Here are two experiences of pieces that have influenced me at various stages in my life. Having re read and re watched both I think how we are influenced very much depends where we are in our lives. But the truly great works let us take different things from them at different times.

 

The well of loneliness:

The well of loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is a 1928 lesbian novel which was banned on publication and not released in Britain until 1949 after Hall’s death. It was given to me ten years ago when I was an acting student in London. During the first year of my degree I met a wonderful woman who has since become a very good friend; she introduced me to it. I was in a very open, creative place and I devoured the book. I could relate to certain parts of the story but mainly I was excited that these stories existed, they certainly didn’t sell books like this in WHSmiths in Llanelli!

Several years later I became part of a book club with a different group of friends and we each took turn to recommend an influential book. This was my choice. I proudly shared the book and eagerly awaited everyone’s response. Naively at the time I expected everyone to be as instantly won over and inspired as I was. However the reality was they all hated it. They tore it apart labelling it depressing and too long. I was distraught. I opened a bottle of wine and spent a long evening passionately debating with them. I re read it again a few years later with many more years of life experience behind me and I could see their points more objectively. It is a long book, it is descriptive and it certainly isn’t a happy story but in my opinion it is a piece of beautiful and brave literature. It’s an honest story and it inspired me at an important time in my life.

 

Angels in America:

Angels in America is a play by Tony Kushner which was made in to a film starring Meryl Streep, Al Pacino and Emma Thompson (among many other fantastic actors) in 2003. It’s set in 1985 and centres around several characters connected by the Aids epidemic. Both the play and film are split into two chapters and in total, it takes seven hours to watch. I have sat through the film many times and several years ago watched the play in London. It requires an open mind, stamina and lots of snacks. The National Theatre are currently working on a production that in a few months will be screened to hundreds of cinemas across the country.

In keeping with my wanting to share plays, books, films that have influenced me I bought the film for my wife a few years ago but made the mistake of telling her it’s seven hours long. We haven’t got round to it yet. I’m trying to find a fine balance between highly recommending she watch it and not putting too much pressure on it so that it becomes a chore! I have however bought us tickets for the National Theatre screening in July so she has a short window before I force her into a seven hour evening! Again, if you have the time I would recommend it. It truly is a fantastic piece of work.

 

Lyndsey Fouracre-Reynolds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 27th, 2017

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Catherine Fletcher reflects on reading Gary Ferguson’s new book Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome: Sexuality, Identity and Community in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2016).

 

 

Although it isn’t the main focus of my research, over the years I’ve taught a number of classes on sexuality in early modern Europe. One of the most challenging issues for students is getting to grips with the idea that sexual identities five hundred years ago didn’t necessarily follow the patterns or labels we know today, and that the idea of a ‘homosexual’ type of person arose only in the nineteenth century.

 

The prevalence of ‘gay gene’ arguments in the past twenty years, and the dominance of the idea that LGBT people are ‘born not made’ – which indeed reflects the experience of many, but not all, people who define as LGBT – are a challenge when it comes to engaging with the rather different attitudes towards sexual identity that prevailed in the European past.

 

It is fairly well-established that quite a lot of men in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy had sex with other men without having a ‘homosexual’ identity. It was a stage in a lifecycle where men typically married in their late 30s or 40s (to much younger women) and where young women’s sexuality was subject to close control. Ferguson’s contribution, in his new book on Same Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome, is to suggest that for some men, however, ‘a permanent homosexual desire was a defining characteristic, not only of their sexual life but also of their life more generally’.

 

He makes this case with a small-scale study of a tragic event that took place in Rome in 1578. It involved a group of mainly Spanish men who had gathered at the church of San Giovanni in Porta Latina, as they often did, to have sex with other men. On 20 July that year they had planned a wedding and accompanying feast for two of their number. The wedding did not go ahead (one of the grooms was ill). Worse was to come: the authorities got wind of the plans, and eleven of the men were arrested. They were interrogated and tortured, and eight of them were burnt at the stake.

 

We know about this story because, in 1581, the French essayist Michel Montaigne heard it, and recorded it in his travel journal. Ferguson adds to this account details from the men’s trial (which survives in part; it was apparently burnt with them), from their wills and from other correspondence written by people in Rome at the time. The details of what happened on the day itself remain sketchy, but the men’s testimony raises fascinating questions about how sexual identity was understood in this period. This is not only the case as regards the extent to which sexual identity might be central to an individual’s sense of self, but also in terms of sexual practice. Most scholarship to date has argued that sexual roles in same-sex relationships in this period were typically fixed with one active and one passive partner, but at least some of this Roman community were versatile and switched roles within their partnerships.

