Friday, 26 April 2013

A little history of our own...

The LGBT History Project has its roots in work we did for the Rainbow Network, the corporate support network for LGBT staff at the then Department for Constitutional Affairs (aka the DCA, which later became part of the Ministry of Justice when it was created in 2007).

The Rainbow Network used LGBT History Month as a way to inform staff about LGBT issues generally, presenting events in different parts of England and Wales (in the departmental offices). Over the years we gave presentations on the lasting impact of Section 28, international laws on homosexuality, the development of thinking on homosexuality from the late 19th century and lots more. My personal favourite has always been the 2 hour seminar on Polari, in which I got participants to sit a mock GCSE paper.

In 2007, when the DCA provided generous funding for its diversity networks, the Rainbow Network worked with a gay-run graphic design company, Smart Arts, to produce the very first edition of Past2Present.

That first edition was only produced in a limited print run (of about 1,000 copies, if I remember correctly) and there are very few now available. I have about 3 copies, the rest are spread about the UK. We sent them to all our members and to local offices - magistrates' courts, county courts, crown courts.

We were never entirely sure how that was received - although we do know that someone in the Magistrates' Court at Leamington Spa shredded the copies we sent there. A Rainbow Network member, who was not out at the time, reported that back to us. We contacted the regional manager, without giving away the location (to avoid outing our member). I'm pleased to say that he worked with us to provide a full day's training on LGBT workplace issues to all the managers in that region.

Recently, I got in contact with one of the people who worked with me on the Rainbow Network. It turned out that he had a relatively complete draft of that original Past2Present in pdf format. With a little bit of work, I have managed to re-create it almost in its pristine glory - the design is not quite perfect, but then Smart Arts had far more professional software (and skill) than I have.

Here's the link:-
Past2Present 2007 -

The other editions can be downloaded here:-
(There was no 2008 edition.)
Past2Present 2009 -

Past2Present 2010 -
Past2Present 2011 -
Past2Present 2012 -
Past2Present 2013 -

Friday, 12 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher, RIP

It was with no regret whatsoever that I heard a few days ago of the death of Baroness Thatcher.

Since then there has been outpourings of grief and of vitriol -  you can guess which part of the political spectrum each came from, I'm sure.

And I'll confess to a sneaky voice in my head singing, "Ding dong...". I'm not proud of that. As a child, if I couldn't say something nice about someone, I was always encouraged to say nothing instead. So I've been able to resist the temptation to actually sing it out loud, though I have made reference to it in at least one Facebook post.

So, my basic reaction to Mrs T's passing is - 'Oh'. Indifference. I didn't know her personally, so I feel no sadness. And, although I will say that I despised her coldhearted policies and lack of insight into their effect on the vulnerable, I don't feel an urge to dance and rejoice either.

For me, Margaret Thatcher was a cold, ambitious individual. Anyone who thinks she should be an icon for women should, in my view, consider whether she actually did very much to improve the lot of women. A lot of articles written over the past few days by women make it plain than none of the writers think she did anything of value for women.

As a gay man, my dislike of her stems from Section 28, which her government brought in. A mean-spirited piece of legislation whose repercussions for LGBT young people are still being felt. A number of LGBT commentators have written about this.

In February of 2009, as part of a day long event I helped to present for LGBT History Month, I gave a presentation called 'The Shadow of Section 28', that gives some idea of my thinking.

In my view, while Margaret Thatcher was not the main architect of this legislation, it is quite obvious that she was content to support it and felt happy to fall in with the rhetoric about the 'poor children'. And she was, after all, the leader of the government responsible for making it clear that LGBT people were not worthy of the protection of the law, were beyond the Pale. By making it difficult (to say the least) to talk about LGBT lives to young people, another generation grew up knowing only what was rumoured about them. Never a constructive way.

The lack of discussion about LGBT people at school, indeed the fear that some teachers had of doing so, in case they got into trouble, has damaged countless lives and encouraged a school culture that has resulted in the high levels of homophobic bullying we see reported in Stonewall's The School Report. I lay the blame for that at her door, as the Prime Minister whose government brought Section 28 into being.

More information:

This link shows Mrs T in October 1987 making her feeling known about the need for Section 28, making a connection, as homophobes so often do, to children.

Stonewall's The School Report 2012: