During February the LGBT community will celebrate its history. Jack Harwell explains the importance of the occasion
February has started and so up and down the country there will be events celebrating and marking this year’s LGBT History Month.
In London the festivities kick off tonight with a reception organised by the Unite London & Eastern Region LGBT committee at 6.30pm at its headquarters the Ron Todd House.
The reception titled Then & Now: the Future will be remembering the persecution those who identified as different — in particular we will be remembering Alan Turing who contributed crucially to the defeat of fascism and was hounded by the Establishment because of his sexuality and subsequently committed suicide.
Many others faced the same fate as at that time homosexuality was criminalised.
Following many years of campaigning by such bodies as LGBT Labour (Labour Campaign for Lesbian & Gay Rights as it was known until 2005) progress was made with decriminalisation and later the equality gains for LGBT people made under the Labour government of 1997–2010.
One of the campaign’s leading figures was Dr Peter Purton who will present a historical overview from Alan Turing’s persecution to where we are now in the struggle for LGBT rights.
Also included will be a presentation by Angela Eagle MP, followed by one on the future for LGBT rights and liberation by young activist and academic Theo Gordon.
The evening will be complimented by music provided by new London queer scene DJ Twang, who has played in the popular LGBT venues of London such as Dalston Superstore and the infamous club Kaos.
This year is an important one for LGBT workers and communities as they struggle under Tory-led coalition government’s austerity policies.
Although we have made gains, for the progress to continue there needs to be an eye kept on May 7.
There needs to be recognition of our history and an increase of a political understanding within our community of the importance of the labour movement, its role in winning for LGBT rights and solidarity with the oppressed.
That is why on the February 23 the Southern & Eastern Region TUC (Sertuc) LGBT Network together with Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners are holding an event, at Congress House, to mark the unveiling of an art piece by young queer artist James Cabaniuk on his interpretation of the contribution and meaning of LGSM work during the miners’ Strike of 1984-1985.
LGSM cofounder Mike Jackson and Sertuc LGBT Network secretary David Sharkey will both talk at the event hosted by me, Jack Harwell (AKA The Cum Sentinel).
I have hosted various LGBTQ nights around London and like many young people living in London on an insecure income I am facing the challenges resulting from the current economic policies including housing.
I believe that the LGBT History Month is intended to counteract the fact that the history recorded is overwhelmingly white-centric and heterosexist and cissexist (cissexism is the assumption the default gender identity is cis, ie not trans). Both heterosexism and cissexism have the effect of erasing the existence of diverse identity, or marginalising LGBT people.
Here I need to mention Marsha P Johnson (1944-1992) a black New Yorker who was trans. When police raided the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and made unwarranted arrests of LGBT people, Marsha was one of the drag queens who rallied the community together to confront the police in the famous Stonewall riots.
The effect of these riots was monumental — they are seen as the beginning of the gay liberation movement. The first gay pride march in New York was held on the first anniversary of Stonewall, in 1970. Marsha went on to found Star — Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries — which sought to provide shelter, food and clothing for homeless LGBT youth in New York.
Marsha raised money by walking the streets as a sex worker so that the younger people in her care wouldn’t have to. She later went on to become a muse of Andy Warhol.
In 1992 her body was found floating in the Hudson river. The police ruled her death as suicide, however, her friends and supporters disputed this. She had been harassed previously near to where her body was found. The case was closed, but was reopened in 2012 for review.
Celebrate February by taking interest in histories which are side-lined, forgotten, erased. This is still a white, cisheterosexist world. Never forget that.
n Jack Harwell (The Cum Sentinel) will be hosting & introducing Then & Now: the Future evening at Ron Todd House, 33-37 Moreland St, London EC1 — all welcome. Sertuc LGBT Network and LGSM — Solidarity event will be held on February 23 at 6:30pm at TUC Congress House, Great Russell St, London WC1.