It’s February: the shortest month of the year and the last month of winter, reminding us that spring is just around the corner. So, a time for looking forwards. This year, February has also been a moment for looking backwards 100 years to 6th February 1918 and the Representation of the People Act, which gave women the right to vote to vote for the first time[1] – although it took another ten years before there was full equality.[2]

In recent years, February has also been marked as LGBT History Month.[3] Many people regard the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people as a modern phenomenon; the product of the more permissive society that emerged in the 1960s. LGBT History Month reminds us that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have a long history – as long, indeed, as the history of the human species – it’s just that in many places and for long periods of time, LGBT people have been forced to live their lives in hiding. Of course, that is still the case in many countries around the world today.

At the Brighton Museum, there are currently two exhibitions of British artists that remind us of this history. The paintings and sculpture of Glyn Philpot, who lived from 1884 to 1937, explore the artist’s life and his relationships.[4] The display of the life and work of Gluck, who was born Hannah Gluckstein in 1895, and who died in 1978, reveals how a Jewish lesbian became ‘a trailblazer of genderfluidity’ with her men’s clothing and short hair.[5]

Gluck died forty years ago, the same year that the rainbow flag was first adopted as a symbol of LGBT life.[6] The rainbow flag also reminds us that LGBT people are now and have always been people of all colours, ethnicities, cultures and religions. LGBT people are not a race apart, but rather, part of the glorious, rich fabric that is the human race. This LGBT History Month, may all of us, regardless of our sexuality or gender, celebrate the wondrous diversity of human existence.

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue