As you might know, February is the LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK. It is a time that is supposed to bring attention to the often passed-over history of the queer* community in the UK and around the world. It can be celebrated in many ways – and there’s no wrong way of doing it – but if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some ideas:
1. Visit Alan Turing.
I am a STEM student, so there was really no doubt I wouldn’t mention Turing the first chance I got. You can visit his statue in the Sackville Gardens and learn more about this incredible scientist and mathematician who taught and built computers here, in Manchester. You can also spot a plaque dedicated to Turing on the front of the Coupland Building 1, where he worked. If you search deeper, Manchester is full of places that are related to Turing’s tragic history.
2. A walk around the city
Manchester is certainly one of the most queer-friendly places I’ve ever been to, and it has its own unique history. You could visit the Gay Village and the Sackville Gardens (where you’ll find the aforementioned Alan Turing statue, the Transgender Remembrance Memorial and the Beacon of Hope, a sculpture dedicated to AIDS victims), or you could take inspiration from past queer history walks organised by The People’s History Museum.
3. Cultural events
Many institutions are picking up the LGBTQ+ history month, and some of them are doing special events or organising exhibitions. Check out the OUTing the Past Festival, various events organised by the Central Library, or even the university’s own queer calendar at Contact Theatre.
4. Movie party
If you’d rather not go out, you could organize a movie session with your friends. There’s a big selection of queer movies or tv-series available online, whether documentaries, or historical fiction. If you want recommendations, my favourites include “The Pose”, “Paris is Burning”, “Portrait of the Lady on Fire”, or, the uplifting “Pride” from 2014 about the queer community supporting the miners’ strike. This February I am planning to watch “Operation Hyacinth”, a new Polish movie I didn’t manage to see during the break, as well as the UK’s not-so-newly-released “It’s a Sin”, which I also managed to miss.
5. Reach out to the community
You could check out the events that the university’s own LGBTQ+ society is running, or join their weekly coffee socials. You can also look up the calendar on the SU website, which is actually quite full with the LGBTQ+ History Month events, or look up local organisations. Maybe you’d even like to consider volunteering for one?
6. Talk to your friends
Finally, chances are, your friends either know some queer history, or want to know more. You can learn a lot from your international friends (just check beforehand that they’re ok with talking about it, because it might be emotionally draining). Personally, even though Polish queer history is often frustrating, it’s also incredibly interesting, and I’m always down to discuss it – especially if I could learn about queer communities of other countries in exchange!
That’s it! Just remember, take care of yourself. A lot of queer history can be quite tragic, and if you spend a lot of time around it, it can easily get you into a negative headspace (trust me, been there, done that). So it’s important to pay attention to your own feelings and celebrate the positive points of queer history as well. And there’s a lot to celebrate! History is more queer than many of us expect.
*Queer is an accepted community term, even though sometimes it can be considered controversial. I like it, and I like to use it, but more importantly, it is very popular in academia. It has a broad definition and is very inclusive, and in this instance, given how definitions and even how we perceive our identities change with time, ‘queer’ is a very useful term for historians to have.