LGBT Retirement Home … Derek Jacobi … Renee Richards

News

Britain’s first LGBT+ retirement village to open in Vauxhall at Norman Foster-designed Bankhouse

The scheme hopes to help older people who feel forced to go ‘back into the closet’ in conventional retirement homes.

Britain’s first retirement community for older LGBT+ people is to be created in Vauxhall.

Housing association Tonic said it would purchase 19 already built flats at the Lord Foster designed Bankhouse development next to the Thames using a £5.7 million loan from the Mayor.

The one and two bedroom apartments will be made available on a shared ownership basis from “late Spring” with residents moving in from mid-summer. The scheme will have a restaurant, a roof terrace and gardens.

The flats are not exclusively for LGBT+ people and straight couples who support the values of the gay community are also welcome to apply. However it is expected that the vast majority of the residents will be from an LGBT+ background.

Occupiers will be able to purchase shares of between 25 and 75 per cent and pay rent on the remaining portion.

They will be able to buy support and care packages depending on their needs.

‘Significant milestone’: Tonic Housing plans to purchase 19 flats in the riverside Bankhouse development

Deputy Mayor for housing Tom Copley said the scheme was a significant milestone because so many older LGBT+ people have been forced to go “back into the closet” in conventional retirement homes.

He said: “Many older people have grown up when society was a lot less accepting and to someone moving into a new community and you are not sure how accepting people will be towards you that can be quite intimidating.”

Tonic Housing’s chief executive Anna Kear said: “We are making history today, realising a long-held dream to provide a safe place for older LGBT+ people to live well, in a community where they can be themselves and enjoy their later life. We applaud the Mayor of London for recognising and supporting the needs of older LGBT+ Londoners.”

 

Derek Jacobi

Sir Derek George Jacobi CBE; born 22 October 1938 is an English actor and stage director.

A “forceful, commanding stage presence”, Jacobi has enjoyed a successful stage career, appearing in such stage productions as Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, and Oedipus the King.

“I knew I was gay very early on, although it wasn’t called gay back then. I knew that I wasn’t into girls in the way that I should be. I dated girls, and we sat in the back row of the cinema, and I did all that I was supposed to do, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I confessed to my mother while I was at university and she very typically and sweetly said: ‘All boys go through this stage.’

I was a loner for years, but I’ve been with my partner (Richard Clifford) for 43 years, which is quite an achievement. It remains a stable and loving relationship. It was another piece of luck in my life.”

 

Renee Richards’ journey from tennis outcast to trans pioneer

Renee Richards briefly broke into the top 20 of the women’s world rankings.

“I had death threats. I had people who hated me. People told me I was immoral.”

Transgender tennis player Renee Richards was already proving to be a divisive figure when the level of scrutiny surged.

Shortly before the 1977 US Open, the 42-year-old American won a legal battle to compete in the women’s events, leaving her at the centre of a polarising story which made headlines across the world.

“Everybody had a reaction. They were either for her or against her,” says Britain’s Sue Barker, who played against Richards twice in her career and remembers her being booed off court during one of the matches.

“I was a supporter of Renee, I was one of the few in a way.”

The dissent from the sport’s rule makers, which was backed by several leading players, centred on the belief the 6ft 1in Richards would dominate because of an unfair physical advantage over her rivals.

Others, even aside from those making the threats to her life, were less covert with their objections.

Wherever they were on the sliding scale of disapproval, their bottom line was Richards should not be allowed to play against the likes of Sue Barker, Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Richards, who was born in 1934, excelled in a range of sports, got married and started a family.

After graduating from Yale University, the affluent New Yorker trained to be an ophthalmologist, going on to specialise in eye-muscle surgery.

Combining a medical profession with an amateur tennis career, Richards reached the second round of the US Open men’s singles in 1955 and 1957.

“I had a very good and a very full life as Richard. But I had this other side of me which kept emerging,” Richards told the BBC in 2015.

Shaving her legs and wearing skirts while dog-walking allowed her to do what felt natural. But being born a man and living as a woman was not widely accepted in 1960s America, stigmatised and classified as a mental illness.

“I kept pushing back until finally it was not possible to submerge Renee anymore – and Renee won out,” she said.

In 1975, aged 40, she had gender reassignment surgery.

Initially, her plan was to move to California and start afresh in a place where nobody knew her.

But her previous identity was unveiled when she started playing amateur tennis tournaments, leading to a newspaper exposé, more headlines and an insistence from United States Tennis Association (USTA) officials that she could not compete in women’s tournaments.

“I never planned to play professionally as a woman. But when they said ‘you’re not going to be allowed to play’ that changed everything,” said Richards, who is now 86 and living out of the public eye in upstate New York.

“I told them ‘you can’t tell me what I can and can’t do’. I was a women and if I wanted to play in the US Open as a woman – I was going to do it.”

To armour their blockade of Richards, the USTA introduced a chromosome test for the women’s players before the 1976 US Open. Richards failed the tests and was barred from entering.

That led her down the legal route and culminated in a year long battle for the right to play. The odds were stacked against Richards.

“The USTA had the top lawyers in New York, they brought in witness after witness saying I should not be allowed to play,” she said.

“My lawyer Michael Rosen only had one witness for me.”

That witness proved pivotal. Billie Jean King, who had played doubles with Richards, was a powerful voice after her tireless campaigning for gender and sexual equality.

In an affidavit submitted to the New York State Supreme Court, 12-time individual Grand Slam champion King insisted Richards did “not enjoy physical superiority or strength so as to have an advantage over women competitors in the sport of tennis”.

The judge agreed. Eight days later, Richards was playing in the 1977 US Open.

‘People wondered if it would be a gamechanger’

Tennis had never seen anything like it. Not only did the women’s players now have to take chromosome tests, their preparations for the Grand Slam were disrupted by constant questioning about Richards’ participation in a fervent media storm.

The sport was broadly split into two camps: rejection and a fear she would dominate the game, or acceptance and a show of empathy.

“I was open minded,” said Barker, who used to hit with Richards on the practice courts, “but the ruling frightened a lot of people. They feared she would serve-volley the rest of us off the court and wondered if it would be a gamechanger for the sport.”

Reigning Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade played Richards in the first round but was untroubled in a straightforward victory.

Richards did reach the women’s doubles final alongside Betty Ann Stuart, although they were beaten by top seeds Navratilova and Betty Stove.

Richards’ best finish in women’s Grand Slam singles events was reaching the third round at the 1979 US Open.

Frostiness in the locker room thawed when it became apparent Richards would not offer too much threat. Or, as Richards put it, that she would not “take their money away”.

