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A Brit Queer: Why the Never Going Underground Exhibition on LGBTQ+ Rights Made Me Cry

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Hello and Welcome to the latest column of A Brit Queer, in which I will explain how I began crying in a museum exhibition on a Monday morning and why I’m totally okay with that.

Over the last week of July, I took a week off work but, as I’m sure you know, travel writers are never really ‘on holiday’ (I’m not complaining; I love my job), so I popped into the People’s History Museum in Manchester in order to do a feature on their latest exhibition: Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights

This exhibition was designed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in the UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland didn’t follow suit until the 1980s), in order to celebrate how far we’ve come and recognise how much further we have to go.

On their website, the PHM notes: “There was, however, nothing inevitable about that progress, and there were steps back as well as forward.”

History

As you might expect, there was a timeline of LGBTQ+ rights in Britain from pre-1533 (introduction of the Buggery Act by notorious a**hole Henry VIII) to the present day. Some of these events are instantly recognisable by every queer person in Britain (2014: Equal Marriage) but some are less so (1951: First Transwoman in the UK undergoes confirmation surgery).

It was incredible to see history laid out in front of me in this way and to see clearly that our fight for equality is not the linear path that I love to imagine. Nowhere was this more clear than in this image of two legal statutes that appeared right next to each other, smh.

Some entries made me smile, while others made me audibly sigh, but the image below shows the timeline entries that made me think the most.

Captions, clockwise from top: “Yes! *dances*”, “Well duh!”, “It took how long?”, “That’s really sad.”, “Another terrible legacy of colonialism.”

The exhibition’s title was selected because it was the name of the campaign against Section 28- the infamous legislation that forbade local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’- which saw the largest ever gathering for LGBTQ+ rights in Manchester in 1988.

Courtesy of PHM

This homophobic law was eventually overturned in 2003 but by then, it had already affected a whole generation of school children who weren’t told that it was okay to be who they were and had countless other repercussions on LGBTQ+ people coming of age in the 90s.

Courtesy of PHM

Activism

 

The exhibition was put together with the help the local LGBTQ+ community, who donated clothes that they wore to Pride, sourced early depictions of queer people in British media, and told their stories about being LGBTQ+ in the UK.

On of my favourite parts of the museum was the Closets are for Clothes display which featured clothing and objects to represent the lives of activists, not just because I love politically charged clothing but also because it showed that these people weren’t only change makers; they were husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, and friends.

Both photos courtesy of PHM

Attending the exhibition and seeing snapshots into the lives of early queer people, reinvigorated my activist soul and my desire to make things better for the next generation. It also made me thankful to those who came before me and made things better for me.

Interactive

Now you may be thinking, what made you cry at the exhibition? In all honesty, it was a mixture of things; reading activist stories, looking back at how bad things used to be, but the most prominent reason was one of the interactive exhibits on display.

You could contribute your favourite Pride anthem to their jukebox, write down your hopes for LGBTQ+ rights over the next fifty years, create your own Pride t shirt, make a Pride badge, play an activist-themed Frustration (I’m not kidding).

But those weren’t why I cried. The part that got to me was the Remembrance Wall for those we have lost. I lost a friend last year, who was really influential in my growth as a social justice advocate and in my acceptance of myself as queer and as I added her name to the wall, I began to cry.

Thankfully, no one was in that part of the museum at the time (it’s never great when strangers catch you rubbing at your eyes with your sleeve) and I was able to leave without embarrassing myself.

Overall, the NGU exhibition demonstrates how the fight for LGBTQ+ rights spans all of the main political parties (although there are definitely some who don’t give a ****), all religions, and all intersections of British life. Our movement is not, and has never been, a monolith; we need all colours of the rainbow.

It is open until September 3rd. If you’re heading to the North West this summer, I recommend visiting and checking it out for yourself because everyone’s experience is going to be different. The exhibition features family-friendly interactive areas and there’s even a special activity bag for young visitors and has a gender-neutral toilet.

Have you been to the exhibition? What did you think? Are there any other LGBTQ+ exhibitions in the UK that you want to tell me about? Let me know in the comments below.

On behalf of Travel Pride, I’d like to thank them for their assistance in letting us use the photos above, and answering my questions about the exhibition.

All photos provided by Emma Murphy unless otherwise stated.

Originally posted 2017-08-12 12:49:00.

