For the archives: York LGBT History Month 2015

Andy Law2015, Articles, Events0 Comments

As we start looking forward to York LGBT History Month 2016, it’s time to archive and immortalise this year’s campaign. Below you’ll find photos from the launch night, my opening speech, the programme and all the updates and additions. We’ll hopefully publish memory-inducing artefacts from other events in due course!

But first, some preamble! So, last year at York St John University I had this idea to collaborate with York LGBT Forum on LGBT History Month. We invited them to a meeting, then thought “why not invite everyone else too?”. So we did. Within three weeks, we had spearheaded a programme of twenty events from ten different organisers (individuals, groups and organisations) and put them all together in a professionally-designed programme.

Fast-forward to January this year and York LGBT History Month had become an independent organisation led by four individuals. With sponsorship from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the University of York and York St John University, plus a grant from the York Pride LGBT Community Pot, we brought together a programme of thirty events from twenty different organisers. A further five were added after the deadline. Sponsorship enabled us to distribute posters and flyers across the city, make programmes available at two central locations and hold a launch night. In tandem with the big increase in events, the variety was much greater this year. I tried to get along to as many events as I could and found a different audience at each one, so we really managed to spread the campaign far and wide. Excluding multi-day events (like displays and the exhibition) and the Football V Homophobia match, we had on average over 35 people at each event.

We also had a great amount of press coverage:


The launch

York LGBT History Month 2015 started in style with an exciting evening featuring:

  • live music from Barcode Zebra;
  • a taster of local artist Nathan Chenery‘s Queerness is Forming exhibition;
  • speeches from City of York Council’s Diversity Champion Cllr Fiona Fitzpatrick, me and national LGBT History Month committee member and National Festival of LGBT History Coordinator Dr Jeff Evans;
  • a quiz hosted by YSJ LGBT+ (York St John University’s student group) President Karl Wojdylewicz and Dr Nikki Spalding;
  • two short films – Falling in Love with Gay Abandon (embedded below) made by York St John University LGBT Staff Network Chair Dr Fiona Thompson and Screen Yorkshire’s award-winning Private Life

The event was attended by local councillors, LGBT groups, event organisers, supporters and members of the public. Below is a copy of my speech and a selection of photos from the event.

Opening speech (Andy Law, Lead Coordinator)

It’s fantastic to see so many people here from across the community. We’re really proud of the programme of events the people of York have put together to mark LGBT History Month 2015. We’re really proud of the city as a whole for its contribution and drive to make this year’s programme broader and more diverse than last year. We have events touching on faith, politics and the workplace and a much more significant presence of trans voices.

We’d like to offer our thanks to our supporters – Joseph Rowntree Foundation, University of York, York St John University and York Pride – who have made the publicity campaign and this launch night possible. We’d also like to thank the designer, Vlad Kuzmin, who did a fantastic job of bringing the rainbow out in our materials, the fantastic technical team – Hugo Glenwright and Tristan Clarke of Rack Mount Records – who’ve been working hard all day to make this happen, and, of course, all the event organisers who made the programme what it is. I’d also personally like to thank the fantastic team who have helped push the campaign to the next level.

One of our coordinators, Kit, has been working hard on a school outreach initiative. Volunteers will deliver sessions on LGBT history within the framework of existing curricula, reinforcing the principle of inclusion at a key developmental stage. The first trial will be taking place later in the year, and hopefully across a number of schools come February 2016. Kit will also be giving a talk on love between men in early modern England.

Philip, another coordinator, will be delivering a talk on gender and sexuality in the first world war and, alongside drag queen Queenie Buffay, he will facilitate a roadshow that invites the public to share their LGBT-related objects, documents and stories. This will hopefully mark the start to a number of LGBT archive projects in the city.

Another coordinator, Trudi, is bringing a billing of eight great acts for our official closing event, a spoken word and poetry night called ‘Do Us Proud’. This will include multiple-slam-winning trans lesbian AJ McKenna, Dominic Berry, who’s touring nationally, and a number of published and local poets.

We’ve been receiving lots of positive feedback, and a few constructive comments – we’ll be holding a feedback session after the month, so please do come along.

Why mark LGBT History Month?