While she beat some notable names, and climbed into the world’s top 20, Richards lacked the athleticism and mobility of her younger rivals to topple Evert and Navratilova at the summit.

Richards retired aged 47 in 1981 and went on to coach Navratilova to three Grand Slam singles titles.

“It didn’t become the story which a lot of people thought it might become,” says Barker. “She just melted into the tour and didn’t dominate. She won matches and she lost matches. It didn’t alter the game as some predicted. But she achieved what she wanted to do, to play professionally as a woman and was welcomed by the vast majority.”

‘Confrontational’ crowd forced Richards off court and into tears

Hostility and suspicion eventually faded in the locker room, but Richards still faced obstruction and abuse.

She was barred from competing in many tournaments, including Wimbledon and the French Open, where rulebooks said only players whose biological sex was female could play in the women’s events.

This meant most of her appearances came in the United States, travelling around new cities and being made to feel like a circus act as she played in front of a new crowd.

Barker remembers playing Richards in the American’s early days on the women’s tour and says the atmosphere was “confrontational”.

“There were probably about 7,000 people there in this huge arena and she was not well-received by most, if not all, of the crowd,” says Barker. “It was just horrible. They were shouting things, booing every time she hit the ball and cheering every mistake.”

Despite Barker and the umpire trying to simmer the crowd, tournament officials eventually decided to take them off the court.

The pair were beckoned to a room underneath the stand. Richards started to cry.

“It was really sad and I felt so sorry for her. I told her she didn’t have to put herself through it,” remembers Barker. “Eventually we went back out but it was clear she wasn’t thinking about the tennis. I think she wanted to just get off the court. All she wanted to do was to play tennis.”

Occasionally Richards used to open up to her colleagues, many of whom were curious about her life.

There was a feeling the scrutiny – with Richards later saying she couldn’t “go anywhere in the world without being recognised” – caught her by surprise and took its toll.

“We all admired her courage after the emotional and difficult journey she had been through,” says Barker.

“She used to talk about the emotions she went through and often asked whether she was doing the right thing. I’m not sure she realised the impact it was going to have. I can’t think of another athlete who has had anywhere near that level of attention. It was an incredibly brave thing to do.”

After retiring in 1981, Richards started coaching Martina Navratilova and helped her win several Grand Slam titles.

LGBT podcasts … Film: The Year Without Pride? … Pride Interviews

News

As LGBT+ History Month comes to an end, there are still lots of untold stories … here is something special and unusual as Rachel Oliver travels back to some important dates in our Transgender history. Tune in to 1930s Berlin, 1950s Copenhagen, 1960s Los Angeles and 1990s Eurovision and many more … well worth a visit plus the music is awesome as always.

Listen here.

Tony Openshaw is dedicating a playlist to his fellow LGBT+ community members with some facts and figures you may not have heard.

Listen here

 

The Year Without Pride?

Running time: 37 minutes (It’s well worth watching all the film, but Out In The City is featured at 9 minutes 30 seconds in.)

The film The Year Without Pride? was produced by members of the LGBTQ+ community on their online filmmaking project, EDEN Shorts. EDEN stands for Equality, Diversity, Educate and Nurture.

The film looks at the ways people have managed to maintain and embrace the community in a year when physical and in-person contact wasn’t possible.

EDEN Shorts launched February 2020 in Sheffield via in-person filmmaking workshops, where 16 members of the LGBTQ+ community were set to produce a short film raising awareness on important LGBTQ+ issues. The group had attended five in-person workshops that covered areas of filmmaking – however, due to COVID-19 the project had to be postponed in the planning stage.

Given the circumstances EDEN Film Productions decided to adapt the project online. The project included interactive online filmmaking workshops, online planning sessions and group discussions. The participants of the project filmed interviews via Zoom with a variety of organisations and individuals discussing the impact of the pandemic on the LGBTQ+ community and the hopes for the future.

Pride Interviews

LGBT+ History Month is an annual month long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. The overall aim of LGBT+ History month is to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. This year’s LGBT+ History Month theme is Mind, Body and Soul: Claiming our past, celebrating our present and creating our future.

To tackle isolation amongst young LGBT+ people, Manchester Pride launched Youth Pride MCR as a new strand of Manchester Pride Festival in 2019. The first event of its kind in the UK, it provided a safe, supportive, fun and inclusive space for young LGBT+ people to express themselves, connect with others and find community.

To mark LGBT+ History Month, the Youth Pride MCR group wanted to learn more about the history of their community. This intergenerational, youth-led project aims to connect our community and to learn more about what life was like for LGBT+ people in years gone by.


Here we speak to Christine, 71 and Linda, 74 about the importance of Pride, Section 28, discovering community and finding love.

How did people react to you coming out?
Linda: I didn’t come out until I was 50. I was teaching in a university and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to more than a couple of people about it. Coming out made me feel brave. No one reacted negatively to it. People were celebratory and people recognised it as a brave step. I discovered a lot of allies and I joined the lesbian and gay chorus.

Christine: I was 40 odd, and I was a senior manager, so I just came out. Gay liberation and the fight against Section 28 was rife and so I just came out. I was 40, senior, confident and political. Some people’s reactions were ‘what took you so long?’ I had lived with a lesbian in a flat share for years so I was comfortable with understanding it. People took it in their stride. I didn’t tell my parents, I just lived my life and wouldn’t refer to my ‘girlfriend’ but would refer to them by name. But later I told my father, after my mother had died, and he said ‘as long as you’re happy’ which was very sweet. In a way my journey was towards gay identity, and I was a confident woman so I took it all in my stride.

Do you remember your first Pride celebration?
Linda: Yes, I cycled down into town and standing with my nose pressed against the barriers and thought it was fantastic and was such fun. It would have been one of the first Pride marches in Manchester – I remember going into the concerts and provocative cabaret acts that were brilliant. The atmosphere was so positive and creative. It was all around Canal Street and it was an opportunity for people to dress up and have fun!

Christine: My first Pride celebration that I attended was in Manchester, and it was relatively recently. Between 2010 and 2015 I was a volunteer with the Lesbian Immigration Support Group. Being at Pride is a very important thing for Lesbian Asylum Seekers. I went to Pride several times in those years. The atmosphere was a huge highlight, and the solidarity and the way in which in Manchester, because of the history of gay liberation, the wider population welcomes Pride.

How difficult was it to express yourself in society? Did you experience discrimination?
Linda: None really because I didn’t come out until I was 50. Being gay has given me a lot of confidence to go and do other things in my life. Overcoming the fear of prejudice has given me a lot of courage to do other things in my life and I’ve been much less frightened about speaking up.

