LGBT+ History Month – February 2022

Hello there! My name is Jordan. I’m currently a Library Assistant at Winchester Library and today I’m guest-writing for the blog to talk to you about LGBT+ History Month.

Throughout February, Hampshire Libraries will be celebrating and spotlighting LGBT+ history and culture, as well as recognising the achievements of LGBT+ pioneers from all fields of life. LGBT+ History Month started in 2005, and is supported by a network of various charities, organisations, and schools.

This year’s theme is ‘Politics in Art’, with the aim of highlighting the importance of art and artistic expression in furthering LGBT+ rights and challenging injustice. It is easy to forget that only a few decades ago, creating art that was outside the norms of society would have been heavily censored and criticised, and continues to be this way for many parts of the world today.

Despite this, there were many bold pioneers. Artists such as Keith Haring generated awareness and activism about AIDs in the 1980s. Poets such as Audre Lorde spoke of gender and sexuality in an era where such topics were not widely accepted.

Art in all its forms has the power to inspire, educate and provoke. There is a rich history of defiantly challenging oppressive attitudes with the power of the written word. However, I feel art also fosters a sense of community. Art draws us together and provides space to see society – and ourselves – reflected in it. Underground zines allowed oppressed LGBT+ communities to communicate and be themselves during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Even today, book clubs allow all types of people to relax and feel safe while talking about their favourite novels.

On a personal level though, art helps us make sense of ourselves and where we fit in. It’s so important for art to reflect everyone in society, and while it hasn’t always been the case, in recent years I’m really proud that a wider range of diverse books are being printed and finding their way into libraries.

For a young teenager exploring their sexuality and finding the strength to come out, to the older person wishing to read about the history they lived through, Hampshire Libraries has a range of books available to read and reserve, either in branch or on BorrowBox, our eBook and eAudiobook service.

We have produced a book list, featuring a range of talent whatever you’re looking for. Below are a couple of my personal selections, but I encourage you to look through the whole list and find the book for you!

To reserve the books below from our catalogue, just click on the book image.

My recommended books are:

  • Pride: The Story of the LGBTQ Equality Movement by Matthew Todd
    Pride documents the milestones in the fight for LGBTQ equality, from the victories of early activists to the passing of legislation barring discrimination, and the gradual acceptance of the LGBTQ community in politics, sport, culture and the media. Rare images and documents cover the seminal moments, events and breakthroughs of the movement, while personal testimonies share the voices of key figures on a broad range of topics. Pride is a unique celebration of LGBTQ culture, an account of the ongoing challenges facing the community, and a testament to the equal rights that have been won for many as a result of the passion and determination of this mass movement.
  • Queer Intentions: A (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ + Culture by Amelia Abraham
    Combining intrepid journalism with her own personal experience, in Queer Intentions, Amelia Abraham searches for the answers to these urgent challenges, as well as the broader question of what it means to be queer right now. With curiosity, good humour and disarming openness, Amelia takes the reader on a thought-provoking and entertaining journey. Join her as she cries at the first same-sex marriage in Britain, loses herself in the world’s biggest drag convention in L.A., marches at Pride parades across Europe, visits both a transgender model agency and the Anti-Violence Project in New York to understand the extremes of trans life today, parties in the clubs of Turkey’s underground LGBTQ+ scene, and meets a genderless family in progressive Stockholm.

  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
    This is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. It tells of Vietnam, of the lasting impact of war, and of his family’s struggle to forge a new future. It serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog’s life his mother has never known – episodes of bewilderment, fear and passion – all the while moving closer to an unforgettable revelation.

  • The Whispers by Greg Howard
    Before she disappeared, Riley’s mama used to tell him stories about the Whispers, mysterious creatures with the power to grant wishes.
    Riley wishes for lots of things. He wishes his secret crush Dylan liked him back. He wishes the bumbling detective would stop asking awkward questions. But most of all he wishes his mother would come home . . .
    Four months later, the police are no closer to finding out the truth – and Riley decides to take matters into his own hands.
    But do the Whispers really exist? And what is Riley willing to do to find out?
  • The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
    When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants – as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, which only gets harder once Flávia walks into her life.
    Beautiful and charismatic, Flávia takes Nishat’s breath away. But as their lives become tangled, they’re caught up in a rivalry that gets in the way of any feelings they might have for each other.
    Can Nishat find a way to be true to herself… and find love too?

LGBT+ History Month 2021

In the UK, February marks LGBT+ History Month, which we celebrate every year as an opportunity to explore LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) history and culture, and recognising the achievements of LGBT pioneers from all fields of life. Beginning in the UK in 2005, it is supported by a network of various charities, organisations and schools, but after many years of welcome progress in LGBT+ rights and recognition, it can be easy to wonder why we still have events like LGBT+ History Month. Aren’t we living in a tolerant society?

