite those who have already presented to move to a different spot if they think their initial guess was incorrect. Continue this process until all of the students are standing along the timeline.
    • At this point, you might project the LGBTQ+ History Timeline handout to help identify the proper placement of events on the timeline and move any students who are in the incorrect spot.
  • Ask students to return to their seats and distribute the LGBTQ+ History Timeline handout to the class. Students might read through the timeline on their own or with a partner. To encourage active reading, ask the students to annotate for the following information:
    • Place a check in the margin by any events that you know something about.
    • Place stars by three events that you think are especially significant in LGBTQ+ history.
    • Write 1–2 questions in the margin alongside events you would like to learn more about or that contain vocabulary or content that you do not understand.
  • You might first have students Think, Pair, Share their annotations with a partner. Challenge the students by asking them to explain to their partner what they know about events they checked on the timeline handout.
  • In a class discussion, ask students to share what they know and the events they starred. You might record a list of these events on the board and have students explain why they selected them as important. Students can also pose their questions, which could be answered in class or for homework.
  • These next questions could spark a class discussion, reflective journal response, or Exit Card response:
    • What is the value in learning about LGBTQ+ history, and the histories of groups that received a small slice of pie on your pie chart from the first activity?
    • What difference would it make if LGBTQ+ history, and the histories of groups that received a small slice of pie, were woven into the curriculum and given proportional weight in textbooks and literature lessons?
    • How can the way that history is taught and remembered create or reinforce “in” groups and “out” groups in a school? in a community? in larger society?
  • For homework, you might ask students to learn more about the event or person on their timeline card to share in the next class, or they could choose a person or event from the timeline that interests them to learn more about.

Extension Activities

  • To teach students more about Section 28, share the relevant information from the resource Section 28 created by the charity LGBT+ History Month and/or the relevant information from the BBC Three article Section 28: What was it and how did it affect LGBT+ people? by Harvey Day. Please note that the second article includes a homophobic slur, so it is important that you preview it carefully and, if you share the article with your class, review your contract to ensure your classroom is a brave and reflective space where all students feel safe and valued. For additional support, please see our suggested Strategies for Addressing Racist and Dehumanising Language.
  • Once students have understood a bit about Section 28 and its history, share information about the protests triggered in response. You can find interviews with some of the activists who spoke out about the law in this Guardian article by Chris Godfrey: Section 28 protesters 30 years on: ‘We were arrested and put in a cell up by Big Ben’. There is also an engaging five minute interview with Booan Temple, one of the activists who gatecrashed BBC News, which you can watch on the BBC Stories Twitter account here (please note, it is also linked out to in BBC Three article Section 28: What was it and how did it affect LGBT+ people?).
  • Have students reflect on new understandings and draw connections between what they learned in the LGBTQ+ timeline activity using a teaching strategy like Connect, Extend Challenge.
  • The history of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign (LGSM) tells the story of solidarity between two oppressed groups. To teach students about the campaign, which was launched by the Lesbian and Gay community in support of workers in the miners’ strikes in 1984 and 1985, share relevant content about its history from the LGSM website and from Kate Kellaway’s article When miners and gay activists united: the real story of the film Pride (The Guardian). You might also choose to show students the thirty-minute documentary All Out! Dancing in Dulais.
  • Encourage students to consider how these two seemingly unconnected groups united and fought for each other’s rights, and the impact that solidarity can have.
  • This story of solidarity has also been captured in a feature film called Pride.

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Materials and Downloads

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