It has Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year & Shrove Tuesday, to name a few events, but February is also LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month. It aims to promote equality and diversity by making LGBT stories more visible to the public, and campaigning for greater awareness through education. It is always a challenge to find positive accounts about the LGBT experience in history, as so many historical experiences have involved persecution e.g. of homosexuals by the Nazis during World War 2.
However, with the release of popular films such as Pride, about a London based gay and lesbian activist group joining forces with a mining village in Wales against the policies of the Thatcher Government in the 1980s, there has been more mainstream coverage of the LGBT experience and its role in the history of protest and contribution to positive change. The LGBT History Month website has lots of great examples (as well as reminders that there is still plenty of work to do to where discrimination is concerned). It also has a link to an online LGBT Archive (the ‘Random page’ option is a marvellous lucky dip for fact lovers!)
So what LGBT history and references do we hold at the Record Office?
There are limited references to anything obviously LGBT related in the catalogue, but I eventually turned up a few finds. Firstly, an absolute gem of an article, courtesy of the Derbyshire Family History Society periodical (from December 2014). It’s a family history research article with a twist, which also demonstrates the importance of talking to family members and uncovering those hidden ‘secrets’ when researching relatives.
Its title is ‘Farewell to Frocks’ and is about the difficulties of tracking down the history of a relative who changed their gender identity (in this case the Uncle had started life as a girl). Incredibly, this all happened in the early 1920s. What is even more remarkable is that the researcher discovered that there was even a news story published in the News of the World about it. It’s a fascinating and informative read.
I also came across a selection of novels by Narvel Annable who is a local author and LGBT activist. His books, which describe in detail life in 1960s Derbyshire, have been called ‘gay thrillers.’ They are often ‘whodunnits,’ written in a colourful style, with plenty of dialogue, that follow a coming of age theme and deal with the issues of homophobia, identity and local language and dialect. Well worth a read! Narvel’s novels can be found in our ‘Local Authors’ section of the Local Studies library.
Last, but by no means least, another book in our Local Authors collection stood out – ‘Born this Way: the life of Joshua’ by Brett Bradley-Howarth. It’s a coming of age story about Joshua, growing up as a young man and coming to terms with being gay.
Online information about the author is limited, but judging by some online reviews the book has been well received and really enjoyed by those who have read it. If anyone has any information about Brett, can recommend some further local LGBT reading, or have a review or an opinion about any of the books or articles we have mentioned, please get in touch!