Friday, February 18, 2011

LGBT History Month Issues Cyrillic Logo as Tribute to Belarussian LGBT Activists

Clare Dimyon (MBE) writes: I chuckled at the very early photo of David Cameron and his name rendered into the Cyrillic alphabet before I realised the significance of what I was seeing on the Facebook site of Labrys Belarus. As I decoded the headline with my 30 year old schoolgirl Russian, I understood: British Prime Minister supports LGBT History Month 2011 (and I could understand the whole headline!)

That statement of a Conservative politician who is now (for better or worse) the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has enormous symbolic power to the LGBT in C&E Europe and represents the shape of things to come. This statement is the more powerful for the fact that it has been made by the leader of the party that introduced the hated and damaging Section 28, ally in the European Parliament with the KaczyƄski inspired PiS (Law & Justice) party. Such allies can no longer claim homophobia as a universal "value". For LGBT people in C&E Europe it holds out the hope and gives the confidence that with persistence homophobia can and will and is being overcome.

Sue Sanders asked me to complement her presentation at the Lesbian Lives Conference in Brighton last weekend and told delegates of the importance of collecting and celebrating our his- and her- story. I explained how valuable my connections with LGBT HM are as I go round the PRIDEs of C&E Europe watching LGBT and democratic history unfold. I remind LGBT people to have an eye on the future to back up those photos, hang onto those rainbow artefacts, that what they are doing is history in the making, in the emergence of our people. This emergence that is not unlike the emergence of their nations from Soviet occupation and subjugation, a comparison, which may be the key in helping us explain our identity to the populations of central and eastern Europe.

As well as all the benefits of LGBT History Month to LGBT in Britain, ably outlined in Sue's presentation is the amazing fact of the encouragement this represents to even the most beleaguered LGBT in Europe. Belarussian LGBT continue the struggle in what is fundamentally a totalitarian state, the only country in Europe not even signed up to the Council of Europe unlike Russia, Ukraine and Moldova and a number of the other countries of the former Soviet Union. It is a fantastic and unexpected outcome of all the efforts to create LGBT History Month and a great tribute to all involved in making it happen.

And yet even in these oppressive circumstances Belarussian LGBT activists have achieved an astonishing piece of history... on Valentine's Day 2011 when they held their first legally sanctioned demo against homophobia in Minsk. It is the result of the work and persistence of a handful of activists who organised and took part, having the least legal protections in Europe.

LGBT History Month is proud to issue a Cyrillic version of the LGBT History Month 2011 logo as a small gesture of our great admiration of these Belarussian LGBT activists and to LGBT activists across the Russian speaking world (or anywhere the Cyrillic alphabet is used) who are LGBT history in the making. LGBT History Month values and recognises your courage in upholding the dignity of LGBT people and your role in weaving the fabric of our fabulous rainbow nation.

Clare adds: This is also an opportunity for me to mention the dedication of LGBT throughout C&E Europe who as well as everything-else have the often laborious work of translating films and materials from English (source of many LGBT resources) into their own languages so that LGBT who cannot speak English or understand it well can access their LGBT history and culture. As a result of this work by one Belarussian activist, news of the British Prime Minister's support for LGBT people can be proliferated around the whole Russian speaking (Cyrillic reading) territory, that 250 Million+ people!

As a 13 year old Quaker (and yet to emerge lesbian), I learnt Russian for "world peace" in 1978 at the height of the Cold War, as I delight in telling people in my best Russian! (It's one of the only things I can tell them in Russian!) "They" told me I would never use it, "they" laughed at my "perverse" decision, but now I use it most days and use it to connect with other LGBT people .so who's laughing now!

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