Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Account of a School Celebrating History Month 2008

A recent survey of 1,145 young people conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit for Stonewall reported that 92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats. And it is important to remember that homophobic bullying does not only touch LGBT pupils but any child appearing to be different from the norm, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Although Section 28, the aim of which was to prevent local authorities from "promoting homosexuality" was repealed in 2004, many teachers still find it difficult to broach the subject of homosexuality in the classroom. Others feel helpless to challenge homophobic behaviour.

Elly Barnes is not one of those teachers. The openly lesbian music teacher and head of year teaches at Stoke Newington School, a non-selective, state school, specialising in Arts, Maths, and Science in the London Borough of Hackney. For the past three years, thanks to Elly's remarkable energy and vision, the school has been celebrating LGBT History Month by integrating it to the curriculum. This year, thanks to the success of the initiative, the wider community has also been involved and other schools in the Borough have expressed interest in marking History Month themselves.

You can find Elly's account of this year's celebration of the month, together with pictures here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Richard Chopping Dies

Richard Chopping
1917 - 2008

Richard Chopping was an illustrator specialising in plants. He is probably most famous however for the covers he design for several of Ian Fleming's James Bond books. in the late 1950. He and his life long partner where the first couple to sign a Civil Partnership in Wivenhoe (near Colchester) where they lived for over 60 years. They also founded an artists community, the members of which included Francis Bacon and famous literary figures.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online

The fully searchable accounts of thousands of trials from 1834 to 1913 have gone online today, thus completing the project of making the records of the Old Bailey available over the Internet.

The Old Bailey Proceedings Online makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts, 1690 to 1772. It allows access to over 210,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 3,000 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use.

The trials featured include those of Oscar Wilde and the suffragettes but also those of hundreds of men sent to the pilory and hard-labour or the gallows for attempted buggery or buggery.

Professor Tim Hitchcock, from the University of Hertfordshire, said: "If you want to know how to order a plate of oysters in an East End pub, or what not to wear to church in Islington, the information is all here. Besides the desperate drama of crimes punished, the Proceedings give us a new and remarkable access to the everyday."

The records can be found at

The press release from the researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Hertfordshire and The Open University involved in the project is here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Canadian Elderly Priests Marry

Two retired Anglican priests, Ruth Pogson, 83, and Beth Aime, 79, exchanged vows yesterday in a civil ceremony at the Island View nursing home where Pogson has been a resident until now. She will be transfered to a care home in Vancouver later this week. Aime already lives in Vancouver but the two will still live apart.

The newly wed have been in a relationship since 1995 and wanted to make their relationship official.
“What we’re here for is about justice and it’s about bringing a community into an inclusive community rather than being shut out all the time,” Aime told their guests. “We’re here to hopefully bring this world somewhere where we’re all equal.”

They are now hoping to see their union blessed by the Church but are still facing obstacles.

Find out more here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Proud Heritage Online Museum Launched

After three years of careful research and development, Proud Heritage, the national museum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history and cultural ancestry, opened its doors online officially on 18 April. There was a special preview event for the public on the 14th which featured a biographic interview with Peter Tatchell.

During the event, organised in partnership with the Natural History Museum, Proud Heritage set out its future plans and unveiled its first public phase - a cutting edge online museum that breaks new ground, and not just for being queer!

Jack Gilbert, Executive Director commented,"Proud Heritage has already established itself as an expert agency in the heritage sector, now it is ready to go live. And now it needs public support. Find out how to give memory or memorabilia, how to
volunteer and how to become a Friend! Be Proud!"

Peter Tatchell said:"I regard it as a visionary project of critical importance for the integration of queer history and heritage into British cultural life."

The online museum is organised very simply into four "wings", each containing sections or galleries to explore. Members of the public are invited to give time and money to the project but perhaps more importantly, they can also give memories and materials to be included to the museum itself.

Proud Heritage

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Study Day - Section 28: Hiding Homosexuality

International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) will be taking place on Saturday May 17th. To mark the day and as a commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the implementation of Clause 28, in May 1988, the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) is organising a study day. This will also be an opportunity for LAGNA to launch their new website.