Christine: It was 1979, I went up to Newcastle to work and I got involved with Lesbians In the Voluntary Sector – working in projects like women’s refuge and women’s health projects. At that time I didn’t identify as lesbian. But I became aware of lesbian culture. Then we jump forward to 1988 and people would say things to me like ‘If you were gay you’d be very comfortable.’ I personally had a sense of difference for years, but I attached it to what I was passionate about, ie being anti-sexist rather than a lesbian. I was busy earning my own living as a solo independent woman. I haven’t been victimised but I have been stereotyped.

When was the first time you saw yourself represented on TV?
Linda: Probably it was a novel I read, something about the Woodshed. It was a novel about women who didn’t come out easily and it made me feel really lucky, and privileged.

Christine: The stereotype was ‘The Killing of Sister George’ which is a renowned film. Set in 1968, in a famous club which details the stereotypes of butch and femme lesbians. The big gay deal was Michael Cashman in Corrie. I didn’t watch it but my parents did, but that was the emergence.

Have you found someone you love?
Christine: Yes I have found someone I love. I have never been married. I first met Linda back in the 1980’s and we became partners in 1995. I was working as a community worker in adult education and she came to give a workshop, ironically about ‘Community History’ – just like this interview! We are planning to get civil partnered. As a feminist I was very critical of the institution of marriage.

Linda: We’ve been together for 25 years, and it takes a while to figure out if you do want to get married. I met Christine because we were working on an oral history project, we had something professional in common and we both found each other doing challenging work that we were both interested in. It was about finding something we had in common. It took a long time for us to realise that we liked each other more than just professionally.

Section 28 was the first new anti-gay law in over 100 years. As a result nearly 20,000 people from all over the UK marched through Manchester in protest. Do you remember this?
Christine: Section 28 was a massive attack on Lesbians and Gay men. Margaret Thatcher used the term ‘pretend families’. I came down to the big Section 28 demo in Manchester from Newcastle, a big coach load of us came down.

Linda: I was leaning out of the window as a huge crowd passed the university, in the battle against it and the huge demonstrations against it. It was outrageous and I was angry about it.

 

The group also interviewed Pauline, 72, and Phil, 57 about coming out, their first Pride experiences and the importance of representation.

How difficult was it to express yourself in society? If you experienced discrimination, how did you deal with it?
Pauline: In the 60’s there was no internet, we existed but it was more difficult to connect. I went to an all boys school so who was I going to talk to about it. I started expressing myself as a trans person when I was 9. I felt I was the only person in the world who did it. I had zero education about LGBTQ+ information until college when I went and bought my own book about it. When I was a teenager it was still illegal to go out dressed as a woman if you were assigned male at birth. I only ever did it in private when no one was home. I had no one to talk to and buried this part of myself so deeply it took a long time to understand and accept who I was.

Phil: I had no concept of being gay, despite knowing what I was attracted to, so I was in my 40’s before I came to accept my sexuality. I didn’t exist to experience discrimination. I grew up in Cheshire, not a large city, so for me it wasn’t even an option. I think repression is a more fitting word.

How did people react to you coming out?
Pauline: I didn’t come out until 1997, when I was 50. I was married to a woman, when my wife found out by finding some women’s clothes that I’d been hiding. We subsequently divorced.

I then told my parents and they were fantastic, and supportive and were great about it. Both parents were very sympathetic about how I’d had to hide such a big part of myself. I do feel fortunate to not have been ostracised by my family.

Phil: I told my sister first. I took her to lunch and on the way I told her and she was fine and fairly supportive. I felt unable to tell my Dad and asked my sister to tell my mum. I told my best friend, who was initially supportive and said he didn’t care but afterward decided that he didn’t want to continue our friendship. Now, I feel like I am against the idea of ‘coming out’. Straight people don’t have to come out and I feel like it shines a spotlight on the fact that I’m ‘different’ when in fact I’m not.

When was the first time you saw yourself represented on TV?
Pauline: I don’t think I ever did, because in my head I wanted to be a woman, I didn’t want to be an impersonator like Lily Savage for example, I wanted to be a woman. If you’d told me at fifteen that you could wave a wand and I could have gone to a girls school and worn a dress, I’d have been ecstatic, but I didn’t have those things, it was a different world.

Phil: I don’t think I have, sorry.

Do you remember your first Pride celebration?
Pauline: The first one I went to was in Amsterdam in 2000, they were hosting the Gay Games. I remember watching a drag cabaret show with the host as a KLM air hostess, it was the height of summer and the weather was glorious.

Phil: My first Pride celebration was not long ago through work about 6 years ago going to Manchester Pride Festival and watching the Parade. I live in Cheshire so it was a big thing to make the decision and get a train ticket and come along. Watching the Parade was powerful and made me realise that I wanted to be walking in it – it wasn’t enough to be stood watching. The energy was infectious.

What question would you like to ask a younger LGBTQ+ person?
Pauline: Have you identified for yourself who you are and who you want to be?

Phil: How do you expect being gay to impact your career choices, and how you think your future employers will react to you being gay?

Ian is 72 and lives in Manchester. He spoke to the Youth Pride group about coming out in his 50s, the discrimination he has faced, meeting the love of his life and his first ever Manchester Pride Festival experience 20 years ago.

How did people react to you coming out? Were there any barriers for you to overcome?

I didn’t ‘come out’ until ‘99 so much later in life. I was 51. I used to work in the Civil Service and I came out there, and overwhelmingly they accepted it. My Chief Exec was also LGBTQ+ so they were in full support. I did experience discrimination from neighbours though.

How difficult was it to express yourself in society?
I came out to a church I used to belong to and that was where I experienced discrimination but not too much with wider society. We were told we weren’t allowed to have communion because we were gay – I argued the point and could tell that they weren’t interested in listening, so we left the church. I have found a new congregation in the United Reform Church.

When was the first time you saw yourself represented on TV?
Through the soaps – maybe some like Anthony Cotton in Coronation Street, from there onwards there were several.

Do you remember your first Pride celebration?
My first experience with Pride was at Manchester Pride Festival with my late partner Alan back in 2001. The Parade was a highlight with all of its colour, and back then it was only small, about 150 people and it was the first time we’d been to it. I also remember the Candlelit Vigil, and having a minute’s silence for those who’ve passed away.

Have you ever been married to someone you love?
Yes, we had a civil partnership in 2006 in Manchester. That was the closest we got to marriage. I was single until I met Alan, we met on 11 November 2000 and were introduced through a mutual friend and it was love at first sight. Alan passed away before gay marriage was legalised.

What question would you like to ask a younger LGBTQ+ person?
I’d like to know how it is growing up now as LGBTQ+. Do you find acceptance in the family and community?

