Red button … Black History Month: personal story … 2 Photography competitions


Red button alert! … The red button has been saved!

The BBC has scrapped plans to close its red button text service after a backlash from elderly and disabled viewers.

Audiences have used the service to access news, information and sport stories through their television sets since it was launched to replace Ceefax in 1999.


Black History Month … not just a moment or a month … but a movement for change

Jax Effiong is Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Manager at Greater Manchester Combined Authority – Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service. She is also a Trustee at the LGBT Foundation.

She has written her personal story for the website Lad Bible:

Credit: Jax Effiong

Young, Black And Lesbian: Why I Wish I’d Felt Able To Embrace My Identity Sooner

My first memory of racism was a story I was often told as a child.

When mum came home with her first born – my sister – my nan was waiting at the bottom of the flats with a blanket, to hide the baby from prying eyes due to her blackness.

I was told how relieved she was when my sister was light skinned.

I was born in Manchester. The middle child. Looking after us was a huge challenge for my mother. We were extremely poor and isolated from her white Irish Catholic family for her ‘running off with a black man’. My father.

Once my brother was born, five years later, their relationship broke down altogether. We stayed in a women’s refuge in South Manchester, and a children’s home in Blackpool, on our own. Our mother was in a psychiatric hospital. Once we stayed in a children’s convalescent home in Wales.

Credit: Jax Effiong

Being brought up with the ‘white side of my family’, and being very light skinned, brought its own challenges.

In junior school, my nickname was “Effiong a m*ng gone wrong.” This always got squeals of laughter from my bullies.

Secondary school got more cruel and overtly racist. The names. The N word. My schoolmates said I wasn’t allowed to have white boyfriends.

There were no black guys in my secondary school, but I was relieved. I liked girls anyway.

At this point, I was marginalised because of racism. I had fights with girls and guys at this stage in my life. I never backed down. I got a reputation for ‘biting back’ that kept me safe throughout the rest of my school life.

I had a black Jamaican boyfriend between the ages of 15-18. It was a platonic relationship. But this was our secret. It suited us both.

In college, I experienced my first overtly racist teacher. He asked me if I was ashamed of my name, and asked how I could live with a name like that.

This appalled me, but I had very low self-esteem and little confidence. I started to stay away from college, eventually leaving education altogether. At the time, I didn’t know the micro-aggressions I faced and internalised on a regular basis were causing emotional exhaustion. It’s known as ‘weathering’ and the effects can be emotional, physical, and behavioural.

During my teens and early twenties, I was angry and confused about my multi-racial identity and my sexuality. I felt invisible. Neither white nor black, just somewhere in the middle.

Credit: Jax Effiong

White people thought I was white, straight people thought I was straight. I didn’t fit anyone’s stereotype or assumption.

I was drawn back to education. I became very aware of my identity and embraced it, joining the Black Students Network and the Feminist Network and marching against deportation and against Clause 28.

I found my voice as a student on the Youth and Community Diploma programme. I came out as a very proud and very loud black lesbian. Or a lipstick dyke in those days …

I became an active youth and community worker when I left my studies. Working for the voluntary sector with young people and families, giving a voice and visibility to a range of groups and individuals.

What I found was intersectionality compounds the experience of discrimination or disadvantage – for example for a black cis-lesbian or a trans woman with a disability.

Through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us.

But it’s important to reflect, listen and learn from others. Stories are powerful tools. We all have a few good chapters in us.

Credit: Jax Effiong

Understanding how my own lived experiences of racism, sexism and homophobia enhanced my resilience, emotional intelligence and tenacity.

What should educators and leaders know?

Don’t stereotype people. Keep your questions open when discussing identity, race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, disability, backgrounds. Your classroom or office may be the first place someone actually feels confident enough to talk about their identity.

There are intersections between forms of oppression, domination or discrimination. Black feminism argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black or of being a woman independently.

Be open to learning and think with kindness about our trans and non-binary family. Change the way you say stuff. Include your pronouns when meeting someone or starting meetings or events.

