Today’s guest blog comes from members of Bristol City Council’s Staff LGBT+ group.
Community histories, much like local histories have a huge importance. A careful and accurate look at events which have directly affected a community, as well as a record of its collective achievements and success, provides two really important things. For those in the community, it gives a sense of origin, vital for a sense of belonging; and a sense of worth that is the foundation of self-esteem and values. The second is also a connection point for allies to engage with the community, the place where by learning the history they can strengthen their support and connection with the community.
I’ve been very careful so far not to mention which community. I think what’s true is true for all communities; be they defined by location, or common interest. But particularly those communities whose voices are unrepresented. When you’re removed from history, it’s implied you have no voice in the present. The removal of local galleries, museums and libraries would cause outrage. Rightly so, but their necessity is the same necessity for both LGBT History month and of course Black History Month.
History isn’t just an archive of facts and dates. Grievances, achievements and celebration. It’s living, incomplete and a vital connection point. When you watch a TV programme like It’s A Sin, Gentleman Jack or Pose; you can’t treat it as a history lesson per se, but it is the beginning of a conversation, maybe even an exploration into stories of people and groups you couldn’t otherwise know about. Stories that will hugely benefit us all. History month reminds us that it is not one simple narrative either but an intricate and complicated web of stories that overlap and diverge in furious chaotic patterns. That can be scary, I think that’s why the rise of nationalism here and abroad has been so effective. It only allows for one narrow brittle strand of history. That’s why our histories deserve their months – not because for the other eleven months we should be quiet and just recite the kings and queens of England – but to remind us to diverge from our mainstream and explore other communities and cultures. To find out the stories which didn’t make it into your Year 9 history lesson or The Crown. So my encouragement to you, is not to wait until it lands in your lap but go exploring and find out more about the people around you.
Did you know that The Radnor Hotel on St Nicholas Street which opened in the 1920s was the first known gay pub in Bristol?
Or, did you know that after the concentration camps were liberated in 1945, some men were re-imprisoned because homosexuality was still a crime?
Did you know that Ireland was the first country in the world to hold a referendum, and collectively as a nation vote for marriage equality?
Did you know that the Bristol Lesbian and Gay Switchboard was set up by Dale Wakefield in Totterdown in 1975?
You can find more information about local LGBT+ history at Outstories Bristol.