Section 28: Hiding Homosexuality will take place at the Dragon Hall, 17, Stukeley Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5LT, between 3-30 and 8-30.

There will be an exhibition of press material from the period, covering the tabloid backlash against the lesbian and gay policies (actual and apocryphal) of a number of local authorities, the social impact of HIV and AIDS, and the routine and recurrent homophobia of Fleet Street's finest (George Gale, Jean Rook, 'Mills the Angry Voice' et al).

Later in the day, there will be a raffle to raise necessary funds for LAGNA, with the chance to win a signed photo of Sue 'Rather Invaded' Lawley among the prizes.

Refreshments will be provided.

The programme for the day:

3-30 Doors open
4-20 Introduction by Robert Thompson (Chair of LAGNA)
4-30 Professor Jeffrey Weeks: the political context of Clause 28
5-00 Lisa Power: the campaigns against the Clause
5-30 Break and film footage, including the lesbian invasion of the BBC news studio on the day the Clause was passed
6-00 Eve Featherstone (Haringey Council Equalities and Diversities) and Stella Hillier (a teacher in the borough at the time): Haringey's Positive Images strategy in the mid 1980s, and the media backlash to its implementation
6-30 Elly Barnes (Stoke Newington School): current initiatives on the issue of the teaching of LGBT issues in the education sector
7-00 LAGNA website demonstration and results of the raffle
7-30 Music

Attendance is free, although places need to be pre-booked. Please provide names of attendees by email to

Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive
International Day Against Homophobia
Section 28

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hockney Donates his Biggest Painting to Tate

David Hockney, one of Britain's leading contemporary artist, has donated one of his latest works to the Tate Gallery. The painting, which represents a winter landscape in the North of England, is itself composed of 50 smaller canvases and at 4.6 by 12.2 meters (15 by 40 feet) is the biggest the artist has ever produced.

Hockney choose to the device of smaller canvases because it allowed him to do the work without having to use a ladder. He had however to enlist the help of a digital camera and a computer.

"Bigger Trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le Nouvel Age Post-photographique" will be on display at Tate Britain in the autumn of 2009.

David Hockney
Bigger trees near Warter or/ou Peinture sur le motif pour le Nouvel Age Post-photographique 2007
© David Hockney. Photo: Richard Schmidt
Oil on 50 canvas
50 canvases (36 x 48'' EA.) 180 x 480'' Overall

Find out more here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Calpernia Addams: Widowed by Hate

Ten years ago, Private Barry Winchell's captivation for a young and beautiful show girl from Nashville Tennessee cost him his life. Two fellow soldiers decided that dating a trans woman made him gay and a candidate for summary execution in his sleep. US media and anti-hate crime campaigners decided it was easier to cast his trans girlfriend as a gay man too. And thus the die was cast for the erasure of two lives, and the nature of their love (Their story has been told in the 2003 film Soldier's Girl).

Ten years later Calpernia Addams has recovered from those horrific events and is making a rapid ascent as a US media personality. She was in Britain last week for the screening of her short film on media misrepresentation, Casting Pearls, and to attend a packed panel discussion at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Christine Burns was in London too and recorded an in-depth one to one interview with Calpernia where she talks about growing up, her spell in the US Navy, Barry’s murder, her blossoming career, and the representations of trans people in film and on TV.

You can listen to the interview here.

Calpernia Addams - Wikipedia
Calpernia's website

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Was Clark Gable 'Gay for Pay"?

Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind
David Bret’s angle on Clark Gable is this: Gable was “gay for pay” and “rough trade,” and he enjoyed having sex “for bucks.” [...] If these tidbits from the book’s first few pages aren’t too much information for you, you’re in luck. This breathtakingly trashy biography does not skimp on sordid anecdotes.

Read the full (fairly graphic) review of David Bret's new biography of Clark Gable, Tormented Star, in the New York Times here.