Update your language, get more neutral, change he/she to they or their in your paperwork. These small steps can have a huge impact on people’s lives and simply say, everyone is warmly welcome.

I remember a time I internalised homophobia and hid my blackness from the society around me.

I’ve faced many hurdles over the past 55 years, none greater than battles with my own identity.

Looking back at my 16-year-old self, I would say: “You’re going to be ok. You’re not alone. Stop hating who you are.”

I’d tell her that 20 years later, she would go on to meet a beautiful black woman who would become her wife, closest friend and ally – with two daughters to be extremely proud of.

Credit: Jax Effiong

Credit: Jax Effiong

Last year, we launched Black & Brown Stripes, in support of eliminating Rainbow Racism and in support of our QTIPOC (queer / trans / intersex people of colour) family, and Black History Month is a joint staff network event each year.

Black History Month is more than a moment, it truly is a movement for change.

It’s a reflection and celebration of the QTIPOC giants that blazed a trail for us.

We are QTIPOC all the time, not just for one month a year. I see October as a springboard for insight, education and learning to influence change. Equality wins.


Launch of “Old Frame New Picture” Photography Competition

The Greater Manchester Older People’s Network (GMOPN) have launched a photography competition “Old Frame, New Picture”, designed to challenge the negative and stereotyped ways older people are represented in the media, something that has become even more prevalent during the corona virus pandemic.

Submit your photographs celebrating and promoting positive and realistic images of older people in Greater Manchester, which celebrate the diversity of older people’s lives and their contributions to society

Either the photographer or one of the people in the photograph needs to be living or working in Greater Manchester and the photograph must include at least one person aged 50 or over, under one of six themes:


Supporting My Community;

Old and Proud;

Friends and Family;

Taking Part; and

Self Portraits (including selfies).

Six winning entries will feature in a digital billboard campaign across Greater Manchester in January 2021, as well as appearing in an online exhibition and featuring in a set of printed postcards to promote positive ageing.

There are also cash prizes to be won: First prize £250, Second prize £100, Third prize £50.

The best images will also form a new bank of photographs for use by local charities and other not for profit organisations in their marketing and communications, providing a positive alternative to the kinds of images currently available.  

To find out more and submit your photo by 5.00pm, Friday 13 November 2020 visit the GMOPN website.


Friends of Dorothy are also organising a photographic competition:

Any subject past or present, black and white or colour.

Please send your photographs by email to: by the closing date: Sunday 11 October 2020.

Prizes: First place £50, Second place £25, Third place £15.

Michael Black, renowned professional photographer, will be judging this competition.

Get snapping and good luck!

Pride of Manchester – Lifetime Achievement Award … International Day of Older Persons

We are absolutely delighted that Luchia has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Pride of Manchester.
Luchia has overcome so much adversity in her life and yet she never wallows in self pity. On the contrary, she has spent her life fighting for the rights of others, especially women, the LGBTQ community, the working class and those in social housing. The list could (and does) go on. We are so proud of her and everything she continues to strive for.


The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons on 1 October.

The composition of the world population has changed dramatically in recent decades. Between 1950 and 2010, life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 to 68 years. Globally there were 703 million persons aged 65 or over in 2019. Over the next three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050.

Greater Manchester is already the UK’s first Age-Friendly city region according to the World Health Organisation. The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has issued an Age-Friendly challenge to make Greater Manchester the best place in the UK to grow older.

Talking About My Generation have produced a video for Andy Burnham’s “Ageing Narrative” campaign:


Here are some stories to celebrate older persons:

Kenneth Felts is gay, out, free and 90 years of age!

This is a story that says: “It is never too late”

In search of his lost love, 90-year-old man comes out as gay: ‘I’ve never felt so free’

Kenneth Felts didn’t plan on coming out to the world. In fact, he didn’t plan on coming out to anyone until the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Kenneth had kept his sexuality hidden all his life, but that changed when memories of his first love flooded back as he sat down to write a memoir earlier this year.