 

This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of same-sex relationships.

 

 

Catherine Fletcher is Associate Professor in History and Heritage at Swansea University. Her full review of Gary Ferguson’s book will be up at H-Net Reviews shortly.

 

February 27th, 2017

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Review of the Pride and Prejudice LGBT+ Symposium

Last week the Network held our first LGBT+ symposium titled ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which was a celebration of LGBT+ people in history, literature, the media and politics.  The event included a diverse range of keynote speakers from the LGBT+ community, as well as researchers and academics, each providing an insight into the varied and valuable history of LGBT+ people.

Director of Student Services Kevin Child opened the day with a passionate address on the importance of celebrating LGBT+ history, and highlighting the great work that is currently going on in the Swansea area.

The talks of the day were structured into four themed sessions: ‘We’re Here, We’re Queer’, ‘Talking Trans*’, ‘Ups and Downs’, and ‘Making History Today’. Each session contained an engaging mix of academic papers and talks from LGBT+ people sharing their own personal stories.

The Staff Network co-chairs were proud to participate alongside such great speakers; Alys provided the keynote speech setting the scene at the start of the day, exploring issues of LGBT+ identity and shared history, and Cath provided an engaging talk on fanzines and self-publishing as a means of doing queer activism. The Network interim vice-chair Eve Moriarty also contributed a fascinating paper that explored drag and gender fluidity.

In the afternoon, journalism students from the university came to film the event as part of their documentary on LGBT activism in Swansea, and the Network co-chairs were interviewed on topics including inclusivity at the university.

Towards the end of the day, a panel discussion was held on the importance of recognising and celebrating LGBT+ history, featuring a range of experiences from across the LGBT spectrum. The panel discussion was followed by an open floor Q&A session, which featured great audience participation and an exploration of some challenging issues.

The event was closed by Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, who gave an enthusiastic speech on the importance of LGBT activism and expressing pride at the achievements of Swansea University over the last two years in this area. Hilary also shared the exciting news that today the rainbow flag was successfully raised on the flagpole over Swansea University for the first time, demonstrating a clear and visible commitment to LGBT issues. The flag will stay up for the duration of LGBT History Month.

The symposium provided attendees with some unique and interesting personal stories, new perspectives on the issues, and some actionable ideas on how to progress LGBT+ equality in the future.

 

By Cath Elms

Co-Chair, LGBT+ Staff Network

 

Cath’s previous posts:

Straight Until Proven Queer

On Being an Imperfect Role Model

Ada Lovelace’s Poetical Science

 

February 27th, 2017

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Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule/Desert Hearts dir. Donna Deitch.

Desert of the Heart is a classic novel by Jane Rule which explores the lives of women in America in the 1960ss. Set against the backdrop of the Nevada Desert and exploring life in the 1950s when women’s lives were very much restricted, it explores the relationship between an English Professor and a young woman living on a ranch in Reno, and provides an explicit account of emergent lesbian love and its challenges. Rule evokes a vivid and detailed world in which the attraction between two women, as problematic as it is, signifies life, energy, and vitality.

The 1985 film inspired by the book, Desert Hearts, directed by Donna Deitch, is as transgressive and thought provoking as the book, but for different reasons. It is the first lesbian film of its type which presents both the angst of lesbian life and love and a potential happy ending, unlike its predecessors such as The Killing of Sister George and The Children’s Hour. It was also the very first lesbian film I ever saw.

I was 19 years old, at my first ever ‘grown-up’ lesbian party, in a house actually owned by a lesbian couple. Everything was new. I knew nothing of how gay people could live together, and had come to my awareness of my sexuality in my own ‘desert of the heart’ with no idea of what it meant to be attracted to my own sex. I remember the room was full of women, of various ages, styles and sizes, and I was on a date with a woman I had been attracted to for months. I settled down in front of the sofa, on the floor, to watch the film, which everyone else had seen many times, and it was only during the hotel room scene that I realised they were all watching me, and my reactions, rather than the film!

The film and book are radically different in many ways, and in particular, the relationship between Cay/Ann and the stepmother Frances differs strongly. However, the narratives resonate powerfully for me and for many people I have talked to because of the issue of the close relationship between a mother and her daughter/stepdaughter and the issues with that daughter developing a close bond with another woman. This raises some interesting questions about the nature of women’s intimate and close relationships and for this reason the book is very much on my recommended reading list for friends and the film remains one of my favourites. The book in particular speaks strongly to me of the tension between family and romantic love, and in particular, the loss that many LGBT+ people have faced, having to choose between their family and their identity, when family cannot accept their gender or sexuality. To lose the support and love of your birth family is tragic, but for many it is simply a fact of their life.

