How 4 Inspiring Women Are Marking LGBTQ+ History Month
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Polly Shute was a board member of London Pride and has spent the last decade working on LGBTQ+ events. Last year she launched Out & Wild, the UK's first wellness festival designed specifically for queer and non-binary people.
“This year’s theme for LGBTQ+ History Month is ‘Behind the Lens’ to celebrate the contribution queer people have made to cinema and film. I’ll be heading to Cardiff to see Gateways Grind, a documentary about an iconic lesbian bar in London. Sandi Toksvig explores the history of the club from its original owner to its evolution as a safe space for women until the mid-80s. I will also be running the February edition of Southbank Surfing, London's biggest free regular meet-up for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people. It's a safe and welcoming space where people can meet and make new friends.
“I used to work in the museum and cultural sector, so I love the fact they really embrace LGBTQ+ history and Pride Month. I would recommend visiting Queer Britain in King’s Cross – the UK’s first museum dedicated to queer history – and the Tate Modern which is hosting this month. Greenwich National Maritime Museum has an all-day festival called Out at Sea on 24th February, while the British Museum has a year-round LGBTQ+ trail.
“It's important to remember LGBTQ+ history – both the good and the bad. It’s especially important for the younger generation to understand the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, both past and present. It's sad to see so many safe spaces and bars have sadly closed, especially post-Covid. In the 1980s there were over 200 bars for lesbians in the US, now there are fewer than 20. One charity to support this month is LGBT Switchboard, a helpline which has been supporting the community for years. Never underestimate how important it is to talk to someone, even in a digital world. Trans in the City also deserves a mention – the charity aims to promote transgender inclusion in business.”
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, otherwise known as Lady Phyll, is an LGBTQ+ equality activist who founded UK Black Pride in 2004. She is also executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust, a charity that campaigns for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people across the Commonwealth – supported by an ongoing partnership with Crystal Head Vodka.
“Throughout so much of history, LGBTQ+ people are not seen. And while the lives and contributions of white LGBTQ+ people are often ignored, the history of queer people of colour is even more invisible. So, I love Samra Habib's memoir We Have Always Been Here, which traces her life story as a queer Muslim woman and is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt like they are the only one. I also can't wait to get my hands on Queer Footprints by Dan Glass which is a guide to uncovering the fierce LGBTQ+ history of my home city: London. I also highly recommend the Busy Being Black podcast; in it, host Josh Rivers celebrates and explores how we live in the fullness of our queer Black lives. Then there’s The Log Books, another brilliant podcast series which explores the records of calls to the London LGBTQ+ Switchboard, dating back to the 1970s. It’s a deeply moving window into LGBTQ+ people's lives over the last 50 years.
“If you watch one thing this month, make it Tom Daley: Illegal To Be Me on BBC iPlayer. This insightful documentary shows why the Kaleidoscope Trust needs to keep supporting the work of brave activists across the world who are fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, often in extremely hostile countries. It also demonstrates the lasting legacy left behind by Britain imposing discriminatory laws on the countries it colonised.”
Lisa Harvey-Nebil is CEO of The Proud Trust, a charity that provides education, support and advocacy for LGBTQ+ young people and their communities.
“During LGBTQ+ History Month, I not only read, watch and listen to different things to further educate myself. I also try to shout about the life-changing work and priceless free educational resources we offer to all communities at The Proud Trust. My top recommendation this month is Heartstopper on Netflix which tells the story of two teenage boys who meet at secondary school and quickly discover their unlikely friendship is blossoming into an unexpected romance. The story encapsulates so much of what young people feel and fear, and it's told with striking sensitivity. It’s also a wholesome watch and the clever narrative amplifies the sweetness of the romance at the centre of the story.
“I would urge everyone to listen to Wendy Carlos’s album Switched-On Bach. Wendy, a trans woman, has been described as one of the most important figures in electronic music. In 1964, as a young music and physics graduate, Wendy met Robert Moog and contributed to the development of early Moog synthesisers. This award-winning 1968 album became the second classical album ever to go platinum in the US and made the Moog synthesiser internationally famous. After this, Wendy wrote remarkable film soundtracks for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.
“At The Proud Trust, we’ve just released our annual LGBTQ+ History Month pack. Each year I am wowed by the work not only of our team, but the ideas that stem from the LGBTQ+ young people we work with in our youth groups. It’s a free resource aimed at secondary-aged students but everyone can find something useful in there. We hope it will give all young people the knowledge to understand and embrace the rich diversity of the world they live in and, for some, the words to describe their own experiences.”
Hannah Lanfear is a project partner of Equal Measures, which aims to support marginalised people and those in the LGBTQ+ community who work in the drinks and hospitality industry.
“I recently watched the 2020 French film A Portrait of a Lady on Fire which really stayed with me. I was sceptical from the outset as period dramas don't really grab me, but the portrayal of this lesbian affair was so compelling, and I was gripped by the character played by Adèle Haenel who is very beautiful but doesn't adhere to femininity and those behaviours expected of women. I was completely transported and devastated by the ending.
“I’m planning on using my upcoming holiday to catch up on some iconic queer literature, so I'll be digging into Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. It has to have one of the greatest and most disturbing opening lines of any book, "I lost an arm on my last trip home." A line like that and I'm hooked right away. Butler had a fascinating life and I greatly admire her as a successful neuro-divergent author. She never discussed her sexuality, but close friends later described her as bisexual or lesbian. Her work explored gender, race and power; in Kindred she examines slavery from the viewpoint of a Black, modern-day author who is flung into the past to witness that horror first-hand.”
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