Clark Gable: Gay for Pay? - Afterelton
Clark Gable - Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cuneiform Clay Tablet Gives Key to Sodom and Gomorrah Story

The biblical story relating the destruction of the town of Sodom and Gomorrah is often sited by religious people as an indication of the Christian god's displeasure at homosexual acts. Indeed one of the cities even gave its name to the "sin" of sodomy.

A group of scientists from the University of Bristol might have just put pay to the theory of a divine intervention. A cuneiform clay tablet that has puzzled scholars for over 150 years has been translated for the first time. The tablet is now known to be a contemporary Sumerian observation of an asteroid impact at Köfels, Austria. The tablet was found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the Royal Palace at Nineveh, and was made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC.

With modern computer programmes that can simulate trajectories and reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago the researchers have established what the Planisphere tablet refers to. It is a copy of the night notebook of a Sumerian astronomer as he records the events in the sky before dawn on the 29 June 3123 BC (Julian calendar).

Although the impact took place in Austria, the trajectory of the asteroid meant that the back plume from the explosion (the mushroom cloud) would be bent over the Mediterranean Sea re-entering the atmosphere over the Levant, Sinai, and Northern Egypt. Mark Hempsell, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Bristol University, explains that “The ground heating, though very short, would be enough to ignite any flammable material – including human hair and clothes. It is probable more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact blast.“

Dr Hempsall add that dozens of ancient myths record devastation that would tally with the asteroid’s impact. This includes the Old Testament tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Ancient Greek myth of how Phaeton, son of Helios, fell into the River Eridanus after losing control of his father’s sun chariot.

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of Heaven; and he overthrew those cities and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities . . . [Abraham] looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. Genesis 19:24-28
Contrary to many Christian, classical Jewish texts do not stress the homosexual aspect of the attitude of the inhabitants of Sodom but rather focus on their cruelty and lack of hospitality to the "stranger" as the reason for the destruction of the city. The people of Sodom were seen as guilty of many other significant sins. Rabbinic writings affirm that the Sodomites also committed economic crimes, blasphemy and bloodshed.

The press release from the University of Bristol giving details on asteroid impact and the translation process of the tablet and the is available here.
Clay tablet identified as asteroid that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah - The Times
Sodom and Gomorrah - Wikipedia

Monday, April 7, 2008

Broken Voices: 'Untouchable' Women Speak Out

The Launch of Broken Voices: 'Untouchable' Women Speak Out, the new book by Valerie Mason-John, will take place on Thursday 17 April at the Borders Bookstore on Charing Cross Road, London at 6.30pm

For the occasion, a panel discussion hosted by Producer and film maker Pratibha Parmar will bring together Sharmilla Beezmohun, deputy editor of Wasafiri, Malati Wankhede, from the ex untouchable community of India, Karunamaya, member of the Arya Tara Mahila Trust India, and Valerie Mason-John the Author

These previously undocumented stories reveal the lives of the Dalit—or untouchable women—in India by highlighting the continuing issues of human rights and discrimination. Recording such experiences as working in rice fields and living in slums, this work includes oral histories and covers a wide range of topics, including dowry burnings, marriages, beggars, human traffickers, and political and social activists. An exploration of the effects of Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution and the advocate of positive reservations for untouchables in education and employment, and other historical movements and religious texts on these women is also included.

Broken Voices: Untouchable Women Speak Out
Valerie Mason John
India Research Press
218 pages
ISBN13: 9788183860734
ISBN10: 8183860737

Friday, April 4, 2008

Anti-homophobic Bullying Books Banned in Bristol Schools

The potential conflict of interest between religious groups and the LGBT community has come to a head once again this week when Bristol Council temporarily withdrew books and teaching materials designed to fight homophobic bullying with 5 to 10 year old children after complaints from Muslim parents.

Muslim at Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School, supported by Members of Bristol Muslim Cultural Society said that they had not been consulted about the use of the books and found it problematic to have to explain homosexual relationships to their children.