Kenneth knew he was gay since he was 12 years old, and despite a few brief flings during his adolescence and young adulthood, he kept it hidden because of his Christian upbringing. It wasn’t until meeting Phillip – the love of his life – nearly 60 years ago that he briefly lived out his life as an out gay man.

“The only thing I could do was just hide it, and I hid it deep and dark, and I stayed in that basement for the rest of my life practically,” he said. “I just denied it and ignored it.”

The way Kenneth tells it, he planned on sending a message to his close friends and family – and, by accident or fate, shared it as a public Facebook post. He has since gained international notoriety.

With the help of a kind stranger on Facebook by the name of Tina Wood, he was able to track down his long lost love – Phillip Allen Jones – only to find that he had died just a few years ago.

Kenneth spoke from his home in Arvada, Colorado, USA about his first Pride celebration in quarantine, the search for his first love and his advice for people who are struggling to come out.

Would you walk me through your decision to come out this year?

Back in April, Colorado, like other places, went under the pandemic and lockdown. And, so here I was at home – and I live alone … I thought, OK, I think this is the time that I should write my memoirs. It really got back to some old, old memories of my time in the past and I wrote them down. And one of them was about my first love, Phillip.

A little later about in late May, early June, I was talking to my daughter one day and I just said to her out of the blue, I said, “I wish I had never left Phillip.” And she had never heard of Phillip before, and so I thought, well, I’m going to have to explain this one. So I did; I told her what it was and she was very accepting.

And from that, then I thought, well, she did very good at taking that, better than I expected. So I think I’m going to have to just let everybody know. And I decided to send emails to my friends, which I did, but I sent the same email as a Facebook (post publicly) which I did not really intend to do, but it did. And it went everywhere and I started getting replies real quick. … That’s how I came out, it was totally unintentional. I had really planned on taking it to the grave with me and never, never being anything other than straight.

By the time your story reached national headlines, it coincided with Pride in June. How did you celebrate your first Pride as an out gay man?

My daughter came out 20 years ago to me. So for 20 years then we’d been living with a gay daughter, but a straight father who was really gay. In support of her, I had been attending the (Denver) Pride Fest as a volunteer and helping them with some of the work that goes on there. I did that until I couldn’t walk down there anymore.

This year being the first year as an out (gay man) for the virtual Pride Fest, I did the 5K race. I did it with a walker and I did it for one half-mile in 22 minutes. We picked a very nice city park near here, and I walked on the sidewalk around that for my portion of the thing. And it was nice to be wearing my rainbow hoodie out in public, where people could see it and me. … I’ve never felt so free. Not having to judge everything I do on the basis of, “Will this out me?”

What was the process of meeting Phillip, and what that was like for you?

I finished high school and two years of college, then I joined the Navy and spent four years on a minesweeper.

Kenneth Felts 1951

When I got out of college, I went home and finished my bachelor’s degree. Then I decided to go back to California, where I really had loved the land out there when I was in the Navy. I went to work for a place in Long Beach called Retail Credit Company. We do investigations of insurance applications in the morning, and in the afternoon we write up reports.

As a new person, I was struggling getting those reports written when Phillip, another agent, came over to help me. We hit it off real good, started going out for coffee, and then we started dating. And then eventually I moved up to his house in Bellflower, where we lived with his sister and her daughter. So I was there from, for about nine or ten months, really. And Phillip and I, we’re living there together. Every weekend, we’d go out on excursions to the area, to ghost towns, to the cactus bloom, down to the seashore, things like that. So we were constantly together there.

Phillip Allen Jones 1957

And then one Sunday morning, he sang in the choir. He came from the Church of God, went to a four-year college of the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana. I sat in the pews watching the goings-on, and as I, sat there, my old Christian values started popping up and just swept over me like a windstorm. I had this conflict right then and there. We lasted about another month before I just couldn’t take it any longer. And I left and have actually been kind of looking for Phillip ever since then.

What was your life like after losing Phillip?