Emma is a queer British freelance writer specializing in politics, travel, and entertainment. Barack Obama (yes, that one) follows her on Twitter and she’s never been sure why. She takes her coffee seriously and wears odd socks because life’s too short.

48 Hours In...

Weekly: 48 Hours In Miami – A Little Fun in the Sun!

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Summer is approaching, and it’s getting hot! Welcome to my new series. For the next 12 weeks I’ll be bringing you info on 6 different cities, and how you can make the most out of a summer weekend! I’m a beach bum so my first stop is Miami, which was my home for about 6 months. I absolutely fell in love with this city, it’s culture, it’s art scene, the food, and the beaches! Let’s take a look at how you should spend 48 hours in Miami!

Friday Night:

You’re arriving, probably from Miami International Airport. Best option is to grab an Uber and head over to your hotel, The Shelbourn, to check in. Feel free to grab a quick nap, as the night is just getting started. When I lived in Miami, we would get off work around 5pm (sometimes earlier) and have a rest before heading out for the night. So, sleep for about an hour, then get ready, because it’s going down!

7:00pm – Drinks at Monty’s Raw Bar

The night. Starts. Now!

You’ll love sitting outside in this Tiki style bar and restaurant with a pool in the middle. Bring your suit and jump in if you so desire! You’re going to want to get the Pain Killer. It’s a delicious fruity drink that stays true to it’s word and will definitely remove all pain. This drink comes in three levels, Pain Killer 1, 2, & 3, and corresponds with the number of rum shots. My advice, start with a 3, then work your way down! Remember, the night is young and so are you!

10:00pm – Dinner at Burger and Beer Joint

This place quickly became my favorite, and you’ll love it, too. Just like the name of the restaurant, they serve burgers and beer! My favorite is the Hotel California, a delicious beef patty topped with sharp cheddar, frilled onions, fried egg, guacamole, jalapeño relish, cilantro sour cream all on a brioche bun. Trust me, it’ll keep you going strong while you party the night away.

11:00pm – SCORE Nightclub

One of Miami’s best nightclubs in town. This bar has great music and dancing, and you’ll want to stay all night, but it’s just your first stop. Have a drink or two, do some dancing, and get ready for your next stop.

1:00am – TWIST Nightclub

Now the night hits it’s high point. This bar features 7 different areas, each with their own theme, from the British pub to the techno dance club. You’re sure to enjoy delicious cocktails, a great beer list, and decent wine selections.

4:00am – Uber back to the Shelbourn

Saturday:

12:00pm – Rise and shine, breakfast at the hotel

Let’s face it, you partied hard, didn’t you? Don’t go far. Today is dedicated to hanging out at the cabanas by the pool, walking down to the beach for a while, and lounging around. You’ll start with breakfast by the pool and maybe a mimosa or bloody Mary. Then it’s ultimate relaxation!

8:00pm – Dinner on Espanola Way

Take your pick. There are a dozen restaurants here to choose from, and none of them will disappoint. Whether you want a quiet sit-down spot, or you want something a little more Latin with dancing and lively music, you’ll find it all on this street!

10:00pm – Club Boi

This might get a little wild… Head over to Club Boy for hip-hop, Latin, Top 40, and R&B music, plus strippers! YOLO, right?!

Sunday:

11:00am – Brunch at The Local House

This place is not to be missed, but get there on time and get a porch seat so you can enjoy the breezes from the ocean not but a block away, as well as the ceiling fans that will keep you cool and comfortable. Try the Crab Cake Eggs Benedict and have a Bloody Mary for me!

1:00pm – Shopping at Lincoln Mall

This world famous shopping stretch is the best place to shop ’til you drop. I personally love the people watching, and there are plenty of places around there to grab a quick ice cream or snack if you get hungry! It’s the perfect way to end your trip to Miami!

After 48 hours, you’ll be heading back to the airport a little more tan, with less liver function, and a greater love for Latin food and Latin music!

Who’s joining me?

Originally posted 2017-06-15 01:27:17.

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The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson Gives LGBTs’ a History They’ve Needed

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*To honor the gender fluidity of Marsha P Johnson, I will be referring to them as they.

 

We study our history, so we know from where we came. To learn about the American Revolution, we study the Founding Fathers, Susan B. Anthony for Woman’s Right, Martin Luther King Junior for the Civil Rights Movement. We are taught those histories. However yet the media and even history books have glossed over the gay rights movement, the one that is still being fought today. Who are our leaders? Where are their stories?

