Feature image via lgbthistorymonth.co.uk
It’s almost that most wonderful time of the year — LGBT History Month! Yes, it’s time for that one glorious month where the world has to stop pretending that queer folk just poofed into existence one day in mid-1960s San Fransisco and accept that we’ve basically been around forever. Sorry, homophobes!
In the U.K., LGBT History Month has been celebrated in February since 2005. The big focus this year was meant to be on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales (fun fact: it took until 1980 and 1982 for decriminalisation to occur in Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively). However, the celebrations have been largely undercut by Schools OUT U.K., the organisation that runs LGBT History Month in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They made the decision to stand by an event featuring Julie Bindel – a writer notorious for her long-standing transphobia, biphobia and whorephobia – despite widespread outcry from the community.
It’s vital to call out, and keep calling out, exclusionary behaviour, and I understand and support anyone who chooses to boycott the entirety of LGBT History Month this year. However, the vast majority of events that fall under the LGBT History Month banner are organised independently by groups with no connection to Schools OUT U.K. or the organisation choosing to platform Bindel, which stand firmly against discrimination within the LGTBQ community. So, I wanted to highlight a few events being held around the country this February that celebrate the full diversity of the LGBTQ community and its history. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can take a look at the full calendar of events for Scotland and the rest of the U.K.. Let’s get started!
Queer Contact Festival
Date: February 10-18
Contact do fantastic work all year round supporting young creatives; this is their ninth year of running the Queer Contact festival, which celebrates LGBTQ arts and culture in Greater Manchester with a week of performances and events. Highlights include a double-bill of new trans performance presented by Trans Creative, and a specially re-staged version of Le Gateau Chocolat’s Black. You can find the full line-up on Contact’s website.
OUTing the Past: London
Date: Various dates
Since 2015, LGBT History Month has also encompassed the National Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History. This year, thirteen museums around England are involved in the festival, each hosting a series of short talks on a huge array of topics related to queer history. In London, five of the city’s biggest museums (the National Maritime Museum, the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum, the V&A and the British Museum) are participating; all events are free, though some are ticketed, and held between Tuesday, February 7th and Saturday, February 19th. The subjects covered include everything from the role of lesbians in the fight for women’s suffrage to trans representation and gender expression in rock music. As a recovering ancient historian, I’m particularly hyped for the talk on homosexual scenes on Greek pottery at the British Museum. But, y’know, that’s just me.
York’s LGBT History: Make Your Own Rainbow Plaque
Date: Saturday, February 18th
I grew up in York not all that long ago, and I spent most of that time feeling like the only queer woman in the city. I am absolutely thrilled, then, that York have been throwing some of the most extensive LGBT History Month celebrations in the country over the last few years. There are more than 50 events being held around town over February, including everything from talks on queerbaiting in pop culture to drop-in performance art. If you’re in the area, you should really check out the full programme. I’m highlighting York’s Alternative History’s Rainbow Plaque day here for two reasons: because everyone loves crafts, and because it’s exactly the kind of thing I needed to see as a lonely queer kid. Participants will be making their own rainbow plaques commemorating places of personal and political significance to the LGBTQ community and sticking them around the city. The event is free and unticketed, but you can let the organisers know you’ll be attending on Facebook.
The Queering Museums Podcast
Date: Monday, February 13th
While the UK lacks a dedicated LGBTQ museum (something campaigning group Pink Cabinets is aiming to fix), its museums and galleries are filled with LGBTQ folk and their allies who work to bring queer stories to cultural spaces. They’re going to be particularly busy this year, as a flurry of LGBTQ exhibitions and tours are being held around the country to commemorate the Sexual Offences Act. The Queering Museums initiative is highlighting the hard work of those archivists, curators and science communicators this LGBT History Month with a podcast series featuring them and their work. Spending their careers doing vital work in a field where LGBTQ history is still being dismissed as ‘amusing background detail’, I’m sure they’ll have some interesting stories to tell. The series will be launching on February 13th; you can listen on SoundCloud.
Somewhere Under the Rainbow
Date: Sunday, February 19th
Tubthumpers are a group of choral activists, a Brighton-based community choir for the progressive left that sing protest songs of ‘harmony, humanity & hope’. I don’t know about you, but that sounds hella gay to me. They’re commemorating LGBT History Month with a special singing workshop celebrating queer musical heritage, and they’re promising a few dance floor classics alongside ‘unsung heroes’. Personally, I think it’s worth going just for the chance you might end up part of a full choral arrangement of t.a.T.u’s ‘All the Things She Said’. The workshop’s accessible for all skill levels and tickets are available online at £20/£15 concession. You can find more information on the Brighton Tubthumpers Facebook page.
LGBT History Month Cabaret Presented by Dive, Luminate & LGBT Age
Date: Thursday, February 16th, 8pm
Now, if anyone knows how to throw a shindig, it’s queer performance party purveyors Dive. A few of the highlights of my years attending Dive cabarets include being buried in a room full of hamster bedding, spectacularly losing a vogue off while dressed as the ghost of a drag queen and ruining a set by Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby because I was too excited and kept yelling out the punchlines of all her jokes. I cannot guarantee that any of those will happen at this cabaret – which is probably a good thing, because I was still finding hamster bedding in my stuff six months later – but I can guarantee an interesting evening. For the past few months, Dive has been collaborating with Luminate and LGBT Age to showcase performances by older members of the LGBT community, and ten emerging older artists will be presenting personal and historical stories especially for LGBT History Month. Tickets don’t seem to be available yet, but you can find more information on the LGBT History Month Scotland website and you might want to keep an eye on the Dive Facebook page.
Who’s Queer Now?
Date: Saturday, February 25th, 11am – 4pm
Doctor Who might not be the first thing most people think of when you ask about queer television. However, the show has long been beloved by its queer fans and, since its return in 2005, Doctor Who and its spin-offs have remained quietly (or not so quietly, in some cases) dedicated to maintaining LGBTQ representation in its ever-rotating cast. If you count yourself among Doctor Who‘s queer fan base, you’ll probably be as thrilled as I was to hear about Who’s Queer Now, a day-long celebration of the connections between the Doctor Who franchise and the LGBTQ community over the last fifty years. Confirmed guest speakers include Gareth David-Lloyd, Bethany Black and a rare appearance by former showrunner Russell T Davies. You can purchase tickets through TicketSource and keep track of the event on its Facebook page.
Queer and the State
Date: Saturday, February 25th
As a community whose spaces, activities and expression have always been extensively policed, it’s impossible to discuss LGBTQ history without considering how it’s been shaped by conflict with the state. Last November, queer youth were invited by the National Archives and London Metropolitan Archives to take part in a creative workshop exploring the history of state targeting and surveillance of LGBTQ+ spaces. Now, two of the workshop’s organisers are joining Lancashire Archives to speak about the project; tickets are free, and available to book on Eventbrite