Because of that, I had to make the decision: straight or gay. And since I had said, I can’t do this with Phillip, then I can’t do it with anybody. So at that point, it was to go straight.

I went back home to Dodge City, met an old friend who had a floral shop in Colorado Springs that he wanted me to manage. I went out there as the manager. I joined the Methodist Church. I became a member of the staff. I met a young lady in the adult youth group and we started dating and I married her on 1 June 1963. In 1972, we had a daughter. In 1980, we got divorced. And I had been absolutely straight that entire time, but the minute we got divorced, I tried to find Phillip again, went through the phone books in the library because there was no internet in those days. Never found Phillip, but could not come out because if I had, I would not have custody of my daughter. The state would not allow me to be a gay man and keep my daughter at home so I could not come out then.

And so I just had to stay straight until she was out of school, but then it was too late. It didn’t matter. She came out to me over 20 years ago, which rather surprised me because she says I’m gay and what do I say? Well, I can’t say I’m gay also.

That’s when I started deciding that gay was okay to be out, but I wasn’t out. I didn’t, I just didn’t do it. And then when I wrote my memoirs … a lady on the East Coast who does searching for parents of children who are adopted, wrote me and said that she’d be glad to look for Phillip for me. And within a week she had found first, she thought he was still alive. And I was really overjoyed when she sent me that memo. But then the next one was no, he died a few years ago. So then I was able to get ahold of Phillip’s niece who sent me some pictures of his and told me a little bit about him. So I missed out by a few years. But at least I, I know where he is.

What advice would you have for anybody young or old about living your life to the fullest and being out and proud? 

I know I’m in an unusual position and I just came out just like that. I hadn’t even planned on it or no, nothing, but I would think that if a person is contemplating coming out, they first need to check on what support systems are available to them.

When I came out there was. I wasn’t looking for anything and I, I have found it and I’m utilising it. Back when I thought about coming out, there were no support groups.

The other thing they will find when they come out, what I found, it’s amazing how much love there is out in the community. And they’re going to share it with you. They’re going to pour it on you by the bucket full. I get memo after memo telling me how they are supporting me and they love me. Never expected that. I didn’t expect any kind of response like I’ve been getting. And so I think other people will kind of have the same experience that they might be surprised just how many people support them. It’s never too late to come out.


This is another story that says: “It is never too late”. Although it dates back to September 2014, it’s a very heart warming story.

Lesbian couple in their nineties sit next to each other as they finally marry after 72 years together. 

Vivian Boyack, 91, and Alice ‘Nonie’ Dubes, 90, finally tied the knot at First Christian Church in Davenport, Iowa, USA after 72 years together.

Nonie said the two have enjoyed their life together and over the years they have travelled to all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada, and to England twice.

“We’ve had a good time,” Nonie said.

Vivian said it takes a lot of love and work to keep a relationship going for 72 years.

Long time friend Jerry Yeast, 73, said he got to know the couple when he worked in their yard as a teenager. “I’ve known these two women all my life, and I can tell you, they are special,” Jerry said.

Iowa began allowing gay marriage in 2009.

The two women say it is never too late for a new chapter in life.


Axel Axgil (3 April 1915 – 29 October 2011) and Eigil Axgil (24 April 1922 – 22 September 1995) were Danish gay activists and a longtime couple. They were the first gay couple to enter into a registered partnership anywhere in the world following Denmark’s legalisation of same-sex partnership registration in 1989, a landmark legislation which they were instrumental in bringing about.

They adopted the shared surname, Axgil, a combination of their given names, as an expression of their commitment.

Roberta Cowell, Trans Trailblazer, Pilot and Auto Racer


Roberta Cowell is the first transwoman known to undergo sex reassignment surgery in Britain. But after a splash in the 1950s, she withdrew from public life and died in obscurity.

Roberta Cowell in Paris in 1954. She achieved fame — and received several marriage proposals — when her story was told in newspapers and in Picture Post magazine.
Credit … Maurice Ambler/Picture Post and Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

At the height of Roberta Cowell’s celebrity status, in 1954, her face adorned the cover of Britain’s popular Picture Post magazine. When her story appeared in a newspaper, “I received 400 proposals. Some of them of marriage,” she said in an interview for The Sunday Times in 1972. “I could have had titles, money, the lot.”