In the wider context of LGBT+ history, both the book and the film are products of their time, but still relevant now. Many women did not (and still do not) identify an attraction to women until later in their lives, often after marrying and having children. This may indeed be the same for people of all genders, and it makes me reflect on the ways in which we are ‘channelled’ towards certain expectations and choices in life. Our collective history certainly shows that regardless of the social, political and legal conditions in which our lives take place, we still fight for the freedom to live and love honestly and without oppression. This is more apparent than ever in today’s changing global and political landscape. The value of works such as these lies in their ability to ground us both in the past and in the reaffirmation of our commitment to a better future, for all.

February 8th, 2017

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As part of LGBT History month the library here at Swansea University have put together a reading list of books, DVDS and journals on LGBT related themes.
Most of these are available at Singleton Park library but students can always request that items are brought to the Bay Library or Miners’ Library. They have also written a blog post to advertise the list at:

http://issnews.swan.ac.uk/?p=3105 (English version)

http://issnews.swan.ac.uk/?p=3112 (Welsh version)

The reading list is here:

http://ifindreading.swan.ac.uk/widget/?course=LGBT

We here at the network are delighted to see the Library respond in this way to LGBT History Month.

And if that isn’t enough, there will be more discussions of LGBT+ fiction and films on this blog throughout the month.

February 7th, 2017

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It has been an amazing weekend basking in the glory of our Award win, but here is the current line-up for our Symposium on 15 February (updated on 7 February).  It is going to be a great day, with lunch provided. You can still get tickets at

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pride-and-prejudice-an-lgbt-history-month-symposium-tickets-29639855606

9.00 Registration
9.30 Welcome and Introduction to the Day: Kevin Child, Director of Student Services, Swansea University
9.40 Keynote Address: Dr Alys Einion, Associate Professor, Author and Co-Chair LGBT+ Staff Network. Pride and Prejudice: The Past, the Present, the Future?
Session 1: We’re Here, We’re Queer Chair: Dr Alys Einion
10.15 Cath Camps and Catherine Emmett New Wave Queerness and the Academy
10.35 Cath Elms:
10.55 Dr Catherine Fletcher: Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome
11.15 BREAK
Session 2: Talking Trans* Chair: Cath Elms
11.30 Jenny-Anne Bishop: 12 Years of Sparkling in Swansea and Manchester
11.50 Glenn Miles: Vulnerability and Resilience of Transgender women in Cambodia and Thailand
12.10 Eve Elizabeth Moriarty: Born Naked: Drag, Gender Fluidity, Feminism and Me.
12.30 Dr Michele Raithby: Investigating Dignified and Inclusive Health and Social Care for Older Trans* People in Wales: The TrAC Project
12.50 LUNCH
Session 3 Ups and Downs Chair: Eve Moriarty
13.30 Andrew Davies (Unity Centre): We All Fall Down
13.50 Mark Lilly Auntie Hate: BBC Homophobia and its Evolution
14.10 Kirsti Bohata: Amy Dillwyn
14.30 Edith England and Josie Henley: The internet as a tool to reduce LGBT health inequalities: a partnership approach
14.50 BREAK
Session 4 Making History Today Chair: Dr Alys Einion
15.10 Mitchell Jones (Calon): Role Models and Staff LGBT Networks
15.30 Neil Harris: Surveying the landscape: dystopos, eutopos and the LGBT+ language learning experience
15.50 Panel Discussion: Making History Today Dr Alys Einion (Chair), Cath Elms, Neil Harris, Jenny-Anne Bishop, Mark Lilly, Dr Michele Raithby.
16.20 Closing Address: Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University
16.30 Close and Invitation to the Social (at Taliesin Arts Centre): Cath Elms and Alys Einion
 

19.30

 

Optional Film Screening at Taliesin Arts Centre (must be booked in advance) Visit

http://www.taliesinartscentre.co.uk/cinema.php?id=1458

February 6th, 2017

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#equalatwork

Well, this is a very easy blog post to write. Last night, I attended the Stonewall Cymru Workplace Equality Index Awards in Cardiff. It was a glittering event with many of the movers and shakers in equality in attendance. I was there with my co-chair of the Swansea University LGBT+ Staff Network, Cath Elms, and other members of the Equalities Team from Swansea University.