    • To help LGBT people identify with the narratives they are presented.
    • To normalise LGBT identities and get away from a scenario in which they are seen as alternative and deviant from the default, and instead as equally valid ways of being.
    • To show that things can and do change, and that we constantly evolve, challenging the implicit idea that the present is perfect. In recent history, we’ve seen same-sex-marriage legalised in the UK and beyond and Selfridges announce a gender-neutral shopping campaign so that people can “dress without limitations or stereotypes”. However, we still have the spousal veto affecting married and civil-partnered trans people, and access to trans healthcare is a nightmare.
    • We mark LGBT history to move closer to the point at which you don’t have to come out as LGBT, by making such an identity entirely ordinary, and perhaps insignificant, uninteresting and unconscious – where our gender identity is just our identity and our definition of sexual orientation is not primarily grounded in gender or biological sex, and is as significant or insignificant as the preferences of our taste buds.
    • To get to the point where we don’t need organisations like our own championing LGBT narratives, York Pride championing acceptance and awareness and York LGBT Forum championing inclusion in everyday life, where it’s simply accepted that we are all normal in our differences and these differences are included as a matter of fact in everyday life.
    • Our work, as a York LGBT Forum officer said, is “to make our job redundant”.

There’s still much that we need to confine to history and we can advance this by recognising the struggles and achievements of the past, so tonight we’re reclaiming our past and celebrating the future.

Photos

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The programme

Updates and additions

New events and updates to existing events will be posted here. Print copies of the programme will soon be available from Explore York Library and Thomas’s Bar York, both on Museum Street.

Monday 2 February: Kiss Me/Kyss mig (2011)
For more information about the event, join the FemFilm York Facebook group, follow them on Twitter, or ask to be put on their mailing list by sending them an email at femfilmyork@gmail.com.

Thursday 5 February: Sexuality and Strasbourg: the UK and the European Court of Human Rights
Venue: V/045, Vanbrugh, University of York, YO10 5DD

Monday 9 February: Pride (2014) [new event] 19:45 (doors open 19:10) | P/X/001, Physics/Electronics Building, University of York, YO10 5DD

English-language film screening.

Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. The National Union of Mineworkers was reluctant to accept the group’s support due to the union’s public relations’ worries about being openly associated with a lesbian and gay group, so the activists instead decided to take their donations directly to Onllwyn, a small mining village in Wales, resulting in an alliance between the two communities. The alliance was unlike any seen before but was successful.

Organised by: York Student Cinema
Tickets: £3 on the door
More information: yorkstudentcinema.org

Saturday 14 February: Football V Homophobia match [new event] 15:00 | Bootham Crescent, Newborough Street, YO30 7AQ

York City’s home game against Tranmere Rovers will mark the club’s second annual Football v Homophobia match.

York City Football Club joins a number of other teams including Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, to actively tackle the issue of homophobia in football. The Minstermen will be using the Tranmere match to promote the message that football really is for everyone regardless of sexuality and discrimination of any form is not welcome in the game.

Organised by: York City Football Club
Tickets: free from York Pride (limited), or standard price from York City Football Club
More information: yorkcityfootballclub.co.uk/news/article/club-to-host-second-annual-football-v-homophobia-match-2236426.aspx

Monday 16 February: Scott Halliday: Protecting LBGT Asylum Seekers [new event] 19:30 | D/L/006, Derwent College, University of York, YO10 5DD

As part of University of York Amnesty International’s #SOSEurope campaign, together with Student Action for Refugees York. we present special guest speaker Scott Halliday, a legal representative and public speaker for ‘No Going Back’ – a non-profit organisation which aims to ensure to ensure liberty, equality and justice for LGBT asylum seekers in the UK.

Scott is a first-class law graduate from York and now, as an LGBT legal representative, works closely with people who are often in a desperately difficult situation and have endured years of abuse and violence.

Scott’s talk will be followed by a question and answer session.