She achieved this fame when she became the first person in the UK known to have her gender reassigned from male to female. Her transition — and all of the yearnings and hopes that came with it — involved hormone treatments and surgeries despite what some regarded in strait-laced 1950s Britain as flouting contemporary laws.

“Since 18 May 1951, I have been Roberta Cowell, female,” she pronounced in her autobiography. “I have become a woman physically, psychologically, glandularly and legally.”

Yet by the time Cowell died in 2011 at age 93, her voyage across the lines of gender and social norms had faded into obscurity.

People were perhaps more familiar with Christine Jorgensen, a former US Army clerk who transitioned in Denmark just months after Cowell. When Jorgensen died of cancer in 1989 at age 62, the event was recorded in an obituary in The New York Times.

Cowell’s death, by contrast, went all but unremarked upon, even in Britain. Her body was found on 11 October 2011, in her small apartment in south west London by the building superintendent. A handful of friends attended her funeral, but, apparently at her request, there was no fanfare for the woman who had helped pioneer gender reassignment at a time when it was virtually taboo.

Only in 2013 — two years after her death — was her passing reported, by The Independent on Sunday.

“So complete was her withdrawal from public life that even her own children did not know she had died,” the article said.

The disclosure of her death inspired a brief resurgence of media interest in her story, focusing partly on what was broadly depicted as the severing of all ties with her two daughters and on the circumstances of her transition.

Roberta Cowell on the cover of Picture Post magazine in March 1954. She wrote about her transition in “Roberta Cowell’s Story.”
Credit … Maurice Ambler/Picture Post and IPC Magazines, via Getty Images

After World War II, she developed an interest in the idea of a combination of hormone therapy and surgery to more closely align her body with her gender identity. This had been reinforced by a book called “Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology” (1946) by Michael Dillon, a medical student whom she sought out in 1950.

Michael Dillon

Cowell wrote in her autobiography “Roberta Cowell’s Story,” that during their meeting, over lunch, Dillon revealed that he had himself changed his gender identity through doses of testosterone and gender-affirming surgery – he was the first transman to get a phalloplasty.

Together they agreed that he would help her transition by performing a procedure that was prohibited under so-called “mayhem” laws, forbidding the intentional “disfiguring” of men who would otherwise qualify to serve in the military. If discovered, Dillon would almost certainly have been prevented from completing his studies to become a physician. The operation – an inguinal orchiectomy was conducted in great secrecy, and its success enabled Cowell to seek medical affidavits from a Harley Street gynaecologist stating she was intersex.

This allowed her to have a new birth certificate issued, with her recorded sex changed to female.

Soon afterward, Cowell became a patient of Harold Gillies, a pioneer of plastic surgery who had performed gender-affirming surgery on Dillon, according to the book “The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution” (2006). She had a vaginoplasty on 15 May 1951 – an entirely novel procedure, which Gillies had only performed experimentally on a cadaver.

“If it gives real happiness,” Gillies wrote of his procedures, “that is the most that any surgeon or medicine can give.”

Roberta & Michael

By several accounts, Dillon fell deeply in love with Cowell, but she ultimately rejected his proposal of marriage.

Roberta Elizabeth Marshall Cowell was born on 8 April 1918, in Croydon, south of London, one of three children born to Dorothy Elizabeth Miller and a high-ranking military surgeon, Major-General Ernest Marshall Cowell, who had served as a physician in both world wars and, in 1944, was appointed honorary surgeon to King George VI.

In the social order of the time, it was guaranteed that Roberta Cowell would be educated at Whitgift School, a male single-sex public school. Towards the end of her school days, she visited Belgium, Germany, and Austria with a school friend. At the time, one of her hobbies was photography and film making, and she was briefly arrested in Germany for shooting a cine film of a group of Nazis drilling. She secured her release by agreeing to destroy the film, but was able to substitute unused film stock, and keep the original footage. She developed an abiding interest in cars and racing. “It was the be-all and nearly the end-all of my existence,” she said in her autobiography.