We were already aware that we had been awarded Highly Commended Staff Network of the Year at the National Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which meant we could add a special banner to our emails. We had also learned we had climbed five more places in the Workplace Equality Index, which makes Swansea University one of the top employers in Wales for LGBT+ equality.

Imagine our surprise as the host announced we had won the Stonewalll Cymru staff network of the year award!

We hurried up to receive it, completely shocked, and Cath and I quickly agreed who would speak, as everyone was giving acceptance speeches, just like the Oscars. I can’t even remember what I said now, but I know I made sure to thank the Equalities Team and the Network, and to emphasise how much Cath and I do to lead the Network with, as yet, very few resources. I know I concluded with saying that this award means we can now do more.

That is how we feel about it. We are delighted to have won, and in particular, I am very glad to see my co-chair get some recognition of her work and input (and I feel happy to have that recognition too). We both put a lot of our own time and energy into this and we ask for nothing more than the feeling that we are making the world a better place. We don’t do this for the glory, we do it because it matters, but it is very nice indeed to win an award and once again put Swansea University firmly on the map as an inclusive employer and a great place to work and study.

I also feel very proud of our Network and all that we achieve together.

It was a lovely evening. We just kept smiling and grinning and congratulating each other, and other people came up to congratulate us, and it was a shining moment in what are very dark times politically. I smiled all the way home.

It is just starting to sink in what this means for us, the Network, the University, and our future goals. It is something that will help us to share our message, involve more network members and Allies, and to do more and more to push forward equality for all.

So, thank you Stonewall Cymru, you have made us very happy.

We can do more. We will do more. We will make this world a better place, one step at a time.

 

By Dr Alys Einion, co-chair of the Swansea University LGBT+ Staff Network

 

February 4th, 2017

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Monsieur and Me: A Reflection on the Historical Novels of Sarah Waters

Many moons ago I worked voluntarily at an excellent (sadly now closed) lesbian lifestyle magazine called Velvet. I did marketing and PR, and one of my more beloved roles was to do book and film reviews. It was through this that I first became aware of the novelist, Sarah Waters, whose titles Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith and Affinity have all been adapted for television or film. Tipping the Velvet, her first novel, blew my mind, because it was both a very well researched historical novel and a narrative that spoke powerfully and eloquently about the love between two women. The deep, all-encompassing and life-changing passion that Nan feels for Kitty echoed my own feelings, experiences and desires, and perhaps it was that familiarity which endeared it to so many other readers.

Historical fiction is a very popular genre and yet it was not one I usually read. But Waters had me hooked from almost the first line. Her detailed, seamless literary style combined with such a wealth of contextual, historical detail that it seemed to me that she brought the Victorian world to life. And for the first time, it made me think about the LGBT* people who lived and loved and worked, and struggled and starved, and succeeded, in some cases, at that time. It made it seem entirely normal, and reasonable, that there were women dressing as men and loving each other. That Waters published her book as a mainstream book, not as lesbian genre fiction, was another significant dimension of my reading experience and her ongoing success.

And then there was Monsieur. The novels I had read outside of the lesbian fiction genre did not deal with lesbian sex in any real way. It was alluded to, it was cleverly circumvented so that there was a sex-shaped hole in many stories (even those mainstream thrillers written by the wonderful Val McDermid), but it seemed that Sarah Waters transgressed the final taboo. Monsieur, made of leather, not only featured uncompromisingly in her book, but also in the Andrew Davies/BBC three part adaptation. Yet another aspect of lesbian identity and behaviour made manifest in the ‘normal’ world. How wonderful. How disturbing. How strange.

Although the subsequent novels take a darker turn, exploring more psychological, supernatural and psychic dimensions of the lives of women, and are less sexually explicit, there is an ongoing allusion to the nature of lesbian sexuality which, for the queer reader, evokes a sense of familiarity. Here at last are the books that speak to us on an intimate level. They whisper “you see, I know you!”

What struck me, and still does, when reading these three different, and so cleverly crafted books, is not only her representation of the times and culture in which they took place, but Waters’ willingness to explore the ambiguities of lesbian identity and sexuality alongside a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that women are not always very nice to each other. I had read other Victorian fiction and yet here was an insight from a different perspective. A woman’s perspective but not just any woman. These women were different. They challenged me. And I love to be challenged.

