The second London hub for OUTing the Past was the campus library of the London School of Economics. Tucked away in the historic area of Lincoln’s Inn, the combination of old and modern architecture epitomised the past and present of LGBT history.
Jane Trais gave the first lunchtime lecture, discussing Arena 3 – the first lesbian newsletter in the UK. Her talk mixed amusing personal ads with moving discussions on the loneliness felt by older lesbians, at a time when being out could mean losing what little they had.
The audience, mainly made up of older lesbians, joined in with their recollections of Arena 3 and shared stories of the creators: Esme Ross-Langley and Diana Chapman. LSE were kind enough to share their archived issues of Arena 3 with attendees.
The evening’s talks delivered on a variety of topics. First up was Steve Slack discussing the life of poet Edward Carpenter. Steve’s love for the poet was clear in his interesting and earnest discussion – including some amusing forays into Carpenter’s apparent love of naturism. We also learned of his involvement with a group which aims to have a public statue erected in Sheffield to mark Carpenter’s legacy.
Sue Sanders was next up talking of her experiences during the introduction of Section 28. Most of the audience was old enough to remember this dreadful time but for younger audience members it was an important look at the legal fights which our elders fought for us to be able to live freely.
Sue reminded us that rights are always in danger of being repealed, citing Russia, and the Left’s failure in the 80s to fully support LGBT people. It felt like a very pertinent topic at a time when LGBT rights seem constantly in danger around the globe. It also reminds us why it is essential for organisations like Schools Out to educate children and make life safer for our community.
Rounding off the evening was graphic novelist and academic Meg-John Barker with a talk on the history of non-binary cultures. Based on their chapter in Christine Burns’ recent collection Trans Britain, it took an all too brief look at the history of thinking outside the gender binary. It tracked the rapid shift in attitudes and understanding towards non-binary identities and spearheaded a lively discussion with members of the audience.
A panel discussion at the end engendered some interesting recollections and sharing of stories between speakers and audience members. It was clear that they had been struck by some of the topics discussed and feedback was very positive.
Overall it was an enjoyable and engaging series of talks detailing both the shared and individual histories of our community.
Schools OUT (UK)
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