Queer Fringe Festival

This Pride Month, venues and artists across Cardiff collaborate for the first LGBTQ+ Fringe Festival in Wales.

Headed up by the team behind The Queer Emporium, the festival spans the entire city and includes theatre, comedy, live music, film, drag, visual art exhibitions, dance and digital arts. More is still be added so come back to see whats on each day!

Queer Fringe Festival

@QueerFringeFest

New website – Research into the LGBTQ+ history of Wales

I’ve been involved with the LGBTQ+ Research Group Wales for a while. I’m very pleased to report that the group now has a website, created in collaboration with Swansea University, which will provide a platform for sharing information about LGBTQ+ history in relation to Wales.

Hanes LHDT+ Cymru / LGBTQ+ Research Group Wales 

Queer Short Stories from Wales

New from Parthian Books, Queer Square Mile: Queer Short Stories from Wales edited by Kirsti Bohata, Mihangel Morgan and Huw Osborne

This ground-breaking volume makes visible a long and diverse tradition of queer writing from Wales. Spanning genres from ghost stories and science fiction to industrial literature and surrealist modernism, these are stories of love, loss and transformation.

In these stories gender refuses to be fixed: a dashing travelling companion is not quite who he seems in the intimate darkness of a mail coach, a girl on the cusp of adulthood gamely takes her father’s place as head of the house, and an actor and patron are caught up in dangerous game-playing. In the more fantastical tales there are talking rats, flirtations with fascism, and escape from a post-virus ‘utopia’. These are stories of sexual awakening, coming out and redefining one’s place in the world.

Parthian books

Happy LGBTQ+ History Month!

There’s a rundown from Queer Welsh Stories covering what’s on in Wales in the National, LGBTQ+ History Month 2022: events and highlights in Wales

A couple of books, if you’re interested in the queer history of Wales:

Norena Shopland, Forbidden Lives: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Stories from Wales

Daryl Leeworthy, A Little Gay History of Wales

Sapphic Link Love #13

Out and about, Ichthyosaurus: Mary Anning and queer palaeontology

Slate, How modernist lesbians made Paris the ‘Sapphic Centre of the Western World’

The Observer, Gay, communist and female: why M15 blacklisted the poet Valentine Ackland

Wellcome Collection, The shocking ‘treatment’ to make lesbians straight

Atlas Obscura, How lesbian luminaries put together a groundbreaking cookbook

The Advocate, Amy Ray, the Indigo Girls and the Soundtrack of our Gay Lives

Gretchen Rubin, Alison Bechdel (on her new book), “I’ve Always Known Physical Exertion and Movement Are Vital Somehow for My Creative Process.”

Autostraddle, An interview with Minnie Bruce Pratt on the ocasion of ‘Magnified’ her latest poetry collection

Sapphic link love #12

Ms Magazine, The very queer history of the suffrage movement

Waltham Forest Echo, The East End women who fought for gay rights

The Guardian, How lesbian label Olivia shook up music

Believer, Art by women about women making art about women

pop matters, 90 years on ‘Olivia’ remains a classic of lesbian literature

Hyperallergenic, How Tessa Boffin, One of the Leading Lesbian Artists of the AIDS Crisis, Vanished From History (NSFW!)

Autostraddle, An interview with Minnie Bruce Pratt

The Lesbrary, 11 sapphic chefs for your cookbook collection

Country Queer, Amy Ray’s queer country story

Autostraddle, No Adam for Eve: the quiet history of lesbian pulp

Making Gay History Podcast

I’m loving the fascinating interviews on Making Gay History podcast

The Making Gay History podcast mines Eric Marcus’s decades old audio archive of rare interviews — conducted for his award-winning oral history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement — to create intimate, personal portraits of both known and long-forgotten champions, heroes, and witnesses to history.

35 Years since the first Cardiff Pride

It’s been 35 years since the first Pride event took place in Cardiff

Nice article on the BBC.

“At one of the [gay social] meetings he [Mr Foskett] said ‘I think we should have a gay pride march in Cardiff’.

That might not sound particularly strange now, but back in 1985 it was like, ‘are you serious?’ He was very keen and his sort of enthusiasm was very infectious.”

The small group got planning and the event took place on 20 June.

With placards reading “gay love is good love”, the procession marched from Queen Street to the students’ union in Cardiff.

“It was a small band of people, but it was a huge step for Cardiff I think, because of what it represented,” said Mr Brown.

Mr Foskett remembered it being “quite fun, and very small”.

“The people that we encountered were friendly. People laughed. People were incredulous, but they weren’t hostile.”

Today, the Pride Cymru events draw in 50,000 people, with 15,000 attending 2019’s parade, but the first march was less than 30, according to Mr Brown.

BBC, Pride Cymru: 35 Years since ‘huge step’ in Cardiff

LGBT History + Wales

I meant to post this a while ago but got distracted by, well, a pandemic. My friend Norena (author of the groundbreaking Forbidden Lives: LGBT Stories from Wales) wrote a great roundup of all the events that happened here for LGBT History Month 2020: Wales + LGBT History Month round up.

It’s heartening and moving to see so many activities happening across the country. We have come such a long way, even if as Norena says, we now need to move beyond events being restricted to celbratory days and months.