Thanks to director David Frances we have one, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson a documentary released last month on Netflix. It tells the story of Marsha P. Johnson, their life as a transgender person, their activism in the LGBT community, and their mysterious death.

Even as a member of the LGBT community, until this documentary I was unaware of whom Marsha P. Johnson was, this Rosa Parks of the LGBT community. Therefore I was very much a blank slate about what this movie was going to be about. But nothing could prepare me for how emotional, impactful, and eye-opening this movie was going to be. This is a movie that blends both the past and the present, showing those in the community how far we’ve come, and how much work we still need to do.

The documentary uses a mix of never-before-seen footage, rediscovered interviews, and modern times, creating both a mystery that needs to be solved and a wake-up call.  This is especially seen in the opening of the film when we are shown a clip of people marching on the streets of New York , some waving rainbow flags, others holding signs, and others carrying a picture of a black, femme presenting woman, smiling. A Clark Kent type anchor man is heard in the voiceover, using the word “transvestite”, now an insensitive term, informing the viewer that it’s 1992 and Marsha P. Johnson is dead at 42 years old. Police say it’s a suicide.

But Johnson’s friends and members of the LGBT community believe that she was murdered.

This is not your typical documentary. Instead of a linear timeline or an autobiographical story of Johnson, we are given almost an LGBT detective story. An episode worthy of the show Cold Case, for sure. Our protagonist is Victoria Cruz, a transgender activist from the New York City Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Group and now amateur sleuth, about to retire, and her last case will be the 1992 murder of the beloved transgender icon.

While this is a movie about Johnson, we are given the personal backstory about not only Cruz and their personal history of assault, but other gay icons. For example, the movie goes into a side story about the LGBT activist Sylvia Rivera who co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Johnson which was a housing and support program for young trans women of color.

We are also introduced to so many other transgender community members that it almost became overwhelming. One of the drawbacks of this movie was that there wasn’t enough time for everything. The film is only an hour and 45 minutes long and it is so jam-packed with topics and issues and people that the viewer can be completely overwhelmed with both information and emotion. Personally, I feel that Sylvia Rivera could, and should, have their own documentary. Also, I would have been fine with the film being longer which is a rare critique, but with some much to cover, it needed time to slow down.

However, what it may lack in pacing is made up with impact. This film is a bucket of ice-cold water, waking up everyone in the LGBT community. Many people believe that the LGBT community has finally gained equality because they’ve won the right to get married. That’s it right? The war is over? But that is not the case for our trans members in our community who are still suffering today and often getting the brunt of anti-LGBT attacks.

Throughout the documentary we see trans women homeless, in prison, assaulted, and horribly murdered, with no one else to lean on but other LGBT community members who are also vulnerable. These trans women, many of them people of color, are ignored by society, even their fellow LGBT members. This is said best at the most powerful and poignant part of the movie. At the 2016 sentencing of a man who confessed to beating 21-year-old trans woman Islan Nettles to death in Harlem three years early. One activist standing outside of the courthouse goes on a rant about the “privileged gays” who once protested with the transgender people for equal rights and then promptly left them to fend for themselves once they won the right to gay marriage.

“It’s LGB T. It’s LGBT,” the activist cries. It’s painful because it’s true. Transgender and “drag queens” created the LGBT movement, they were the representation of the community. But who was there to represent them when they were being murdered and attacked? Who was there for Marsha P. Johnson?

Going back to the detective drama genre aspect, we go into theories to why Johnson was killed. There’s even with a theory that the mafia did it (Stonewall Inn being own by the Mafia at the time). Again, this movie has a lot of information, with not a lot of time, and at the end, we don’t get an answer. But what we do get are the stories told by POC Transgender woman and the smiling face of Marsha P. Johnson, and that is priceless.

The verdict

As someone who came into this movie not knowing a lot about LGBT history, I was blown away. I learned so much from this movie. It opened my eyes to a lot of subculture and caste systems of the LGBT community of which I wasn’t aware. I loved the old footage they had of Marsha P. Johnson in drag singing (poorly), Cruz in her younger, model days, and other older, historical clips. I felt really emotional watching Cruz getting hung up on over and over again. It affected me in a lot of ways, even if it was overwhelming and confusing at some points. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about LGBT history.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Queens.

“The Death and Lift of Marsha P. Johnson” can be watched on Netflix

Originally posted 2017-11-17 17:41:28.