Organised by: University of York Students’ Union
Tickets: not required
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/666894160088635/

Wednesday 18 February: Language, gender and sexuality talk
Revised title: ‘Conflicted selves: language, religion and same-sex desire in Israel’

Abstract from the speaker: a central tenet of recent sociolinguistic theorising is the belief that individual subjectivity – and hence observed social and linguistic practice – results from the intersection of multiple potentially conflicting identifications (e.g. Cameron & Kulick 2003; Bucholtz & Hall 2005; Kulick 2005). In this talk I focus on the issue of identificational conflict and, in particular, how it gets materialised through language. My discussion is based on a case study of the intersection of sexuality and religion in Israel. Data are drawn from an interview I conducted with an informant I call Igal, a forty-year-old Orthodox Jewish man who is married, has children, and also engages in sexual and romantic relationships with other men. I focus in my discussion on Igal’s use of creaky voice throughout the interview. Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of topic-conditioned style shifting (e.g. Schilling-Estes 2004; Coupland 2007), I argue that Igal uses creaky voice as a way of negotiating the conflict between his sexual and religious identifications. More specifically, I propose that Igal uses creaky voice in order to adopt a particular deontic stance (Shoaps 2004) through which he reaffirms a commitment to Jewish laws and customs despite the transgression of these laws that his identification with same-sex desire represents. I argue that in doing so Igal is able to orient to both of his conflicting identifications simultaneously, and in effect construct what Halbertal and Koren (2006) term a ‘multidimensional understanding of self’. In the talk, I discuss the implications of this analysis for our understandings of the social meaning of creaky voice and of the relationship between language, stance and subjectivity more broadly.

Wednesday 18 February: Love between men in early modern England
Venue: BS/008, Berrick Saul Building, University of York, YO10 5DD

Wednesday 18 February: The politics of ‘Pride’: behind the scenes with Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners [new event] 18:00 | PT/006, Physics Building, University of York, YO10 5DD

Thirty years on from the strike that turned the country on its head, the film Pride tells the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) – the group founded by lesbian women and gay men for the purpose of assisting working-class communities in their struggle against the Conservative government. LGSM succeeded in building powerful links of solidarity between the nascent movement for LGBTQ liberation and the mining communities they supported.

Join YUSU LGBTQ, Halifax College and York LGBT History Month as we host Robert Kincaid and Dave Lewis, two of the activists from the original core group of LGSM, for a discussion of how closely the film relates to their experience. We’ll also hear their thoughts on the politics presented in the picture and the significance of the story’s place in LGBTQ history, followed by questions from the audience.

Organised by: University of York Students’ Union
Tickets: Not required
More information: facebook.com/events/428488600661332/

Thursday 19 February: Idols and icons
Tickets: Free from eventbrite.co.uk/e/idols-and-icons-tickets-15003608196

***postponed*** Thursday 19 February: Reading group ***postoned***
New date: Thursday 26 February

Saturday 21 February: Gender and sexuality during the first world war
Time: 14:00-15:00

Tuesday 24 February: The changing Church of England: developing attitudes towards LGBT+ issues and ministry with LGBT+ Christian youth
Venue: ATB/056, Seebohm Rowntree Building, University of York, YO10 5DD

Tuesday 24 February: The rise and fall of Polari – Britain’s gay language [new event] 19:00-20:00 | Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building, University of York, YO10 5DD

Polari was a secret form of language used mainly by gay men and lesbians in the UK in the 20th century. At a time when it was illegal to be gay, Polari allowed LGBT people to chat freely in public places, as well as letting them identify each other. Words like lallies (legs), omi-palone (gay man) and bona (good) were commonly used in private drinking clubs in the 1950s and 1960s as well as in the theatre. Polari was also a popular feature of the 1960s radio program Round the Horne. But by the 1980s Polari had ceased to be used. This talk discusses its rise and the reasons for its demise, and asks, will it ever come back?

Organised by: University of York Students’ Union
Tickets: Not required
More information: http://www.york.ac.uk/language/news/events/talks/special-lectures/baker/

Wednesday 25 February: The Well of Loneliness or the deaths of despair? An evening with Radclyffe Hall
Correct title: The Well of Loneliness or the depths of despair? An evening with Radclyffe Hall
Tickets: Free from eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-well-of-loneliness-or-the-deaths-of-despair-an-evening-with-radclyffe-hall-tickets-15003717523

***postponed*** Thursday 19 February: Reading group ***postoned***
New date: Thursday 26 February

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Andy is a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London researching queer and genderqueer speech. They established York LGBT History Month in 2014 while working at York St John University. They then developed it into an independent organisation, and served as Lead Coordinator from 2014 to 2016, which included overseeing its registration as a charity. They now remain vaguely involved from a distance. During their seven years in York, Andy also studied at both of York’s universities and served periods as secretary of York Pride and York LGBT Forum. They are also involved in the Everyday Cissexism campaign and write occasionally about trans, poly and other queer matters on their website/blog.

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