From an early age, she wrote, she felt conflicted about her gender, compensating for feminine “characteristics” with an “aggressively masculine manner” that persuaded gay men to take her “for one of themselves.”

Physically, she was sensitive about being overweight, displaying what she called “feminoidal fat distribution.” In her teenage years, other pupils nicknamed her “Circumference” and “Bottom.” She left school at 16 to work briefly as an apprentice engineer until she joined the Royal Air Force in 1935. Her ambition was to become a fighter pilot, but she was found to suffer from acute airsickness and was deemed “permanently unfit for further flying duties with the RAF”.

From then until the start of World War II in 1939, she studied engineering at University College London and entered a series of automobile races including the Antwerp Grand Prix in Belgium. She enlisted in the Army in 1940.

In 1941 she married Diana Margaret Zelma Carpenter, a fellow engineer and race car driver whom she had met in college. They had two daughters, Anne and Diana. They separated in 1948 and divorced in 1952.

Despite her earlier dismissal from flying duties, Cowell was allowed to return to the RAF in 1942, flying combat and aerial reconnaissance missions in Spitfires and other aircraft. After the Allied D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944, she flew out of a Belgian air base in a Hawker Typhoon airplane that was shot down by ground fire over Germany on a low-level attack east of the Rhine River. The flight, she said, had been scheduled as the “very last trip of my second tour of operations.” In fact it was her last flight of the war.

She crash-landed the stricken warplane and was taken prisoner.

Fearing that her captors would treat her harshly, she twice sought to escape and twice she failed. She was transferred to Stalag Luft I, a prison camp for Allied aircrews in north Germany near the Baltic Sea between Lübeck and Rostock.

In her autobiography, she described the surreal elements of wartime life, relating perilous adventures with ironic detachment. She spoke of blacking out at 40,000 feet when her oxygen supply malfunctioned but somehow reviving after her plane plummeted almost to the ground. And, on another occasion, she recounted making an emergency landing atop a cliff on the English coastline just as her plane ran out of fuel.

In the early days of her captivity, she said, an Allied air raid on Frankfurt forced her and her captors into a bomb shelter where angry German civilians realised that she was an enemy pilot. She persuaded them “in my halting German” that she was not a bomber pilot and told them the untruth that her mother and father had been killed in a German raid on London. “It seemed to do the trick and the angry growling died down,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I wonder what would have happened to a Luftwaffe pilot discovered in an air-raid shelter during the blitz.”

Conditions at Stalag Luft I worsened as the end of the war approached, with Soviet Red Army troops advancing across Germany toward Berlin. Food supplies were so meagre, she lost 49 pounds. In May 1945, as German forces surrendered, their captors abandoned the facility, leaving it unguarded until Soviet troops liberated it. Within days, Cowell and other British captives had been flown home aboard American Flying Fortress bombers.

The immediate post war years confronted Cowell with the practical problems of earning a living, variously building and racing cars and renovating houses to sell at a profit. But she also detected a mounting sense of “restlessness and unhappiness,” she wrote in her autobiography, and resolved to undergo Freudian psychoanalysis. “It became quite obvious that the feminine side of my nature, which all my life I had known of and severely repressed, was very much more fundamental and deep-rooted than I had supposed.”

Cowell participating in the women’s race car competition in Sussex, England, when she was 39. After the war, she earned a living by building and racing cars.
Credit … PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

She began to live a double life, taking hormone treatments to enhance her femininity while still living as a man.

People, she wrote, would speculate openly on her gender. “I preferred to steer clear of children and elderly ladies; they were too observant or at least too outspoken in their remarks.”

Then came the turning point when she met Dillon. The encounter was “so shattering that the scene will be crystal-clear in my memory for the rest of my life,” she wrote.

