• Matt Williams

Chichester Pride and LGBT+ History Month

Updated: Mar 1


Love it or hate it, history is important, especially for the LGBT+ community. History shapes our identities and is fundamental to our understanding of the world and the world’s understanding of us. LGBT+ History Month gives the community the opportunity to learn about its past, take a leading role in writing the narrative and celebrate all that has been achieved in gaining greater equality. LGBT+ History Month takes on an even greater significance this year, as 2022 marks 50 years since the first Pride March took place in the UK in 1972. It will also be the year that we celebrate our first Chichester Pride. Read on to find out a bit more about the background of LGBT+ History Month, why it is important and what we will be doing to mark it.

 

Why is LGBT+ History Month important? LGBT+ History Month is celebrated every February in the UK and in many countries around the world. It was launched in the UK in 2005 by the education charity, Schools OUT UK to make the LGBT+ community more visible in society and to fight the prejudice that the community continues to face through education. The month is also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and diversity of the LGBT+ community. This annual celebration is only possible in educational settings due to the abolition of Section 28 in 2003. With its introduction in 1988, Section 28 prohibited the ‘’promotion of homosexuality’’ in schools and local authorities. It meant that for 15 years being queer could not be discussed in schools and a whole generation of young LGBT+ people grew up without any form of support in education. Even worse it meant that being queer was enshrined by law as something wrong - Section 28 stated that promoting ‘’the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" was prohibited. The launch of LGBT+ History Month in 2005 was an important turning point. It demonstrated that being queer was something to celebrate, gave much needed visibility to the community and perhaps even more importantly, encouraged the discussion of queer issues in education.

 

LGBT+ History Month is now widely celebrated, not just in schools, but across society in arts and cultural organisations, local authorities, businesses, charities and community organisations, such as Chichester Pride. Chichester Pride celebrates LGBT+ History Month To celebrate in 2022 we held a LGBTQ+ History evening on February 24th at Chichester College to help educate those in and outside the community and create a safe space to ask questions and feel safe while learning.

Our speakers, Phil Wilson and Melissa Hamilton, did a fantastic job and there were many great questions from our curious audience. ‘’For most people, learning history is something that is done at school or in the home, where knowledge and experiences are shared and passed on by one generation to the next. For the LGBT community, who don't have that linear transfer of history, events such as LGBT+ History Month are especially important…For far too long LGBT+ history has been forgotten, ignored or systematically repressed. It is a history full of brave and courageous individuals and movements, who fought for dignity, it is also of global events that have shaped our freedoms today.’’ Phil Wilson Exploring local queer history: We will also be exploring notable queer historical figures and events in West Sussex in collaboration with West Sussex Record Office. Queerness has existed everywhere for millenia and West Sussex is no exception! Here are just some of the most interesting figures we have come across so far: Novelist and playwright Clemence Dane (aka Winifred Ashton) lived in Pendean and is considered the ‘’invisible woman’’ of 20th century culture. Dane was the first female screenwriter to win an Oscar in 1947, her first novel Regiment of Women (1917) was about forbidden desire in an all girls’ school and she founded the Tavistock Circle, which included many LGBT writers, actors, artists, composers and designers, including Noel Coward and Ivor Novello. Oscar Wilde, the famous poet and playwright spent time in Worthing where he wrote the play The Importance of Being Earnest in 1894. On the opening night of the play in London (14th February 1895) the Marquess of Queensberry planned to present Wilde with a bouquet of rotten vegetables, as he had discovered that his son Lord Alfred Douglas was Wilde’s lover. Wilde was tipped off and Queensberry denied entry to the play. Wilde later sued for libel but this was to be his downfall. Queensberry was able to prove Wilde’s homosexuality in court. He was charged with gross indecency and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. Gluck, born Hannah Gluckstein, was a brilliant British artist who rejected any forename or prefix and took the name Gluck as gender-nonconforming. Gluck defied the traditional view of women in the 1920s and 1930s and in 1936 painted the famous work Medallion. It is a striking double portrait of Gluck and Gluck’s lover Nesta Obermer. Sadly the relationship broke down in 1942 as Nesta would not leave her husband, but a year later Gluck met Edith Shakleton Heald. In 1944 they moved in together at Chantry House, Steyning, where they lived until Edith’s death in 1976. Eager for some more local queer history? Follow us on social media and keep an eye on our blog for some more fascinating insights into West Sussex’s queer history in the next few months.


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