Tony is 65 and lives in Manchester. He spoke to the Youth Pride group about his Roman Catholic upbringing, the difficulties he faced growing up, and how volunteering for the Manchester Gay Switchboard gave him confidence.

How difficult was it to express yourself in society? Did you experience discrimination? How did you deal with it?
I was brought up in a Roman Catholic family and I went to an all boys school in Bolton. I found out there was a gay pub on the street I lived on, about one bus stop away from where I lived. I didn’t find out about that pub until I was about 20 years of age. I’m amazed by the secrecy, and how no one talked about it. I was going to pubs from the age of 17, but no one ever mentioned this. And then to find out there was a gay pub, so close to me was a real surprise.

I realised I wasn’t heterosexual when I was about 16. I went to see my priest and told him that I thought I was attracted to men, and he told me I had to be celibate. At the time the age of consent was 21. It was very difficult growing up as gay, because no one talked about it, there were no role models, nothing on TV, there was no education. So it was very hard to have the words to understand.

How did people react to you coming out? How did you overcome those barriers?
It was the mid 70’s, my parents thought it was a phase I was going through. They sent me to see a psychiatrist – because homosexuality used to be considered a mental disorder. The psychiatrist told my parents I wasn’t gay. I persisted that I was gay and my family ex-communicated me and ostracised me, to this day. Both parents are deceased but they never came around to accept me. I knew I was gay, you know you are and so there was no denying it for me. I strongly knew, in my head, that I was attracted to men. In 1980, in my mid 20’s I met Phillip (at Icebreakers in Manchester) – I was attending LGBT groups in Manchester at the time. Within six months we moved in with each other.

When was the first time you saw yourself represented on TV?
It was on a documentary in about 1970 about the life of Quentin Crisp – and this blew my mind. I didn’t feel as camp and showy as he was but it resonated with me. So I then went to the library to read his book, it was only on the reserved list, so I had to order it before I could read it.

Do you remember your first Pride celebration?
In the 70’s I went down to Pride in London, several times and there were coaches from Manchester – organised by the gay centre, and I enjoyed the parade and celebrations afterwards before coming back on the same day. In 1981, National Pride was moved from London to Huddersfield in solidarity with the LGBT community there because of continual police raids on the Gemini club. There were about 2,000 people in the parade that year, so it was much smaller but it was a real highlight! We faced more discrimination and people shouting things but it was important to stand in solidarity with The Gemini.

Did you marry someone you love?
In 1980, I met Phillip and we lived together for 31 years. That happened before marriage became available, there was no such thing as marriage or civil partnerships. Those things came about in 2005 and 2014 but we’d lived together for 25 years at this point. In 2011 Phillip went to the GP to get checked out, as he had lost his appetite. He was referred to MRI (Manchester Royal Infirmary), and was kept in over the weekend to get some tests done because they couldn’t identify the issue. I lost him within three days to advanced pancreatic cancer. He was 54 when he died.

The Manchester Gay Switchboard was formed in 1975 – do you remember this? How significant was that for Manchester’s community?
Yes, I became a member of the Switchboard. We were based at 178 Waterloo Place – near to Sidney Street. I used to go and answer the telephone there. And it was amazing, it gave me a lot of confidence and we had so many people ringing up, even though we didn’t have much information.

How did you learn about issues like this that were facing Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community?
I remember going to New York New York and there were no leaflets or magazines on show. There used to be a magazine under the counter called the ‘Pink Paper’ but you had to ask for the ‘Football Pink’ to get hold of it. It was really with these publications that you got to understand what’s going on and then from this you joined groups – like the switchboard and different organisations that were campaigning – like ACT UP.

Turn On Fest … Queer Contact … Interview with Russell T Davies

News

Turn on Fest announce rescheduled dates

Hope Mill Theatre announces rescheduled dates for Turn On Fest 2021, the annual LGBTQIA+ festival in partnership with Superbia, Manchester Pride’s year round programme of arts and culture.

Due to the ongoing restrictions Hope Mill Theatre has decided to take the festival completely online, running from 17 to 28 March.

  • Headlining the festival will be an evening in conversation with Hope Mill Theatre patron Russell T Davies hosted by Julie Hesmondhalgh.
  • Ru Paul’s drag star Divina De Campo will be joined by special guests in An Hour with Divina De Campo for two performances, directed by Kirk Jameson.
  • Superbia, Hope Mill Theatre’s partnering organisation, will also host two key events within the festival.
  • Manchester based company, Green Carnation Theatre will also be screening four short monologue films called Queer All About It, an evening of film, discussion and conversation.
  • An Evening with Ryan Jamaal Swain will see the star of smash hit television series Pose discuss his career as a dancer and writer in an online discussion.
  • Hope Mill Theatre has also offered development grants worth £1,000 as well as mentoring to four Manchester based queer theatre makers.

The festival is now on sale and streamed events can be booked here.

There will be an option to purchase a festival pass to access all events throughout the festival.

Speaking about the rescheduled Turn On Fest dates, Hope Mill Theatre Artistic Director Joseph Houston said:

“We started 2021 having to postpone Turn On Fest, which was deeply saddening for our venue and artists involved. However, along with the support of the companies, artists, partners and venue team we have managed to not only reschedule the festival but also create a fully online festival for our audiences. In these difficult times it’s important to continue to share stories, create opportunities and engage with audiences, but also in a safe and secure way, which means that at this time we don’t feel it is possible to plan for any live performances during the festival but we are thrilled we are still able to share the amazing line up with everyone.”

 

Queer Contact 2021 Is Coming …

Thursday, 29 April to Saturday, 1 May – Online

We’ve been teasing this one for a while, but now we can bring you the full details of Queer Contact 2021 in all it’s vibrant glory, as a fully digital extravaganza delivered straight to your screens.

No dress code (we’re sure you look fabulous in whatever you’re wearing), and plenty of time to get settled in with four days exploring LGBT+ culture past, present and future. Get ready for everything from talks to cabaret acts, plus a dance party beamed into your home.

What’s happening at Queer Contact 2021?

Cheddar Gorgeous, star of Channel 4’s Drag SOS, hosts an interactive cabaret, followed by a party with Manchester DJ collective RebeccaNeverBecky. 

Legendary TV writer Russell T Davies (It’s a Sin, Queer as Folk, Doctor Who) joins It’s a Sin actor (and HIV activist) Nathaniel Hall to discuss portrayals of HIV and AIDS on stage and screen.

Poet and performer Ella Ottomewo brings a group of talented wordsmiths to her spoken word night, Outspoken and writer Darren Atta will be reading excerpts from his Stonewall Book Award-winning work Black Flamingo.

