LGBT+ History Month is about celebrating LGBT+ history and making time to remember and learn about the individuals and events that have shaped the history and rights of the LGBT+ community. The President of our student-led Gender and Sexualities Alliance (GSA), Upper Sixth pupil Nellie, was happy to talk about the programme of events and activities the group organised for the Downe House community,
‘The GSA’s aim was to shine a light on some of the struggles and achievements of LGBT+ History and we started off the month by creating and posting some amazing infographics on our Instagram page (@Downe_House_GSA) about a variety of LGBT+ figures in history. From Joan Crawford to Alan Turing, Oscar Wilde to Marsha P Johnson, we hoped to educate and celebrate the lives of these individuals in a fun and engaging way.
To kick off our events we were lucky enough to be joined by Tash Walker, Co-Chair of Switchboard, the LGBT+ Helpline. Switchboard is a charity that provides a listening service for LGBT+ people over the phone, by email and through instant messaging. We raised money for Switchboard in December with the Downe House Lip Sync Battle, so it was amazing to have Tash come and speak to us about the history of the charity. We thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the Switchboard log books, which date back to the 1970s, as they were full of stories and experiences of LGBT+ people in Britain. Some stories had us laughing and some had us almost in tears, which really is a testament to how LGBT+ rights in Britain have not been a smooth ride.
Next, we had our very own Miss Tomlin deliver an excellent talk for the Sixth Form on ‘The Gendered Body’ in history. We learnt all about the ancient Greek deity, Hermaphroditus (who was transformed into an intersex being), Saint Wilgefortis and the conservative shift towards the gender binary and gender specific roles. This was an extremely engaging lunchtime talk attracting A Level historians, art historians, budding anthropologists and anyone with an interest in gender.
For the finale of our month-long programme, we were delighted to welcome Dr. Justin Bengry, Director of the Centre for Queer History at of Goldsmiths, University of London for a virtual lecture on capitalism and homosexuality. Dr. Bengry delivered an incredible lecture entitled ‘What is a Queer History of Capitalism?’ for the whole School community, delving into the impacts of capitalism and ‘The Pink Pound’ on the LGBT+ community through advertisements, magazines, literature, and the media in general. It was shocking to hear the extent to which companies and corporations have exploited LGBT+ people, dating back to the 1950s, and how representation in media is not always positive or helpful to the community. Though Dr. Bengry concluded that diversity has improved, there is still a long way to go and there is a risk of a pushback with the rise of certain Western political leaders. From the high standard of questions posed, it was clear that everyone who attended thoroughly enjoyed the lecture. As a Politics student myself, it was certainly beneficial to hear about a different and almost forgotten perspective on capitalism as an economic model and I’m sure many attendees, like myself, will be reading around the topic to learn more!
A huge thank you must go to Miss Tomlin for helping us to organise these events for the Downe House community and helping spread awareness of historical LGBT+ issues. And thank you to all those who attended our talks and engaged with LGBT+ History Month!’
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