LGBTHM Does Bournemouth

That’s another one done. Only two weeks left. (Yes, I know. LGBT History Month has become so big that it has burst the bounds of February.)

Today I took myself off to Bournemouth. It is a fairly easy trip from here by train. As I hinted yesterday, this one was potentially dodgy because it got attacked by a religious fundamentalist website. They said a few nasty things about me, and a whole lot of really nasty things about Sophie Cook, the lovely trans lady who is also the official photographer for Bournemouth football club. They are not exactly high profile. The guy who runs the site has a massive 15 Twitter followers. But six of them did turn up today to listen to the talks. As the event was being organized by the local students’ union, Bournemouth University kindly laid on extra security to make sure that everyone was polite, and the day went off very quietly.

The highlight of the day was an impromptu talk. One of the speakers was unable to make it, so Jeff Evans of Schools Out did a short extra talk about the time when he and a group of other students took the NUS LGBT Conference to Belfast. They ended up getting picketed by Iain Paisley, and adopted by the IRA. It was a fascinating and heartwarming story, not to mention some very smart politics by Sinn Fein.

There were also two interesting talks about lesbian history. One, by Alison Child, focused on Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, a lesbian couple whose musical double-act topped the bills in the 1920s. The other, by Jenny White, focused on the inane things that straight men say about lesbians. There was, for example, an amazing court case from 1811 in which the accused got off because the judges could not believe that English women could do such “unnatural” things. Jenny also introduced me to two 19th Century trans people whose stories I didn’t know of. I wonder how many more there must be out there waiting to be discovered.

My own talk seemed to go down quite well, except perhaps with our unexpected guests who looked fairly grumpy throughout. They didn’t seem to want to talk to Sophie or myself, but they did spend quite a bit of time chatting to Jeff who was very positive about the interactions.

All in all it was a pretty good day. My thanks to the Bournemouth students for a job well done. I was particularly impressed that a majority of the students who turned up were from various minority ethnic backgrounds. The speakers were all white, as were the unexpected visitors, but the students gave me a lot of hope.