We Are Revolting: 40 Years of Queer Activism

Robert Thompson, Chair of the LAGNA committe

The Lesbian and Gay News media Archive (LAGNA), based at Bishopsgate Institute, held a free event today to acknowledge and commemorate the unsung heroes and heroines of LGBT activism, protest and cultural resistance, over the last four decades. It was a fantastic afternoon balanced with historical, critical, entertaining and sometimes humorous accounts of the gains and losses encountered by LGBT activists.

Dr Matt Cook gave a detailed talk on the history of queer protest attempting to arrive at a definition of grass-roots activism, making some interesting observations along the way. Oscar Wilde defied the Victorian trend for ‘respectable’ males to wear beards, while pointing out the present day fashion for gay men to sport facial hair. Weaving through this vast subject of activism, Cook concluded that while there is an obvious dependency on the prevailing cultural conditions to solicit certain types of activism, occasionally there are specific events that create a ground-swell of support. In 1988 Section 28 of the local government act banning ‘the promotion of homosexuality as a pretend family relationship’ was instrumental in the founding of gay rights organisations such as Stonewall and Outrage. This discriminatory, vague and ideologically naive piece of Tory legislation was repealed in England in 2003.

Performer and Activist Lindsay River gave an anecdotal talk on protests in the lesbian-feminist movement in the 1970s. Formerly director of Polari, Lindsay has recently launched a new organisation Age of Diversity to promote the issues facing older LGBT people. Ajamu X Photographer and Curator of Rukus! – Black LGBT Archive spoke and showed us a film of a panel discussion on Black LGBT activism in the 1980s and beyond. Author and activist Ian Lucas enlightened us on the politics and operations of OutRage! and Act-Up in the 1990s. Ian’s lighthearted approach saw him handing out a small purse to the audience filled with post-it notes that contained subjects for him to speak about, he called it his random question generator.

Serge Nicholson and Jason Barker spoke about Transfabulous, the organisation they founded to champion transgender arts and culture through festivals, conferences, parties and events. Introducing Serge and Jason was Royal College of Art lecturer and filmmaker Mike Wyeld. Mike showed us the trailer for his film The Lovers and Fighters Convention a live concert film covering just one night of London’s Transfabulous festival.

Completing the event was a village-hall style raffle with complementary wine and nibbles. I then went off to the Retro bar to celebrate the birthday of my dear friend and sensational illustrator Sina Evil. Altogether a fantastically queer day.

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