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Growing Up with Gender Neutrality

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Even before we are born, gender seeps through the womb like a glaze on a cake: very slowly, but all-encompassing, soaking what was a blank slate with gender norms and heterosexual expectations. From then on we slowly become more and more conscious of societal expectations, and unwritten rules and consequences. Whether they be intentional or not, the impact can be substantial.

Equality at Egalia

When people are young, they are malleable. The surroundings they are subjected to and the individuals that interact with them are instrumental in forming their first viewpoints of the world. Egalia, a preschool in Sweden, is a prime example of a safe learning environment that provides space to explore interests and activities that might be frowned upon or not offered in other preschools. “We don’t say, ‘Come on boys, let’s go and play football,’ because there might be girls who want to play football,” says Frida Wikström, the schools’ coordinator.  

Keeping the Ball Rolling

How does one continue the example of a safe environment shown at Egalia at home? It can actually be more difficult due to our own personal ingrained ideas about gender and what they look like. The first place to start in creating a freeing environment is the toy chest. Here are my top 10 picks for gender neutral toys:

  1. Stuffed animals – Who doesn’t love something soft and cuddly to carry around?
  2. Doctor Kit – I remember growing up with a Sesame Street doctor kit, and loving it.
  3. Building Toys – Legos, Lincoln Logs, blocks, etc.
  4. Appliances – Kitchen sets have always been a favorite of mine; cooking is a great skill to have, especially when you’re hungry!
  5. Play Food – A kitchen isn’t much good without some food to cook with!
  6. Tools – Fixing your vacuum cleaner, or changing a tire are skills everyone could benefit from learning.
  7. Bike or Trike – Once you learn, you never forget!
  8. Bath Toys – I was never a fan of bathing growing up, but having bath toys always made it much more bearable.
  9. Outdoor Games – Balls, frisbees, and hula hoops are all classics.
  10. Musical Toys – Who knows – maybe a toy xylophone will be the catalyst of creating a great percussionist!

Gender Neutral Clothes for Kids

Whether one is at Egalia, or at home, play clothes are a necessity. Here are my top 3 gender neutral kids clothing stores:

  1. Quirkie Kids – I adore how the majority of the clothes are images of cool things! Who doesn’t want a shark on a shirt?! Some shirts don’t resonate with me as much (“Still a boy” / “Still a girl”) but I can see how they could be validating for someone who is often told they are not behaving masc or femme enough for the gender they identify with.
  2. Baby Blastoff! – I am a VERY big fan of this company. Tabs are divided into shirts, pants, and bodysuits. Again, they are screenprinted with super cool images (trees, birds, dinosaurs). What captured my heart was seeing a child in a wheelchair sporting one of these awesome t shirts on the homepage – showing that ALL KIDS deserve awesome clothes. Representation of all types of kiddos is important, validating, and beautiful.
  3. Target – Target is setting an example by offering a ‘neutral’ setting under filters when looking at clothes. Supporting independent and local businesses is important and ideal. However, when we are in need of something affordable and closeby, it is wonderful to have validating and inclusive options.

Gender isn’t Garbage

I was raised very gender neutrally. Solid colored shirts and pants, not a lot of Barbies, and a whole lot of blocks and crayons. Even when I took ballet lessons from 4th – 6th grade, there were very few pink and frilly garments. There were times growing up where I wanted to present more femme. I wanted to wear clothes with some sparkle and sequins. I wanted to play around with makeup. There was a forbidden aspect that made it even more intriguing. This also applied to toys. The “boy” toy aisle in Walmart always looked more fun. There was action, adventure, variety, and more.

Egalia is more than just a preschool – it is an example of what all humans desire and deserve: “a space to feel security, joy and a desire to learn and develop many rich expressions, where everyone feels involved and where learning is for life!” Gender is not bad. Being assigned female at birth (AFAB) and loving dresses and dolls is not bad. Being assigned male at birth (AMAB) and loving trucks and pants is not bad. Eliminating gender isn’t the answer to creating a safe and fun environment to grow and play. Egalia acknowledges and embraces that. Critics have labelled the project as “gender-madness,” accusing the school of trying to brainwash the kids into a genderless homogeneity. Egalia’s not trying to do that. Gender is an important part of people’s identities, and the kids are free to embrace those differences.

Originally posted 2017-11-16 17:34:10.

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