The UK’s only award to celebrate LGBTQ+ literature, Polari, marks its 10th birthday in 2020.
In this special anniversary year, the founder – author Paul Burston – praised the exceptional writing talent, diverse styles and subject matter on show in this year’s shortlists.
A visionary exploration of trans identity, a re-interpretation of the gothic novel and a graphic guide to LGBTQ+ cultural history all feature on the shortlists for this year’s Polari Prize and Polari First Book Prize.
The winning books from both shortlists will be announced at 5.00pm on Thursday, 15 October on YouTube. Tune in to The Polari Prize 2020.
The Polari First Book Prize 2020 shortlist are:
Queer Intentions: A Personal Journey through LGBTQ+ Culture by Amelia Abraham (Picador)
Life As A Unicorn – A Journey From Shame to Pride and Everything In Between by Amrou Al-Kadhi (Fourth Estate)
Tell Me I’m Forgiven: The Story of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney by Alison Child (Tollington)
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Penguin)
Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide – a graphic guide to lesbian and queer history 1950 – 2020 by Kate Charlesworth (Myriad Editions)
The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu (Dialogue Books)
The Polari Prize 2020 shortlisted books are:
Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas by Dustin Lance Black (John Murray)
In At The Deep End by Kate Davies (The Borough Press)
This Brutal House by Niven Govinden (Dialogue Books)
Blue Wallpaper by Robert Hamberger (Waterloo Press)
Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan (Harvill Secker)
Trans Power: Own Your Gender by Juno Roche (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
The official website of the award-winning LGBTQ+ literary salon is: https://www.polarisalon.com/
Never before published images of men in love between 1850 and 1950
Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell’s journey began in an antiques shop in Dallas when they discovered a photograph of two men, unmistakably in love.
Nini and Treadwell saw themselves in the two men in the photograph and were filled with so many questions about who they were. Neither of them expected that this photograph would become the first of a 2,800-image collection and that they would publish their own book, “LOVING — A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s.”
Nini and Treadwell would come to refer to this book as their “accidental collection.” Each year, as they travelled Europe, Canada and the United States, they combed through boxes of photos at flea markets and in antiques shops to find more photos of men in love. In the beginning, the collection was composed only of found photographs that they felt spoke to them. Eventually, they began to pursue them actively online, in estate sales and in family archives.
Nini and Treadwell wrote this about finding their first photo:
“Our collection began twenty years ago when we came across an old photo that we thought was one of a kind. The subjects in this vintage photo were two young men, embracing and gazing at one another — clearly in love. We looked at that photo, and it seemed to look back at us. And in that singular moment, it reflected us back to ourselves. These two young men, in front of a house, were embracing and looking at one another in a way that only two people in love would do. Dating sometime around 1920, the young men were dressed unremarkably; the setting was suburban and out in the open. The open expression of the love that they shared also revealed a moment of determination.
Taking such a photo, during a time when they would have been less understood than they would be today, was not without risk. We were intrigued that a photo like this could have survived into the twenty-first century. Who were they? And how did their snapshot end up at an antique shop in Dallas, Texas, bundled together with a stash of otherwise ordinary vintage photos?”
The two found their second photo through an online auction. It was tiny, the size of a thumbnail, and portrayed two young soldiers circa 1940. The gaze between the men was just like the one they saw in the first photograph they found. The words “Yours always” were etched in the small glass art deco frame around the photograph.
The earliest image in their collection dates to 1850, and the collection spans 100 years, including images from the Civil War and World War II. They come from all over the world and aren’t all traditional photographs — some are daguerreotypes, glass negatives, tintypes, cabinet cards, photo postcards and even photo strips.
Determining whether the men in the photographs were in love was not always easy, especially when acceptable displays of affection between men have changed so much through the years. Nini and Treadwell share in the book how they made the determination:
“When deciding whether or not to acquire a photo or snapshot, we have a rule that we follow. We call it the 50/50 rule: we have to believe that it’s at least 50% likely that we’re looking at two men who are romantically involved. There are few 50/50 images in our collection and none in our book. What determines whether or not we’ll acquire a photo can sometimes be an embrace that leaves no doubt that the relationship exceeds friendship or fondness. When possible, though, there is one sure way to determine if a photo is “loving.” We look into their eyes. There is an unmistakable look that two people have when they are in love. You can’t manufacture it. And if you’re experiencing it, you can’t hide it.
Finding these photographs is a rescue mission for Nini and Treadwell, and they see themselves as stewards of the once lost images. They haven’t shared their collection with anyone until now, mostly because they didn’t think anyone would want to see it. To their surprise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and often emotional.
The images have resonated with all ages, genders, and orientations, political or otherwise. Nini and Treadwell continue to collect images and hope to see their collection in a travelling exhibit or museum. They are considering a second volume that would include the hundreds of the military images they have acquired.
Reflecting on their collection in the book, Nini and Treadwell wrote, “Until this collection, we thought that the notion of us as a loving couple was ‘new.’ What we have learned from our collection is that we’re not new. We, and other couples like us, both male and female, are a continuation of a long line of loving couples who have probably existed since the beginning of time.”
“One of our earliest photos is a male couple making marital vows to one another. We have others that were taken later in the twentieth century. There is a playful, perhaps theatrical, spirit in this photo. Had it been discovered during the lives of its subjects they could have plausibly claimed to have been joking around. For us, however, there are too many points of sincerity: the deliberate placing of a ring on the other’s wedding finger, the ‘I declare’ posture of the officiate, the expressions of the two grooms, and finally, and most telling, posing under an umbrella. Our collection tells us that beginning sometime in the mid 1800s, and continuing into the 1920s, two men posing under an umbrella together was an outward declaration of love between the two men.”
Photos: Courtesy of the Nini-Treadwell Collection copyright “Loving” by 5 Continents Editions)
Age UK’s Content Team are working with the NHS on a project to help older people talk openly about their mental health – with loved ones and their GP. The Team would love to hear from older people from minority backgrounds (especially people of colour) about how lockdown has affected their mental health, how they’ve been feeling through lockdown and what they’ve found more difficult. The film will be used across Age UK’s social media channels and website to help strike up conversations about mental health.
What would they need to do?
We’re asking those who want to get involved to produce a short video (no longer than a minute) answering the question: “How has lockdown affected your mental health?”
They can just film it on their phone or ask someone to film it with them. We’re looking for a variety of honest experiences. It might be that they’ve struggled to get out of bed, felt isolated, left the washing up a few days longer than usual or they might have had thoughts of worthlessness or that their life has lost meaning. Sharing these experiences can help others talk about their feelings.
Please send any videos you can to: firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 16 October – thank you!
In a separate project we are looking for a few more participants for Mind Yer ‘Ed. You may recall previously that Jean, Pauline and Tony were interviewed about experiences during lockdown. For more info see here
If you are interested in being interviewed over the telephone for this project, please contact us.
Stephen Whittle has been at the heart of trans activism for half a century. He discusses the legal and political progress that has been made over the last few decades while the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent Libby Brooks examines why there was a backlash over the 2015 Gender Recognition Act, which proposed a further expansion of trans rights.
Understanding the fight over trans rights – Part 2
In September 2020 the equalities minister, Liz Truss, announced that some reforms to the Gender Recognition Act would go ahead, but one key aspect – allowing trans people to self-identify without a medical diagnosis – would not be adopted.The issue has divided ‘gender-critical’ feminists from those who are more trans inclusive. Is there a route to reconciliation?