Written By: Joseph Galliano, CEO & Co-Founder Queer Britain
Imagine there was an exciting, innovative museum that, for example, a young person who has just come out to their parents can visit with them, and they all come away excited to be a part of the vibrant set of LGBTQ+ communities and seeing themselves as part of this extended family, a place where we can learn about and better understand our roots and which we can use to help us to imagine and invent our best of all possible futures. Most crucially, we are creating this project for everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. Everyone has a relative or friend who identifies as part of the acronym. Even If they think they don’t… they do.
Queer people’s stories have often been recorded and marginalised, yet as a set of communities, we’ve had an impact that far outstrips the size of our population: We’ve created some of the world’s finest art, literature and music, shaved years off the world’s most desperate wars, changed how health activists engage with the medical profession, built towering businesses and made scientific breakthroughs. But we seek to explore how ordinary people have lived their lives; something which has often only been told through the lens of the criminal justice system.
Our stories are often obscured, undervalued; scattered and hidden in archives and personal collections, if they’ve been saved at all. Many valuable stories and objects are being lost, along with the people who lived these lives. Once gone, they will never be recovered. There is no central space for these histories to be preserved and presented.
Queer Britain is a charity working hard to address this by setting up the UK’s first National LGBTQ+ Museum. It will be a bricks and mortar institution, probably in London, and with a rolling programme of pop-up exhibitions and activity across the country. It will help complete the nation’s family tree, and demonstrate to the culture the value of the lives that LGBTQ+ people have led. It will have a strong digital presence and essential educational programme.
As well as a project of cultural significance, we are working to build something that will have wide popular appeal and be an essential destination for the international tourist.
We’ve made good progress in the past year since we were incorporated as a charity; developing hugely valuable partnerships with companies such as M&C Saatchi, Levi’s and the bank, Coutts, as well as with cultural organisations including the Tate Galleries, Science Museum, the National Trust and the V&A and many other supporters. We’ve also started developing a collection, which contains fascinating items including diaries, photography, important historical documents and artwork.
We are currently working on an important strategies, developing relationships with the communities, government, building developers, politicians, businesses and cultural institutions who can work with us to guide our move towards bricks and mortar and are talking with property developers, consultants and landowners about opportunities for find pop-up exhibition venues, a ‘for now’ space for us to test our models and ideas with the public, and that all-important forever home, as well as for their help, expertise and networks.
To create an enduring institution of value and impact requires a huge coalition pulling together, political will and a thoughtful marshalling of resources to realise such an ambitious, but essential vision. We hope that you would like to be a part of this.
In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, here are some profiles on significant Queer icons who are represented in QB’s collection!
Written By: Dan Vo | Queer Britain Advisory Board Member, Coordinator LGBTQ Tours V&A, Museum freelancer | @DanNouveau
“I love and only love the fairer sex” – Anne Lister
In 2019 a plaque honouring Anne Lister was unveiled in York, describing her as, “Lesbian and Diarist”. The significance of her remarkable journal which spans over three decades, some of which was written in her own special code, was not fully understood for almost 150 years. Her diary records sexual encounters with women, and in the margins her marks even indicate when she orgasmed. The subject of a new BBC/HBO television series, Gentleman Jack, she provides us with a rare glimpse into female same sex love and desire in the 19th century.
“You might be able to tell by the way that I’m dressed, I’m gay. I am in fact really, really super gay.” – Olly Alexander
At Glastonbury in 2016, the lead singer of multi-award winning pop group Years and Years, Olly Alexander, made an impassioned pride speech that was widely praised by many as moving and inspiring. Queer Britain has recently added to its collection the eye catching fringed rainbow cape that was worn by Olly during the speech. Designed by Lara Jensen it serves as a joyous and colourful reminder of Olly’s cheeky call to celebrate queerness and “literally shove a rainbow in fear’s face”.
“The sexual question and the racial question have always been entwined.” – James Baldwin
Giovanni’s Room (1956) was one of the first American novels to explore the theme of homosexual love, as well as bisexuality. The author was James Baldwin, who overcame poverty and obstacles and became one of the most important voices of the civil rights and gay rights movement. He had an influence in both America and Britain, with his BBC televised debate against William F. Buckley Jr. at the Cambridge Union in 1965 considered by many to be a landmark moment. Baldwin’s writing explored the intersections between race, gender, and sexuality, and had a lasting impact on international politics, society and culture.
BODHISATTVA AVALOKITESHVARA GUANYIN
“Compassionate one, enlighten, enlighten.” – Buddhist mantra
The deity Avalokiteshvara Guanyin helps explain the diverse understanding of gender and sexuality many ancient communities had. From around the third century the Buddhist figure took a journey from India across the Himalayas into China, and then eastward into Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Over the course of a thousand years the bodhisattva was androgynised, incorporating male and female characteristics, and went from being known as Avalokiteshvara the Lord of Compassion to Guanyin the Goddess of Mercy. Some transgender and non binary people see this transition as a potential proto-trans narrative, and feel it is possible to see their lived experience represented by this figure. It feels apt that a bodhisattva that teaches us to live compassionately, should also be associated with trans and non binary people.
Happy LGBTQ+ History Month from Naked Politics!
Check out Queer Britain’s work here: https://queerbritain.org.uk/