After three years of therapy and surgery, Cowell seemed to find emotional contentment that was matched only intermittently by material security. Two business ventures, in experimental car engineering and women’s clothing, did not survive.

The publication of her story in Picture Post in 1954 and her autobiography earned her the equivalent of several hundred thousand pounds. In 1957 she won a noted hill climb auto race and bought a wartime Mosquito fighter-bomber in which she planned to break the speed record for a flight across the South Atlantic. But the attempt never came about. In 1958 she appeared in bankruptcy court where she said she had no assets and significant debts, owed mainly to her father.

Cowell’s name has been summoned as a trailblazer in the years since her death, her transition having preceded by decades the public discourse over gender identity and LGBT rights.

Perhaps because she was one of the first to transition medically, she didn’t recommend it easily to others, saying, “Many of those people will regret the operation later. There have been attempted suicides.”

Whether her views would have changed over time will never be known; in 1972 she said she was writing a second autobiography, but it was never published.







Midnight raid by Manchester Police – 140 years ago today


The Illustrated Police News Police raid on a drag ball in Hulme

There are instances of crossdressing balls in many countries. One that has been documented was known through a police raid of a ball celebrated in the Temperance Hall in the Hulme area of Manchester.

On 24 September 1880, the Chief Constable of Manchester received anonymous information about an event “of an immoral character” that was about to take place in the Temperance Hall of Hulme.

The detective Jerome Caminada was despatched with police constables to observe the ball and make any necessary arrests. Of the 47 men that congregated, all wore fancy dress costumes, 22 as women; a pair was dressed as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and another as Romeo and Juliet.

The windows of the Temperance Hall had mostly been blacked out and so Detective Caminada and his constables had to observe the ball from a neighbouring rooftop. Caminada reported that the ball had begun at 9.00pm, that dancing had commenced at around 10.00pm and that every now and then, a couple disappeared into a side room. Just after 1.00am, mindful that some guests had started to leave, Caminada gained entry to the ball by giving the password “sister” in an effeminate manner to a doorman dressed as a nun. After the door was opened, the police raided the building, and detained all participants.

The trial showed that some of the revellers were not from Manchester and were regulars of similar balls that were organised in several cities such as Leeds or Nottingham. The men were bound over to keep the peace on two sureties of £25.00 each, a significant sum. Some were unable to pay it and ended up in prison as a result. All the arrested men had their names, addresses and professions published widely.

The picture above shows the front page of the tabloid The Illustrated Police News on the week of the raid at Temperance Hall in Hulme, Manchester.

Two women dancing the waltz (c 1892) by Toulouse Lautrec

Balls for lesbians were also quite common, though not as much as male ones. Not only were they less in number, but there is less information about them, a problem common to all lesbian herstory. On the other hand, in Western societies, two women dancing together publicly is still acceptable nowadays, and can be done without any suspicions of lesbianism.

Two women dancing the tango on a postcard from 1920

However, in Mexico, on 4 December 1901, there was a police raid of a lesbian ball in Santa Maria.

This year a new social evening for women was planned in Chorlton, South Manchester urging women to dress in your finest for “The Days of Duke”. I’ve not been able to find out any more information about this other than the poster below.

Together campaign launched … the B in LGBT


Over the past few months, the LGBT Foundation has been working in partnership with trans and LGBT organisations across the country on an exciting and powerful campaign – together.

The main objective of this campaign is to try and change the public narrative around trans equality to focus on issues of safety and dignity. This reframing approach was taken by organisations in parts of America where they found that people switched off when talking about trans rights, but they were more likely to respond positively when talking about issues of safety and dignity, as this was something they could relate to. We’re hoping to reach out to and win over allies from outside of LGBT communities by refocusing on the issues we want to talk about – safety at school, access to inclusive healthcare, safety at home and in the community, dignity at work and more.

Now, more than ever, we need strong and vocal allies who will stand up for trans people, including non-binary and gender diverse people, and of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and experiences.