Musician Deanz chats to vogue performer Oskar Marchock about queering dance hall music, and young queer artists Mark Croasdalemandla rae and Roma Havers premier films with live artist Q+A.

 

Russell T Davies on It’s A Sin and the romance of Canal Street

The screenwriter talks to Stockport actor Nathaniel J Hall about the legacy of Queer as Folk and his latest show It’s A Sin.

It’s no exaggeration to say the work of Russell T Davies changed the face of British television.

His dozens of writing credits and creations have tackled subjects such as sex work, desire, faith, death and the future, with much of his work set in Manchester.

At the turn of the millennium, Queer As Folk brought Manchester’s Gay Village and the messy, sparkly realities of queer life to the public consciousness in a never before seen way.

In 2005, Russell lovingly revived a British institution when he brought Doctor Who back to the screen with inventive writing, genius casting and a politically charged inclusive worldview.

And this year, we’ve all been glued to Channel 4 drama series It’s A Sin, which follows a group of friends whose lives are changed irrevocably by the HIV/Aids epidemic.

In August 2020, Russell was interviewed by Stockport-born actor, writer, theatre-maker and activist Nathaniel J Hall for Superbia Sunday, part of Alternative Manchester Pride Festival.

Nathaniel’s award-winning one-man show First Time dramatised his experience of becoming HIV positive at a young age, and he starred as a boyfriend of lead character Richie Tozer (Olly Alexander) named Donald in It’s A Sin.

In these extracts from their candid interview, the pair discuss the impact of Queer As Folk, ructions on Canal Street, and of course, Russell’s new series.

On Queer as Folk and Manchester’s gay scene

Nathaniel: “Russell, you’ve had a hugely successful career but I would say that Queer As Folk is what most people know you for.

What inspired you to write about Manchester’s gay scene? What was happening at the time that sparked that idea?” 

Russell: “It’s funny because I was actually asked to write it – sometimes it takes someone else to point out something really obvious to you!

There’s a woman called Katrina McKenzie at Channel4 who said ‘Why don’t you write about that?’

Up until that point I didn’t think it was possible to write about that and then I turned around and realised that I had 20 years of going out and clubbing and watching that scene.

I had always loved going out on Canal Street, obviously but I love going out on my own. If I bumped into friends I used to say ‘Oh go away!’ I would change clubs to be on my own.

I realised afterwards it was like research – I used to stand at the railing of Cruz 101 and watch everyone dancing, and I’d be watching such a magical space.

You’re watching – even now today – a space that people escape to.

You know, the heat and the light and the cigarette smoke and the noise, and you’re just watching people dancing thinking ‘You’re a bank clerk normally, you’re in the closet, you can’t be out to your mum and dad, you know, but you’ve come here and you are yourself.’  What a dramatic place!

I genuinely love the romance of places like Canal Street. The romance of a gay space.

It’s a true romance, it’s the drama in there – there’s honesty and there’s liberation. You are yourself and sometimes you’re not yourself you can go and be a completely different person. Sometimes you construct a self to go down there.

I’ve always said I think it was a matter of time before someone would put that on screen, and a matter of time before a gay drama came along and I’m so glad it was me. Not everyone is, but I am!

I remember after the first episode I went to Cruz 101 and the man at the desk said ‘That’s set us back 20 years!’.”

On representation

Russell: “There were so many people unhappy with the representation, there was like a public meeting on Canal Street after Episode Five, where I was shouted at by furious lesbians who, of course, didn’t have a presence in the show and when they did, I took the piss out of them slightly because I think that’s very accurate of gay men and of the scene.

It was a lot of fury at the time, it wasn’t an easy ride, it was a rough ride on Canal Street because people waited so long for the representation that of course they didn’t see themselves.

There was this huge public meeting in that bar that used to be called Prague Five.

There was a man who said ‘I read a book every night so they don’t represent me’ and I was like ‘Oh what a great drama that’s going to be. A man sitting there reading’.

I’m taking the mickey now, and unfortunately I did that night. I wasn’t exactly kind that night, but there’s a bigger point to be made that there was a lot of shame and fear that we were seen having sex.

It took a good few years for Queer as Folk to be seen as a good thing and there’s still people out there angry about it.” 

On portraying Manchester as an LGBT+ party capital 

Nathaniel: “The show inspired lots of people to come here. Every city has its problems but it is genuinely an LGBT+ friendly city and I know I feel very comfortable in Manchester.” 

Russell: “People on Canal Street were telling me that I ruined it because hen parties were coming here and lots of women were coming.

Interestingly, in episode three of Queer As Folk – which was written before anyone had seen Queer As Folk – they are complaining about the hen parties on Canal Street, so they were already there.

It’s kind of a fantasy that there’s a perfect gay space in existence somewhere, it’s not anywhere, it just doesn’t exist, but nonetheless, point taken.”

On It’s A Sin

Photo: Channel 4

Russell: “It’s the story of the HIV and AIDS crisis in the 1980s, but told by ordinary people. It’s not in the laboratories, and it’s not in the corridors of power.

It covers all 10 years from 1981 to 1991, with five lovely mates who all live in a flat.

Back then I had a bunch of friends who all lived in a big flat in London, they called it ‘the pink palace’ and they were gay and camp and funny, and along comes the virus. It’s to show that, but with the passage of time.

It’s not just one story, there’s an overlapping concertina of stories that expand and show the development of how the disease was understood, and how life went on as normal at the same time.

At the time that these characters were 18 in 1981, I was 18 in 1981. It’s trying to show that the world didn’t stop, we didn’t all say, “Oh my god there’s a disease”, and stop.

It’s also trying to show the ignorance that was around at the time, the prejudice – but not just that anger.

It really is to show life being lived”.

The 200-year-old diary that’s rewriting gay history … Manchester’s Gay Village … LGBT conversion therapy

News

The 200-year-old diary that’s rewriting gay history

Claire Pickering in Wakefield library imagines the diary writer speaking in a Yorkshire accent

A diary written by a Yorkshire farmer more than 200 years ago is being hailed as providing remarkable evidence of tolerance towards homosexuality in Britain much earlier than previously imagined.

Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson’s diary from 1810 contains such open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a “natural” human tendency.

The diary challenges preconceptions about what “ordinary people” thought about homosexuality – showing there was a debate about whether someone really should be discriminated against for their sexuality.

“In this exciting new discovery, we see a Yorkshire farmer arguing that homosexuality is innate and something that shouldn’t be punished by death,” says Oxford researcher Eamonn O’Keeffe.

The diaries were handwritten by Tomlinson in the farmhouse where he lived and worked

The historian had been examining Tomlinson’s handwritten diaries, which have been stored in Wakefield Library since the 1950s.

The thousands of pages of the private journals have never been transcribed and were previously used by researchers interested in Tomlinson’s eye-witness accounts of elections in Yorkshire and the Luddites smashing up machinery.

But O’Keeffe came across what seemed, for the era of George III, to be a rather startling set of arguments about same-sex relationships.

Tomlinson had been prompted by what had been a big sex scandal of the day – in which a well-respected naval surgeon had been found to be engaging in homosexual acts.

Historian Eamonn O’Keeffe says the diaries provide a rare insight into the views of “ordinary people” in the early 1800s

A court martial had ordered him to be hanged – but Tomlinson seemed unconvinced by the decision, questioning whether what the papers called an “unnatural act” was really that unnatural.

Tomlinson argued, from a religious perspective, that punishing someone for how they were created was equivalent to saying that there was something wrong with the Creator.

“It must seem strange indeed that God Almighty should make a being with such a nature, or such a defect in nature; and at the same time make a decree that if that being whom he had formed, should at any time follow the dictates of that Nature, with which he was formed, he should be punished with death,” he wrote on 14 January 1810.

If there was an “inclination and propensity” for someone to be homosexual from an early age, he wrote, “it must then be considered as natural, otherwise as a defect in nature – and if natural, or a defect in nature; it seems cruel to punish that defect with death”.

The diarist makes reference to being informed by others that homosexuality is apparent from an early age – suggesting that Tomlinson and his social circle had been talking about this case and discussing something that was not unknown to them.

Around this time, and also in West Yorkshire, a local landowner, Anne Lister, was writing a coded diary about her lesbian relationships – with her story told in the television series, Gentleman Jack.

But knowing what “ordinary people” really thought about such behaviour is always difficult – not least because the loudest surviving voices are usually the wealthy and powerful.

What has excited academics is the chance to eavesdrop on an everyday farmer thinking aloud in his diary.

Tomlinson was appalled by the levels of corruption during elections

“What’s striking is that he’s an ordinary guy, he’s not a member of the bohemian circles or an intellectual,” says O’Keeffe, a doctoral student in Oxford’s history faculty.

An acceptance of homosexuality might have been expressed privately in aristocratic or philosophically radical circles – but this was being discussed by a rural worker.

“It shows opinions of people in the past were not as monolithic as we might think,” says O’Keeffe.

“Even though this was a time of persecution and intolerance towards same-sex relationships, here’s an ordinary person who is swimming against the current and sees what he reads in the paper and questions those assumptions.”

Claire Pickering, library manager in Wakefield, says she imagines the single-minded Tomlinson speaking the words with a Yorkshire accent.

There are three volumes of Tomlinson’s diaries at Wakefield Library

He was a man with a “hungry mind”, she says, someone who listened to a lot of people’s opinions before forming his own conclusions.

The diary, presumably compiled after a hard day’s work, was his way of being a writer and commentator when otherwise “that wasn’t his station in life”, she says.

O’Keeffe says it shows ideas were “percolating through British society much earlier and more widely than we’d expect” – with the diary working through the debates that Tomlinson might have been having with his neighbours.

But these were still far from modern liberal views – and O’Keeffe says they can be extremely “jarring” arguments.

If someone was homosexual by choice, rather than by nature, Tomlinson was ready to consider that they should still be punished – proposing castration as a more moderate option than the death penalty.

O’Keeffe says discovering evidence of these kinds of debate has both “enriched and complicated” what we know about public opinion in this pre-Victorian era.

The diary is raising international interest.

Prof Fara Dabhoiwala, from Princeton University in the US, an expert in the history of attitudes towards sexuality, describes it as “vivid proof” that “historical attitudes to same-sex behaviour could be more sympathetic than is usually presumed”.

Instead of seeing homosexuality as a “horrible perversion”, Prof Dabholwala says the record showed a farmer in 1810 could see it as a “natural, divinely ordained human quality”.

Rictor Norton, an expert in gay history, said there had been earlier arguments defending homosexuality as natural – but these were more likely to be from philosophers than farmers.

“It is extraordinary to find an ordinary, casual observer in 1810 seriously considering the possibility that sexuality is innate and making arguments for decriminalisation,” says Dr Norton.

 

Canal Street: The history of Manchester’s iconic ‘gay village’

Many cities have a ‘gay village’ – an area with bars and clubs where LGBT+ people can feel safe to express their identity. Manchester’s is called Canal Street. It’s recognised as one of the UK’s liveliest LGBT+ hubs.

Canal Street runs alongside the Rochdale Canal

The beginnings of Canal Street

In the 19th century, the area surrounding Canal Street was thriving – not with bars and clubs but with the cotton trade. Manchester had become Cottonopolis – at its peak producing 30% of the worlds cotton. At the heart of Cottonopolis was the network of canals that kept the cotton trade moving through the city.

Booms are typically followed by bust, and when canals were replaced by other transport methods and the cotton industry stalled, the areas around the canals became deserted. This vacuum created a red light district, attracting prostitutes and gay men to the area.

On the corner of Canal Street today stands a pub called the New Union. It was built in 1865, and in the 1950s became a place for lesbians and gay men to meet up.

It looks like a normal pub, but when you take a closer look you can see the windows are filled with clouded glass – anyone on the outside can’t see in. This meant that those in the bar wouldn’t be spotted by anyone walking past.

Decriminalisation and the raids

In 1967 homosexuality was partially decriminalised – gay men could have sex as long as it was in private, was only between two men and both were over 21. For many people it still didn’t feel safe to be openly homosexual, and for years there were still laws that could be used against LGBT+ Mancunians.

Long-time Manchester resident and LGBT+ campaigner Paul Fairweather recalls: “In 1978 the police raided Napoleon’s under ancient by law called Licentious Dancing, which prevented two men or two women dancing together and this clearly was an attempt to get the club shut down, which failed.”

During the 1970s and 80s these raids continued: “From the mid-1980s the police used to regularly raid Clone Zone. James Anderton, Chief Constable made a famous statement about gay men ‘swirling in a cesspit of their own making’. It was clearly very, very hostile to the lesbian and gay community,” says Paul.

Manchester’s first Pride and Manto

But despite that hostile environment from the police, the LGBT+ community in Manchester began to flourish, launching its first gay Pride in 1985. It started on a small scale – as a charity event for those with HIV and AIDS. Today it’s an internationally renowned event, attracting huge acts and thousands of visitors.

In 1990 there was another turning point: the opening of a club called Manto. With huge glass windows, you went there to be seen, not to hide.

Club manager Steph was there from the opening night: “Manto was an absolute game changer. Manto was the first venue that was visible.”