Tony Fenwick, spokes person for LGBT History Month, sent the letter, reproduced below, to the BBC, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail who all covered the story.

Re-the Bristol book ban. It’s very disappointing to see books being banned from classrooms and it is the first time in my teaching career that I recall it being done as a result of parental action. I sincerely hope we are not going to return to the lies, hyperbole and subsequent hysteria that led to Section 28.

It is mandatory for schools to be safe spaces for our children as a result of the Equality Act, The Every Child Matters outcomes and the National Curriculum. It is also mandatory under the National Curriculum to teach children to respect minorities. An ATL survey found that 98% of children knew of homophobic bullying in their school, so schools are clearly not safe and homophobia is the elephant in the room. Moreover, you don’t have to be a gay or a lesbian to be homophobically bullied. You don’t have to have gender dysphoria to be transphobically bullied.

The purpose of education is to prepare people for the world in which they are growing up and you do that by opening doors; not by slamming them shut. The No Outsiders project provides books that help to do this, just as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, celebrated every February, exists to put LGBT people into the curriculum and provide role models for our youth.

Any parent or guardian who does not want his or her child to be bullied must surely support these initiatives. There is no need for consultation before they are introduced into schools because they meet the criteria - and indeed the letter – of the National Curriculum. It’s no more controversial than teaching Shakespeare, percentages or photosynthesis.

Good citizens come into this world through understanding each other and you cannot make people understand what you don’t tell them. We forget that at our peril.
* Anti-gay bullying books withdrawn - BBC News
* Anti-homophobia books removed from schools - Telegraph
* Muslims' fury forces schools to shelve anti-homophobia storybooks for 5-year-olds - Daily Mail

Male Pregnancy

Last week the American LGBT magazine, The Advocate, published an article by Female to Male Trans man Thomas Beatie. In the article, Beatie, explains how he is now carrying his and his wife's child despite opposition from the medical world.

Having transitioned some years ago, Beatie is legally recognised as a man and has been able to marry his partner, Nancy. Beatie has undergone chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy while keeping his reproductive organs. Since Nancy Beatie is now unable to procreate, the couple have decided to have their child, a girl to be born in June this year, carried by Thomas. On 3rd of April, Beatie gave his first television interview to the Oprah Winfrey show.

This announcement of the pregnancy has create a huge amount of controversy and many column inches in the press. Headlines range from Is the pregnant man Thomas Beatie a hoax for April Fool's Day (Daily Mirror) to 'Pregnant' man stuns medical profession (The Telegraph) or 'Being a pregnant man? It's incredible' (The Guardian).

Christine Burns, the UK trans activist, has produced an episode of her equality and diversity podcast, Just Plain Sense, to tackle the issues linked to male pregnancy in depth, explain the legal and medical background, and pick away at some of the conclusions that people might jump to. This can be downloaded here.

Labor of Love - Is society ready for this pregnant husband? - The Advocate
First TV Interview: The Pregnant Man - Oprah Winfrey Show

Thursday, April 3, 2008

bulletin No 45

The latest edition of the LGBT History Month bulletin is now available, as usual packed-full of news, information, notices of upcoming events and quotations.

To access the latest bulletin please click on one of the links below:
word document
pdf file

You can view all previous bulletins here or register to our mailing list here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Press Release: Department of Health Endorses the Month and suggests ideas

LGBT History Month explains why equality is good for you with the support of the Department of Health, which runs the NHS, in a new addition to its expanding LGBT History Month website.

In a number of informative pages we explain why safe spaces are essential to our health and wellbeing; provide 23 exciting ideas for running your own LGBT health event in 2009 and beyond; provide a list of resources relevant or specific to the LGBT community; and include a list of relevant links.

LGBT History Month spokesperson Tony Fenwick said, “This is a very exciting addition and it makes all our work worthwhile when a Government department supports us and feels our work is important. We are proud to have the Department of Health on board.

“We hope that everyone who visits our site reads these pages and uses them when planning events for LGBT History Month 2009. We need to start planning now to make it bigger and better than ever.

To read the pages go to