Researching further, I found a link to her PhD Thesis: Wolfskins and togas : lesbian and gay historical fictions, 1870 to the present. Reading this opened my eyes to the nature of queer fiction throughout history, more so than my rudimentary understanding of Sappho, Wilde, Hall and others. What she has done, in this thesis and in her published fiction, is to open up a window into historical life viewed differently from the ‘malestream’ disciplines of both history and fiction, whilst adhering brilliantly to the conventional forms of the novel (and of the thesis, I might add). To see an academic, and a novelist, creating a niche for her work and achieving wide acclaim (just check her Widipedia entry to see how many awards she has won) whilst celebrating the history of queer people is both reassuring and pleasurable. As a novelist myself, I am in awe of her skill and craft, and as an avid and avowed bibliophile, I can only hope she continues to thrill us with more books in the future.

As for monsieur… if you don’t already know, then read the book! I could never describe him in any way that would come close to Sarah Waters.

Check out her work at http://www.sarahwaters.com/

By Dr Alys Einion,

Co-Chair, Swansea University Staff Network.

This blog series is coordinated by Dr Alys Einion of Swansea University and celebrates LGBT History Month 2017.

 

 

February 3rd, 2017

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Reflections on Jane Austen, Intersectionality, and the Global Reader,

I’ve been passionately in love with Elizabeth Bennett for decades. As the primary character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice she seemed to epitomise so many things that I found admirable, including a good helping of disrespect for certain social norms and the ability to reply with a witty comeback when someone disrespects her. But as with all of Austen’s books, I also struggle with the deeply ingrained heterosexuality and gender normativity of her work. I forgive her, and the books, because they are products of their time, but I still struggle with only seeing snapshots of myself, and my queer peers, within these pages. Not that I don’t recognise some classic characters and find it easy to transpose them onto ‘lesbians I have known (and loved)’.  I have known quite a few Ms Darcys, whose arrogance at their position in life, manifested in their perfect adherence to ‘dyke’ haircuts and fashion make them walk into the room like a Shane thinking they own it and every woman there. I have known a few Ms Wickhams too, and, in my turn, been burned by them.

But I, like many of my generation, I suspect, still struggle with the strictures of heterosexual culture which are so powerfully reproduced in these books, even though Jane Austen gives a clear message about the wrongness of limiting a woman’s prospects by her fortune, connections and marriageability. About 10 years ago, I read Maria Edgworth’s Belinda for the first time, and found in this a much stronger cultural critique, particularly of the ways in which women are expected to behave. Edgeworth presents us with characters who not only challenge gender norms in behaviour, but in dress, and has women dressing as men and engaging in masculine pursuits including duels, riding, shooting and flirtations with other women. This made me realise that many women of that time period were indeed fighting against the dominant cultural tropes which relegated them to decorative additions to the salon, defined them by their dowries and their ‘accomplishments’ and basically chained them to the home once they were married and had started producing children. Not only was Mary Wollstencraft advocating for women’s autonomy, liberation and respect, but writers like Edgeworth were arguing that women had equality in every aspect of life. Belinda, her main character, evidences the intellectual capacity of a philosopher, a thinker, someone with high intelligence and insight, at a time when the dominant culture proposed that women’s brains were smaller and their limitation to the home sphere was for their own good, based on their physical and cognitive limitations.

Despite being madly in love with Elizabeth Bennett, and you know love is blind, I did, in my 20s and 30s, finally realise the limitations to these books that I know and love so well. They are products not only of their time but of a classist and ethnocentric system which totally overlooks and disenfranchises any woman not of a particular social class or racial background. Austen perhaps cannot be blamed for her limitations. But her representation of lower classes, of ‘gypsies’ and of anyone other than the families of ‘gentlemen’ is at best negligent. As my understanding not only of white privilege but of the vast complexity of our intersectional world, my love affair with Austen faded somewhat. I realised that the books and literature represented most in school, in University, and in adaptations for film and television repeated these biased tropes. Despite how much I love these stories, they have to be viewed as what they are, a very limited and restricted sample of life for a very small number of people at a particular point in time. Far from just failing to represent women, lesbians or gender in sufficient complexity, they fail to represent the bulk of social life.

What can we learn from this, for considering our LGBT history? Perhaps the main lesson is to develop our awareness, to deliberately step aside and consider things from different perspectives. To reach and to read outside our comfort zones. To look for literature that represents a variety of experiences and points of view. To deliberately challenge our own position and to search for and read things that go beyond our own perspectives. To engage in intersectionality in our reading, and in our consumption of films and television. To see ourselves as what we are, singular citizens of a tiny country (I speak from a UK perspective here) whose view on the world may be skewed by our lack of perspective and our lack of exposure. And to lobby for better recognition of the vast body of literature and art that represents the true diversity of the world. This year, finally, women (and men) of colour are finally being better represented in the vastly inflated world of the film industry, and works are emerging which set out to redress the balance in many ways. Over time, I have seen wider diversity in the books winning the huge literary prizes. But we should not be just looking at prizewinners. We should be looking beyond, to seek out representations of life, sexuality, gender, personhood, which show us as global citizens and to find, consume, and if necessary, produce, those books and stories which represent our past and our present so that others can learn too. If history has failed us, we can take back our history and make visible all that has been overlooked. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to each other.

By Dr Alys Einion,

Co-Chair, Swansea University Staff Network.

This blog series is coordinated by Dr Alys Einion of Swansea University and celebrates LGBT History Month 2017. To contribute, please email lgbtplus@swansea.ac.uk

February 2nd, 2017

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LGBT HISTORY MONTH BLOG SERIES: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Why our lives matter: Introducing LGBT History Month

You may ask yourself, why do LGBT+ people get to have their own month of celebrating their history? Why on earth are they making such a fuss? Well, to misquote a famous historian I saw on television just this week, it is because history has been told by the conquerors, and it is full of lies, half-truths and vast, vast omissions. LGBT+ people have largely been absent from the history books, relegated to the margins, dismissed or overlooked, or even deliberately erased from the pages of time, because we did not fit in with the dominant social and political norms and with the agendas of the historians. Just as women’s history has been overshadowed and disregarded by a largely heteropatriarchal society which afforded recognition only to the chosen few, in which knowledge was guarded by institutions such as the Church and the first Universities (remember, it wasn’t until the late 18th and early 20th Century that women were really accepted onto university courses, and it was some time until many were allowed to gain the degrees they had earned through their own merit – see http://herstoria.com/womens-access-to-higher-education-an-overview-1860-1948/ ), so the history of LGBT+ people has been erased, hidden or overwritten, leaving us with slim pickings. Similarly, the literature, art and other works of LGBT people have been marginalised, or else their nature as LGBT+ people has been hidden. Just as famous women writers of the 19th Century were forced to submit their work under male pseudonyms to get published, queer artists, writers, scientists and activists have been either forced to hide their status or have had it stripped from them. The famous Ladies of Llangollen, for example, who both ran away from arranged marriages in Ireland to live in Wales together, still get described as companions and many sources vehemently deny that they were lovers. There are notorious exceptions, such as Oscar Wilde and Radclyffe Hall, but these remain the exception rather than the rule and can hardly be expected to represent the wide diversity of queer culture, expression and identity.

LGBT+ people and their work have been largely absent from the history books and from the education taught in schools and, sadly, in Universities. It has only been recently that such famous individuals as Alan Turing were celebrated instead of vilified. The fact that I am typing this blog on a computer, and you are reading it ‘online’ is partly because of him. When I studied literature, many moons ago, there were no queer writers included in the curricula I studied. Even in my own role, currently, sexuality, gender and queer studies is limited to a few brief sessions due to the demands of the curriculum, though I, like many other academics, am working to redress the balance.

We need our history to understand ourselves in context. We need to know who we are in relation to the lives of those who have come before us, who have helped to create a place in the world for us. The film Pride, dramatizing a key moment in British social history, reminds us that we were and are a part of life, of social activism, and that even while we were getting beaten and killed and ostracised, and being thrown out of our homes and disowned by our parents, we were still working to make the world a better place for ourselves and our communities. We were producing amazing works of literature and art, breaking new ground in science and knowledge, and transgressing every social law in order to create a world in which we could breathe freely.

Why does it matter? Because we are a part of history. History is being made, right now. And we can learn from history. We can be inspired, we can be warned, we can be strengthened. We can find ourselves, see ourselves reflected in those who came before us. We can build a world in which inclusion is the norm. We can own our history, and, where necessary, stand up and say Never Again. As one of the placards on the recent Women’s Marches and political protests marches reads, “History is Watching.” So I ask you – how do you want to be remembered? How will you go down in history?

 

By Dr Alys Einion,

Co-Chair, Swansea University Staff Network.

This blog series is coordinated by Dr Alys Einion of Swansea University and celebrates LGBT History Month 2017. To contribute, please email lgbtplus@swansea.ac.uk

 

 

 

February 1st, 2017

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