Trans children can often experience terrible bullying at school and at home. Trans adults are routinely denied access to appropriate, timely and inclusive healthcare. Hate crimes against trans people continue to rise year on year. Trans people, including non-binary and gender diverse people, and their communities have been subjected to malicious attacks from powerful public voices, seeking to divide trans people from society and frighten allies into silence.

We achieve so much more when we work together.

That’s why a number of the UK’s trans and LGBT+ organisations have joined up for the first time to improve the tone of public debate around trans issues in politics, the media, online and beyond. We hope to move this conversation forward positively. Everyone deserves to live in safety and with dignity.


To get involved the website address is

The hashtag for the campaign is #TogetherWithTrans.

The together campaign organisation team consists of LGBT Foundation, Stonewall, Mermaids, Consortium and Gendered Intelligence.

The B in LGBT

Bi Visibility Day / International Celebrate Bisexuality Day is on 23 September each year, and was first officially marked in 1999. Each year the Day highlights bi awareness and challenges bisexual and biromantic erasure.

See the website – – which collates information about Bi Visibility Day events around the world, and features resources and information about events in previous years.

Bisexuality After 50: the Revolving Closet Door

By Rev Francesca Bongiorno Fortunato

It’s a truism among bisexuals that “coming out” is not a one-shot deal for us, but a constant process. On Facebook, “Relationship Status” is of great importance when it comes to the ways others judge and define us. For those of us who identify as bisexual, relationship status has been a defining aspect of our identities (from the perspectives of other people in our lives) since long before the advent of social media.

I am a woman who is married to a woman. At casual glance, I appear to be a lesbian. For many years before I got involved with the woman who is now my wife, I was married to a man. During those years (again, at casual glance) I appeared to be heterosexual. Since my late teens, I have been serially monogamous. I have had more relationships with men than I have had with women. But there were women, and those relationships were important.

I have always (since age 10 or so, when I first learned the word and realised that it described me) identified as bisexual. But there have been times in my life when I’ve been viewed as lesbian and times (longer and more frequent times, since I’ve been with more men) when I was viewed as straight. If I wanted the truth of my bisexuality to be known, I had to “out” myself, regardless of which sort of relationship I happened to be in at the time. I didn’t always have the energy to do that. And so, my sexual orientation identity has evolved, dependent upon current relationship status.

But what about those times when I’ve been viewed as straight because I was in a serious relationship with a man? Was I “in the closet?” Some might say so. I never wanted to be closeted. I always wanted to be honest about my orientation, for my sake and for the sake of others in the LGBT community. But it wasn’t easy. I had to come out, over and over and over again, to everyone I considered a friend. “You know … I’m bisexual. I had girlfriends as well as boyfriends when I was younger. I can still be attracted to women …”

It should be easier now that I’m with a woman, but it isn’t. If I want people to know I identify as bisexual, rather than lesbian, I still have to make a point of telling them. And then they wonder why. Why, if I’m happy with my wife and not seeking a romantic or sexual relationship with anyone else, should it matter that I’m bisexual? Well … it matters because it’s true. And it mattered just as much (because it was just as true) when I was with a man.

Sometimes it seems that for bisexuals of a certain age (anyone old enough to have been in as many relationships as she has fingers) the closet has a revolving door. We don’t put ourselves in the closet so much as others put us in it (based on relationship status) and force us (if authenticity matters, as it does to me) to push ourselves out of that closet, over and over and over again.

And it matters because I need community, as much as any heterosexual or lesbian woman needs community. I need to be known, accepted and respected for who I am. I need to be part of the fabric of society—not the butt of jokes or the subject of debates regarding my existence.

I hope that it will be easier for future generations of bisexuals to stay out of the closet for life, regardless of relationship status. At this stage in my life, I am willing to keep outing myself as often as is necessary, to keep that closet door from being slammed on me or on other bisexuals. The door will only stop revolving if we have the courage to pry it open, keep it open and, ultimately, dismantle it. I’m working on that. In my writing, in my speaking, in my marching with other bisexuals, and in every other way that I can think of, I’m working on that!