This year’s theme is ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’. Our mental and physical health has never been more important, yet inequalities still exist today. Contemporary research today highlights the work that still needs to take place, with the LGBT community disproportionately affected by mental health problems and discrimination in sport.

More generally though, despite progress there has been a prevalent and consistent thread of LGBT+ erasure in our society and culture. Be it through morality codes restricting what could be broadcast on television and film, government legislation, civil discrimination, to censorship of materials about LGBT+ relationships and families. Growing up in a time of Section 28, I felt this absence keenly, and there was a lack of positive representation or role models in literature or television.

That’s why I’m proud that a collection like the LGBT+ Collection exists. Consisting of thirty-eight permanent titles, the collection is always on display and always available, representing some of the best talent from classic and contemporary authors, and I am so happy, knowing that LGBT young people today have the opportunity to read books that acknowledges them.

LGBT+ History Month needn’t be a dry or boring experience. I challenge you to explore one aspect of LGBT+ history or culture that interests you. A great starting point is our book list, with recommendations that span the breadth of LGBT+ talent. Good as You by Paul Flynn is a brilliant thirty year history of British gay culture, while 2020 Polari Prize winning novel In at the Deep End by Kate Davies is a delightful novel about reinvention and finding your identity.

To reserve the books below from our catalogue, just click on the book image.

Good as You by Paul Flynn

In 1984 the pulsing electronics and soft vocals of Smalltown Boy would become an anthem uniting gay men. A month later, an aggressive virus, HIV, would be identified and a climate of panic and fear would spread across the nation, marginalising an already ostracised community. Yet, out of this terror would come tenderness and 30 years later, the long road to gay equality would climax with the passing of same sex marriage.

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

Until recently, Julia hadn’t had sex in three years. But now a one-night stand is accusing her of breaking his penis, a sexually confident lesbian is making eyes at her over confrontational modern art, and she’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love – and satisfaction – in all the wrong places.

Other titles in our LGBT+ Collection

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

For Patsy, a visa to America is her ticket to freedom, a passport to the ‘land of opportunity’. She yearns to be reunited with Cicely, her oldest friend and secret lover, but her plans do not include her religious mother or even her young daughter, Tru. As Patsy struggles to survive as an undocumented migrant, Tru grapples with her own questions of identity and sexuality. Can she ever understand, or even forgive, her mother’s decision to leave?

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

‘Rainbow Milk’ is a coming-of-age story told from the point of view of a young black man from a religious background, who identifies several major contradictions between himself, his family life, and his beliefs. Upon rejecting the doctrine, he is shown the need to form a new centre of gravity, and uses his sexuality to explore new notions of love, fatherhood and spirituality.

Swimming in the Dark by Tomsaz Jedrowski

You were right when you said that people can’t always give us what we want from them. Poland, 1980. Anxious, disillusioned Ludwik Glowacki, soon to graduate university, has been sent along with the rest of his class to an agricultural camp. Here he meets Janusz – and together, they spend a dreamlike summer swimming in secluded lakes, reading forbidden books – and falling in love. But with summer over, the two are sent back to Warsaw, and to the harsh realities of life under the Party. Exiled from paradise, Ludwik and Janusz must decide how they will survive; and in their different choices, find themselves torn apart.

Homie by Danez Smith

A mighty anthem about the saving grace of friendship, Danez Smith’s highly anticipated collection ‘Homie’ is rooted in their search for joy and intimacy in a time where both are scarce. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family – blood and chosen – arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, ‘Homie’ is written for friends: for Danez’s friends, for yours.

Gears for Queers by Abigail Melton and Lilith Cooper

Keen to see some of Europe, queer couple Lilith and Abigail get on their old bikes and start pedalling. Along flat fens and up Swiss Alps, they will meet new friends and exorcise old demons as they push their bodies – and their relationship – to the limit.

The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan

Stevie is eleven and loves reading and sea-creatures. She lives with her mum, and she’s been best friends with Andrew since forever. Stevie’s mum teases her that someday they’ll get married, but Stevie knows that won’t ever happen. There’s a girl at school that she likes more. A lot more. Actually, she’s a bit confused about how much she likes her. It’s nothing like the way she likes Andrew. It makes her fizz inside. That’s a new feeling, one she doesn’t understand. Stevie needs to find out if girls can like girls – love them, even – but it’s hard to get any information, and she’s too shy to ask out loud about it. But maybe she can find an answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls, and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum.

Proud by Juno Dawson

This is an anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, responding to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Learn more about LGBT+ History Month here: https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/

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Written by Jordan

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References

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-health

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/rainbow-laces