Looking back at LGBT+ History Month (February 2020)

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Thank you for making LGBT+ History Month a success!

Thank you to all our staff and students who helped make LGBT+ History Month events a success. Below you can read a summary of the events that took place.

We saw over 70 staff and students in attendance across seven events. 95% of those were satisfied with the event they attended, and said the event met their expectations. 77% of attendees also said that attending one event encouraged them to attend other events happening that month.

What did I miss?

We started the month with a seminar by our keynote speaker, Dr Mo Moulton, who is a Senior Lecturer in the History Department at the University of Birmingham.

Mo Moulton headshot

Dr Mo Moulton (image credit: Holly Revell)

Dr Moulton posed the question – how we should write the history of queer lives? focusing their talk on the life of Muriel St Clare Byrne who became a playwright and historian. In uncovering Muriel St Clare Byrne’s archive, and finding a note in her handwriting: “to be burned unread”, Moulton notes the absences in queer history.

You can read more in Dr Moulton’s book “Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and Her Oxford Circle Remade the World For Women”.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do queer histories or women’s histories because the sources aren’t there. They absolutely are.

Our next seminar was delivered by Dr Ruth Pearce, a Research Fellow in the School of Sociology and Social Policy, at the University of Leeds.

Research into records of trans birth parents

In 2008 a picture of Thomas Beatie went viral, with newspapers around the world declaring him the “world’s first pregnant man”. But while Thomas’ pregnancy was certainly historic, this was far from the first time a man had conceived.

 

Dr Pearce explored the histories of, and questioned the notion of, the “Pregnant Man”, arguing that positioning trans “as news” constructs trans as new, and that failing to acknowledge history distorts truth.

Drawing on research material from the ESRC-sponsored Trans Pregnancy project, Dr Pearce explained how and why male and non-binary pregnancy occurs, and how narratives of male pregnancy impact on trans, non-binary, and intersex lives.

Read more about the Trans Pregnancy Project

We also heard from Chris Wells, a PhD student exploring the construction of bisexual subjectivity between 1900 and 1939, in the School of Languages, Cultures and Society at the University of Leeds.

Bisexuality Flag Colours – by ShemeColour.com

To explore what bisexuality, bi-erasure, bi-invisibility and Shakespeare all have in common, and how these intersections are relevant to bisexuality in 2020, Chris explored William Shakespeare’s construction of the bisexual subject through a critical reflection on his collection of sonnets.

I enjoyed the discussion of lived experiences, and the explanation of how bisexuality has changed through time.

Attendee from Chris Wells’ event

Chris went on to discuss how much bisexual representation is restricted by the binarized language of hetero- and/or homosexuality in contemporary television. Chris also shared insights from his research into bisexuality and modernism.

An interviewee from Chris’ research

Download Chris’ slides

Follow Chris on Twitter

Second year BA Economics and Geography student, Tilen Kolar, led an interactive session on the role queer memorials, what they mean, and the power they have within and beyond LGBT+ communities. Tilen discussed the role of capitalism and LGBT+ identity politics, inequalities within the LGBT+ community, and how participatory queer art can be a solution.

Attendees made LGBT+ monuments with clay

Read more about Tilen’s research, in collaboration with his research supervisor Dr. Martin Zebracki.

Download Tilen’s slides

Following this, Co-Chair of the LGBT+ staff network, Ian Holdsworth, presented a short talk on the history of glitter. This included everything from how chips and flakes of Mica were used 40,000 years ago, how finely ground malachite crystals were used in the Ancient World, and that there are now 20,000 kinds of glitter available. Ian also discussed the changing norms and expectations around the use of glitter, and how this is reflected in popular culture.

Download Ian’s slides

Ian Holdsworth talking about the use of glitter in modern times

The Equality and Inclusion team from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences invited four panellists to share their experiences as coming out as LGBT+ in STEM.

Attendees watched a TED talk from Morgana Bailey on `The Danger of Hiding Who You Are`. This generated a good discussion between audience members and panellists on how we can move forward to be more inclusive with regards to LGBT+. Audience members drew on their past experiences to challenge conventional forms of Unconscious Bias training and suggested focusing on topics of the week to embed inclusion within our culture.

The EPSRC Northern Power Inclusion Matters Project was highlighted. This offers shared characteristics mentoring, reciprocal mentoring, and networking events for under-represented early career researchers in Engineering and Physical Sciences.

It’s good we had the space to discuss how to improve LGBT+ representation in STEM and I think it was valuable to hear other peoples experiences.

Attendee from the STEM Panel event

In our final event of the month, the LUU Spoken Word Society led an interactive and bespoke LGBTQ writing workshop of all things poetry and spoken word. Attendees took part in a number of writing exercises around the theme of ‘identity’, which helped find new ways to explore creative writing and get out of writing slumps.

Poems from workshop attendees

Thank you to everyone who took part in and helped promote the events, and to those who shared their stories.

If you would like to be involved in future events like this, please email the Equality Policy Unit (equality@leeds.ac.uk).