Canal Street goes Mainstream

By the end of the 90s Canal Street had grown and was ready for the mainstream. On 23 February 1999, three and a half million people tuned into Channel 4 to watch Queer as Folk. The series showed Canal Street to be full of great parties and an amazing atmosphere.

The success of the series made Canal Street internationally famous, and it meant that Canal Street now wasn’t just popular with an LGBT+ crowd. This was great for the businesses on the street, but for some it meant that the street lost some of its identity.

What some would argue was Canal Street’s loss is the rest of Manchester’s gain. As the new Millennium progressed, it became more normal for the bars and clubs of the city to fill with visitors who feel able to hold hands, find a partner, kiss, be themselves – something that were once only able to do on Canal Street.

Canal Street is still a popular destination today and continues to be somewhere for LGBT+ people to feel safe and express themselves.

 

Conversion therapy

The Chair of the Liaison Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin, has written to Jacob Rees-Mogg on legislation awaiting time in the Government’s legislative programme. This includes urging them to bring forward legislation to ban the practice of LGBT conversion therapy.

Sir Bernard Jenkin

The Petitions Committee has continued to receive petitions on this issue and the Government has made repeated commitments in response. A petition “Make LGBT conversion therapy illegal in the UK” attracted 256,392 signatures. The petition is now closed.

Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation are jointly calling out to people with experience of conversion therapy:

“We have a real opportunity this year to push the Government to introduce an effective ban on conversion therapy. But we need to collect and share people’s experiences of conversion therapy to help us show the wide range of ways the practice is happening and the long-lasting impact it has on people.

A group of LGBT+ faith and health organisations are working together on the campaign, and Stonewall is coordinating how we gather people’s stories.

If you have experience of conversion therapy and would be interested in sharing your story (could be anonymously) please fill in this short form: https://stonewall.typeform.com/to/Sp8cfHZv

We will then contact people for a full story where their stories fit with the diversity of stories we want to tell.”

 

“Back in the closet” … Lesbian life in the 70s … Two vets celebrate love … Sonder Radio course

News

“Back in the closet”

A new series of films is being released this Friday (19 February 2021) by Manchester HOME, which will cover a range of topics, such as ageing in LGBT communities and life in older people’s accommodation. More explanation and booking details to view online are below.

Image: Still from ‘Lifesolation’, a film by Anna Raczynski in collaboration with Bill Moss for ‘Back in the Closet’

‘Lifesolation’, the first artwork from the Back in the Closet project premieres as part of a virtual short film showcase at HOME. The 10 minute film by filmmaker Anna Raczynski has been developed as part of a residency with Great Places Housing Group, and is one of five artist residencies that are currently taking place remotely with residents from retirement schemes across Greater Manchester. The residencies are focussed around the theme of LGBT visibility in older people’s housing schemes, and are supported by Pride in Ageing at LGBT Foundation, Great Place at Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Houseproud North West.

Please sign up to this event here and you will receive a link to watch all of the films in this showcase (starting from 19 February). You will also receive an invitation to a panel discussion event on 25 February at 7.00pm, where you will hear from the filmmakers. Please refer to programme guidance from HOME around content in these films.

Lesbian life in the 70’s

‘We wanted people to see that we exist’: the photographer who recorded lesbian life in the 70’s

Interview with Joan E Biren (known as JEB) by Charlotte Jansen

She toured America photographing women like herself, at a time when being out could cost you your job, home and family. As Eye to Eye, a book of her groundbreaking work is republished, Joan E Biren recalls why the images were so vitally important.

‘I thought of the pictures as propaganda’ … Baltimore couple Gloria and Charmaine, 1979, from the book Eye to Eye. Photograph: JEB

The thing that’s really hard for people to understand today,” says Joan E Biren, “is that in the 70s, it was impossible to find authentic and affirming images of lesbians. They didn’t exist.” Biren, or JEB as she is better known, is widely regarded as the first lesbian photographer to compile a book of photographs of lesbians for lesbians.

Self-starter … JEB. Dyke, Virginia. 1975. Photograph: JEB

It was 1979 when Biren self-published her revolutionary Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians, an extensive documentation of the realities of contemporary lesbian life across the US, the result of years of careful and close collaboration with her subjects, making pictures (she prefers this term) at their homes, at Womyn’s festivals, or after conferences, marches and events. The portraits show lesbians across America as they’d never been seen before: mostly, doing ordinary, everyday activities. Two mechanics fix up a car; a bare-chested builder saws wood; a mother leans in tenderly to kiss her daughter. Some of these women might have “passed” as heterosexual in their daily lives.

“I didn’t see it as art in any way,” says Biren of Eye to Eye. “It was entirely political. I originally thought of the pictures as propaganda. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than the movement. Material survival came second.” One of the first offers of money for an image came from a group who wanted to use it to promote an anti-homosexuality campaign. “At that point, I understood I couldn’t ever have an agent – and I’ve basically never made money out of a photograph. But it was very important to me to control who saw the pictures and where they were published.”

Realities … Jane. Willits, California. 1977. Photograph: JEB

After publishing Eye to Eye, Biren began to tour the US with Dyke Show, a slideshow presentation of lesbian images in photography from 1850 to 1982. This evolved and expanded as she met more photographers. In the 1980s, Biren also participated in The Ovulars, photography workshops that took place in Womyn’s lands, as separatist lesbian communities were called.

Forty years on, Eye to Eye has been revived by Anthology Editions. Although it has fresh introductions by photographer Lola Flash and soccer star Lori Lindsey, the new edition is faithful to the 1979 original and features the same photograph on the cover: a portrait of a couple, Kady and Pagan, locked in an intense and affectionate gaze. Even today, it is rare to see women represented with facial hair, imperfections, and looking their age. But what chiefly emanates from the photograph is their ease – with one another, with themselves, and with the photographer.

Biren, now 76, photographed Kady and Pagan at their home in upstate New York. “When I arrived at their tiny cabin, they greeted me by saying, ‘What took you so long? We’ve been waiting for someone to photograph us!’ They had this sense of themselves. They were worth being put into an image that would last.”

‘What took you so long?’ … Pagan and Kady, the couple on the cover of Eye to Eye. Photograph: JEB

Speaking from Washington DC, the city she grew up in and a place that shaped her social conscience and inspired her political activism from an early age, Biren says of those days: “There was only the male gaze on lesbians who were young and slim, like David Hamilton’s photographs – or porn images. My work was to counter that, to show something we could see ourselves in, what our friends and lovers looked like to each other. Everyone hungers for that.”

The overwhelming feeling in the pictures – and in the accompanying accounts of some women who appear in them – is one of profound joy and quiet confidence. And this is no rose-tinted view: Biren doesn’t avoid women who struggle as a result of their sexuality or the body they inhabit. One woman is a recovering alcoholic, another writes of her battle with mental illness. “I did it consciously for others who were struggling to see themselves reflected anywhere.”

Mother and daughter … Darquita and Denyeta. Alexandria, Virginia. 1979 Photograph: JEB

Biren’s inclusive approach was ahead of its time. Even by today’s standards, few photographers attempt to reflect so many lives and experiences. “It’s about being human,” she says, “and being human covers the whole spectrum of experiences. I wanted to show diversity in every way I could, with the limited resources I had.”

At the time the photographs in Eye to Eye were being made, the consequences of being out as a lesbian in the US were dire – and finding subjects wasn’t easy. “No one was willing to be photographed. They would run away from the camera, put bags over their heads. There was an enormous fear and it was justified because being identified as a lesbian meant you could be fired, you could lose custody of your child, be banished from your family, expelled from your place of worship, deported, thrown out of your rented apartment – and lots of other horrible things that were completely legal and quite common.”

Knowing how high the stakes were meant Biren had to work carefully. In Eye to Eye, all of the women are named, but some surnames are left out. “Not everyone could go that far. It was a big leap to have faces, names, places all together in a book. I wanted to make as much of a statement as possible about being out, but I had to protect them. Trust was the most important thing. It wasn’t my skill with the camera or anything else.”

Biren also had to think about how she used her camera, a machine that’s point-and-shoot action has associations with the phallus. She knew it was sometimes talked of as a weapon and did not want hers to be seen as a tool to dominate and oppress. “I would never say ‘take a picture’, ‘shoot the film’, or ‘capture an image’. All of those predatory, violent words were part of the vocabulary I wouldn’t use.

“I would always get together with my subjects first without the camera, and explain why I wanted to make the photograph, that it was for publication and that I wanted other people to know it was possible to be out, in spite of the discrimination and the oppression. I would tell them why I thought it was important lesbians saw each other, and then of course why they specifically were amazing. If they agreed, we would figure out a time and a place to photograph.”

‘I needed to see a picture of two women kissing’ … Biren’s self-portrait with former partner Sharon. Photograph: © JEB

Biren never directed her subjects, nor did she ask them to pose or stage an image. She simply spent time with them, until “they forgot the camera was there”. The first picture she ever made was a self-portrait with her lover at the time, Sharon Deevey. It shows the couple kissing and smiling. The only indication of its time is the bandana Biren wears. The camera is slightly raised and at arms length, much like a selfie today. It was a picture that Biren had hungered to make.

“It was absolutely not spontaneous!” she says. “It was something I felt very personally and strongly. I needed on a deep level to see a picture of two women kissing and I couldn’t find one. So I had to make it myself. At that point, I didn’t even own a camera, so I borrowed one and did it myself. That picture means so much to me.”

Remarkable journey … Biren protests outside the National Rifle Association headquarters in Virginia in 2016. Photograph: Patsy Lynch/Rex/Shutterstock

The image marked the beginning of her remarkable journey across the US to document lesbian life and change the way lesbians saw themselves and were seen. “I had no artistic training. My vision came from the lesbians around me, as we built communities together. I did the best I could to show the beauty, the strength, the energy of the women I was surrounded by. That was what inspired me.”

The texts in Eye to Eye are mostly reflections from some of the subjects about their experiences as lesbians, as women, and as US citizens. But there are also poems, including one by the late Audre Lorde, the activist, writer and self-proclaimed “warrior” who Biren met and would later photograph. “The scene wasn’t that big and we were in the same places. I heard Audre read her work. She was the most extraordinary person. I showed her my images and asked her if I could put a poem in the book and she said yes. I’m so fortunate to have got to know her.”

While Eye to Eye received warm reviews in gay, feminist and lesbian publications – some of which Biren regularly contributed to – it was overlooked by the mainstream American press. Back then, she never expected to reach audiences beyond the lesbian community – but four decades on, the photographer is finding new and receptive audiences. People are more aware of how much representation matters to all kinds of minorities, she says – “how important it is to see women like Kamala Harris and Amanda Gorman up on the national stage”.

This, she believes, is critical – and not just for the people being represented. “Other audiences need to see and understand who we are – to see that we did exist, we did live, and love.”

• Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians by JEB, will be published by Anthology Editions.

 

2 Vets Celebrate Love: “If You Came To See The Bride, You’re Out Of Luck”

This story is three years old, but I thought it would be relevant as a “good news” story during LGBT History Month.

Jerry Nadeau, 72, (left) and his husband, John Banvard, 100, stand outside their home in Chula Vista, California. Photo npr.org

When John Banvard, 100, met Gerard “Jerry” Nadeau, 72, in 1993, neither of them had been openly gay.

“When we met, we were sort of in the closet, and I’d never had a real relationship. Now, we’ve been together almost 25 years,” Jerry tells John.

“What would it have been like if you didn’t meet me?” Jerry asks John.

“I would have continued being lonely,” John says. “I’d been absolutely lost.”

Both are veterans, having served in World War II (John) and Vietnam (Jerry), and when they moved into the veterans home together in Chula Vista, California, in 2010, Jerry says people there wondered what their relationship was.

“Well, when we got married, they knew what our relationship was,” Jerry says, laughing.

The couple married in 2013, and John says he was surprised by the warm reception they received. “I was expecting we’d be ridiculed, and there was very little of that,” he says.

“We’d gotten married at the veterans home, and we said, ‘If you came to see the bride, you’re out of luck.’ Do you remember that?” Jerry asks John.

“Yes, of course,” John says. The two indulge in the memory of a casual wedding — a frank display, if you will, of their unabashed love — featuring hot dogs as a main course, which, John says, “is hardly wedding food.”

Later, their achievement was affirmed by a simple introduction. “I was with you in the cafeteria, and somebody came up with their family, and they said, ‘This is Gerard Nadeau, and this is his husband, John,’” Jerry recounts. “I’d never heard that before.”

“Yes, that was very nice,” John says.

“You’ve made my life complete,” Jerry tells John.

“I could say the same to you,” John replied. “I think we’re probably as happy together as any two people you’re likely to meet.”

 

Sonder radio

From 15 March to 26 March 2021 (with a taster session on the 11 March), Sonder Radio is running a two week online radio making course via Zoom.

During the course, those attending will learn new creative digital skills, develop confidence, make new friends, build skills for employment and even plan and broadcast their very own live show as a group.

There will be additional support/wellbeing sessions and opportunities for volunteering following these dates. Those interested can reserve their free place now by getting in touch via email or by phone.

Learn more: sonderradio.com