Sue Sanders is Emeritus Professor of Harvey Milk Institute, the Chair of Schools Out UK and LGBT+ History Month

What is your professional background?

I trained as a drama teacher, a personal counsellor and a therapist dealing with post-traumatic stress.Professionally I have taught in schools and teacher training colleges in both England and Australia. For a time in the 1970s, I worked in the theatre as a director and administrator. Later, I worked as a freelance management consultant and trainer specialising in equalities and diversity, as well as practising as a part-time personal counsellor. I am a published writer and public speaker.

As a volunteer, I have been a member of Independent Advisory groups to the criminal justice system for over 30 years, challenging and preventing hate crime was our focus.

 You are the Chair of School’s OUT and the founder of LGBT History month. What do these roles involve, and why is there a need to have an LGBT+ History Month?

As chair of Schools OUT I share responsibilities with the Chair of Trustees, for the day-to-day running of the charity. Schools OUT provides resources for people who are engaged in “educating out” prejudice and “usualising” LGBT+ people in all our diversity in schools and organisations. I fundraise and respond to requests for information and presentations.

We need LGBT+ History Month to educate everyone on the myriad of contributions LGBT+ people in all their diversity have made throughout history. We have been and are systematically erased and replaced with negative stereotypes. Societies have denied our significance by omission.

In order to fulfil their mandate, schools and colleges must ensure that all their pupils, whatever their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, ethnicity, physical or mental ability, religion, economic status, see themselves in the everyday curriculum. Otherwise they are denied their existence and negative stereotypes proliferate, devastatingly affecting us and encouraging prejudice and hate crime. When knowledge of our histories is proliferated, we recognise role models and are empowered to explore our true identities.

You are also a co-founder of Chrysalis. What is Chrysalis and what does it do?

Chrysalis was the training agency that I co-founded with Paul Patrick, a fellow teacher and activist, and one-time co-chair of Schools OUT, to work with both the voluntary sector and commercial sector. We helped them to improve their performance in dealing with their responsibilities regarding equality, diversity and anti-homophobic issues.

And you are Professor Emeritus of the Harvey Milk Institute. What does that role involve?

The honorary title was given to me at the request of Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk and founder of the institute, as recognition of my lifelong work tackling homophobia, visibilsing and usualising LGBT+ people in all our diversity and issues.

It can be argued that in the past years we have come a long way with LGBT rights and acceptance. What more needs to be done?

​As far as I can see we are in severe danger of losing much of what we have gained. The sustained attack by right-wing governments, press and organisations are focussed on eliminating LGBT+ people. The hate this engenders makes us all extremely vulnerable to crime and threatens our rights and access to medical care. At one point the UK topped the ILGA survey. It is now 17th on the list, which reflects the effects of the attacks. We clearly need to work together to challenge this world-wide campaign.

The UK government is currently ignoring the rise in LGBT+ hate crime and failed to support Hate Crime Awareness Week. It is changing the rules on reporting hate incidents, to make it more difficult, thus encouraging hate crime. LGBT+ people who are refugees and migrants are also in need of our support as they are systematically abused by the system. As a colonial power the UK exported homophobia to Commonwealth countries and provided a template in Section 28 for several European countries to legalise homophobia.We need to work with grass root activists from those countries to support their work to provide safety and human rights for LGBT+ people.


 On either a personal or a professional level what do you consider to be your proudest achievement?

I am most proud of founding UK LGBT+ History Month and now working with 20 other countries to support them on their LGBT+ HMs. It is a joy to see so many people up and down the UK ensuring that February is full of events.The creativity of our community is on show from conferences, flag flying, plays, films, quizzes and exhibitions etc. It is a particular thrill to see so many schools embracing the month and using it to explore the theme we offer and promote LGBT+ knowledge.

What is a typical day in the life of Sue Sanders?

As I work from home I help run the house and then work on my computers, consulting with my colleagues, dealing with social media, networking, sharing news and important information as well as ensuring our own media is promoted. Often I am preparing a presentation for a conference or an event. I have just come back from Hungary where I helped launch their 11th LGBT+ History Month. We are now looking to see how we can support Hungarian LGBT+ activists deal with the ongoing legal attacks on their human rights. Evenings are for chilling with my life partner or going to the theatre or dinner with friends.

It’s 2023. Where would you like the LGBT+ community to be in 2033?

Clearly we need to address the issues I have already outlined. I want to see massive positive changes across the world to enable the entire community to be safe and celebrated. I am excited that our young LGBT+ people are encouraging our community to become more diverse and all-embracing. Crucially we need to see education addressing sexual orientation and gender identities positively so that our young people do not suffer discrimination and prejudice.

Hopefully, 2023 will see some positive changes thanks to the hard work of many activists and charities who tirelessly work to both support LGBT+ people and educate out prejudice.