LGBTQ+ History Month 2022: The Arc is Long but it Bends Towards Justice

Image: Trans Happiness is Real

The theme of this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month, ‘The Arc is Long’ draws from a quotation by Martin Luther King JR.: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Looking at the continuing journey towards full equality, which has suffered many setbacks while still moving forwards, reminds us how important histories are in the fight for equal futures. LGBTQ+ History Month is a moment to highlight LGBTQ+ people throughout history, to celebrate those working to tell those histories, and to look with hope to the activists and particularly the young people fighting for real equality.

So this month we’re looking back on some of our blog posts, takeovers and archival projects from the past year that you may have missed. We have also included links to resources for young people and adults from this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month campaign.


Gender, language and colonial history

Between Naming and Knowing Something by Levi C. R. Hord

Portrait of We’wha by John Hillers, 1894. (BAE GN 02235A 06370600, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

“Within the context of history, the most important form of respect that we can show We’wha is an openness to being unsettled by the inadequacy of contemporary Western ways of naming and understanding.” – Levi C. R. Hord

Levi C. R. Hord specialises in transgender studies and queer theory. Back in February 2021, they responded to our exhibition with Mariana Castillo Deball, looking particularly at the history and representation of We’wha (1849 – 1896), a Zuni weaver and potter featured in the show. Through We’wha’s story Hord’s article speaks about gender, language and colonial history more broadly.


Celebrating LGBTQ+ Histories

Spotlight on Roberta Cowell by Trans Happiness is Real

Image: Trans Happiness is Real

“Roberta Cowell was a racing driver and a fighter pilot in WW2, as well as the first known British trans woman to medically transition. This embroidered portrait of her is part of a series of our work highlighting trans people from history and/or from non-Western cultures, trying to make the point that transness is not the exclusively young and Western thing that stereotypes make it out to be. Trans people and people living beyond the gender binary have existed throughout history all over the world. #WeHaveAlwaysExisted

– Trans Happiness is Real, 2021


Trans Happiness is Real – Activism and street art

Want to learn more about Trans Happiness is Real and their powerful interventions in the city? Look back at their Instagram takeover that we hosted in August 2021. Read a brief introduction to the group and their work below.

Image: Trans Happiness is Real

In February 2019, brightly coloured graffiti art began appearing across Oxford’s streets. Messages emblazoned across lamp posts and street corners included ‘Trans happiness is real’ and ‘There is no binary explanation for us.’ This eye-catching street art is by a group of anonymous young activists, who joined us for a special Instagram takeover between 21-24 August 2021.


Beyond the Binary: Gender, Sexuality and Power at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Have you visited Beyond the Binary: Gender, Sexuality, Power at the Pitt Rivers Museum yet? This co-curated exhibition is about queer lived experiences, putting the voices of LGBTIAQ+ communities at the heart, connecting their voices to you.

Image: Trans Happiness is Real

On Thursday 17 February, join the team behind the exhibition, Oxford Pride and other partners for a night marking LGBTQ+ History Month 2022. With music, lights and refreshments, it’s set to be a great evening.

You’ll also be able to pick up a copy of the fantastic Beyond the Exhibition zine, which Trans Happiness is Real have contributed to, in response to the show.


Activism in the Archive – The Haringey Vanguard by Veronica McKenzie

Back in June 2021, we were thrilled to feature filmmaker Veronica McKenzie on our blog, talking about her project, the Haringey Vanguard. This important National Lottery Heritage funded history project celebrates the work, stories and influence of Haringey-based community activists between the 1970s – 1990s, whose historical contributions to the LGBTQ+ and anti-racist movements were felt well beyond the borough.

Haringey Lesbians and Gays banner designed and made by Sarah X.

Veronica shone a spotlight on a banner recently placed in the Haringey Vanguard archive. Preserved for over 30 years by an ex worker of the Lesbian and Gay Unit, the banner represents the creative spirit of these individuals, whose work continues to inspire new generations of activists. 


News – Queer Britain: The UK’s first LGBTQ museum is due to open this spring in London

Photo: © David Levene

Queer people have impacted every part of culture, yet all too often their lives have been written in the margins of history books. Valuable stories and artefacts are being lost. Once gone, they may never be recovered. These deserve a dedicated space to be preserved, explored and celebrated.” – Queer Britain

The space will house four galleries, a workshop, an education space, gift shop and offices and “celebrates the stories, people and places that are so intrinsic to the queer community in the UK, and beyond”. The museum’s plans and programming schedules are due to be announced; crucially, there will be no admission fee.

Queer Britain’s archive is currently housed at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, which also holds a vast lesbian and gay news media archive and a library of around 10,000 LGBTQ titles.


Resources

LGBTQ+ History Month 2022 badge designed by Finn Collett

50 years on from the very first Pride March in the UK in 1972, this year LGBTQ+ History Month have chosen Art as their focus, sharing resources about important artists, including Keith Haring, Doris Brabham Hatt and Mark Aguhar, who used their art for political and social activism, or expressed their identities through their work.

They write: “A popular slogan of the early Gay Rights Movement (the idea of the ‘LGBT’ community was some way off) of the time was “the personal is political”, and art is probably the most individual of pastimes. So it seemed logical, as we have a National Curriculum link to our theme every year, to choose Art for 2022.”


The Proud Trust is an LGBT+ organisation that supports LGBT+ young people through youth groups, peer support, mentoring programs and the Proud Connections chat service.

Each year, The Proud Trust teams up with Schools OUT UK and LGBT+ History Month to write a simple, easy to use, education and resource pack.


The quotation from Martin Luther King Jr. comes from “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Speech given at the National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.

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