Llongyfarchiadau LGBTQ+ Wales!

LGBT Bookstores

The shops, who supported each other by sharing news and ideas, became cornerstones of the communities they served, hosting political organizations and providing safe spaces for people to explore and embrace their sexuality. Such inclusiveness —  along with the spirit of the anti-war, anti-establishment revolution that fanned out before and after Stonewall — encouraged others to build upon the idea started by Rodwell and the Oscar Wilde. By the mid-1980s, queer bookstores were in more than 20 cities across North America as well as venues in Germany, France, Australia, the Netherlands and the U.K.

Jason Villemez

Good article about the history of LGBT bookstores

Sapphic Link Love #11

From Ancient Rome to Judith Butler in this issue …

Cheryl Morgan blogs about the evidence for women loving women in Ancient Rome, Tribade Visibility Day

The Paris Review has a great piece on The Fabulous Forgotten Life of Vita Sackville West

them, 100 Years Ago, this Lesbian Doctor Helped Contain NYC’s Typhoid Epidemic

TIE Campaign podcast has episodes on Lesbians Against Section 28 and Anne Lister

A long and detailed article in Out History, A Tribute to Phyllis Lyon (1924 – 2020)

The Advocate, Netflix Doc Reveals the Queer Romance Behind A League of their Own

Interesting interview with Judith Butler about her latest thinking Judith Butler wants us to reshape our rage

A lovely blog from Torch, Women Retold: Eurydice and Portrait of a Lady on Fire

And a nice interview with the poet Jackie Kay, DIVA meets LGBTQI literature royalty, Jackie Kay MBE

Sapphic Link Love #10

Sapphic Link Love #8

Queer Bible, U.A. Fanthorpe

LGBTQ Nation, Meet the Harlem Renaissance dancer who made sure lesbian history wasn’t forgotten

Queer Bible, Natalie Barney

Autostraddle, All Bones and Blood and Breath: Remembering Barbara Hammer

Quill and Quire, The 88-year-old creator of mystery’s first lesbian detective reflects on the character’s return

Lambda Literary, review of My Butch Career by Esther Newton

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton

Glasgow’s LGBT book success

What a lovely story.

Glasgow’s LGBT book shop a ‘wonderful success’

The owners of an LGBT book shop in Glasgow say they could not have imagined how successful it has been.

Category Is Books, on the city’s Allison Street, opened three months ago and is Scotland’s first LGBT bookshop in more than 20 years

 

Sapphic Link Love #4

Autostraddle, The Gay Love Stories of Moomin and the Queer Radicality of Tove Jansson 

NPR, New biography of Lorraine Hansberry

Autostraddle, Portraits of Lesbian Writers, 1987 – 1989  (these are awesome)

The Rumpus, The Queer Syllabus: The Watermelon Woman by Cheryl Dunye

Folk Radio, Grace Petrie: Queer as Folk review

“The Good News is You”

This speech by Sarah Schulman is a must-read for queer writers

As we make our work, we also have to model behaviors and ways of having personal and social relationships that can facilitate a whole new and completely different way of living, a kind of – to be old-fashioned – liberation way of living.  And you know that for me, as I expressed in my most recent book, Conflict Is Not Abuse, part of liberation means a community ethic to stop shunning, pick up the phone and talk about your differences, get together in person with the people you’re in conflict with instead of enlisting your clique or community or religion or corporate shield or race or nation to obliterate them. Stop being mean to a person or a group because someone you identity with told you to hurt them. Instead, ask the contested person what they think it going on. Why do they think this is happening? And whether that is your friend’s ex-friend, or people excluded by the Muslim ban, hear what the excluded person is experiencing. And we have to stop calling the police as a way to cover up our own unjust anxieties. Because what we have got in America right now is a system that is just cruel, in which the people in power are criminals, and people’s basic needs are ignored, and lives are ruined at whims of political game playing. So, any queer individual making it in that system is not a signifier of actual change. It’s great for that person, which has its own value, but it’s not enough.

Sarah Schulman, Publishing Triangle Award Speech

Blistering critique followed by uplifting hope.

Read the whole thing!

Can Boo Radley come out yet? Queer Childhood in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

I recently read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. Since then, I’ve also been reading up on the debates about whether this novel is anti-racist, racist, or a basically progressive book bound by the limitations of its time.

It all got me thinking in more depth about my own emotional response to the book. I began to wonder if the overinflated claims that white people have made about TKMB (and which the author herself never supported) have marginalised other aspects of the narrative, such as its queer subtext.

For those who haven’t read it, the story is told from the perspective of eight-year old Scout, a little white girl who lives in the small Southern town of Maycomb with her older brother, Jem, widowed father, Atticus, and their black family servant, Calpurnia. Scout and Jem are generally happy, carefree children. With their eccentric friend, Dill (based on Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote), they spend much of their time trying to make their reclusive neighbour, Boo Radley, “come out” — that is, leave his house so they can catch sight of him. But they are forced to grow up quickly when Atticus takes on the case of a black man accused of raping a white woman, with profound repercussions for the family and community.

The genius of the narrative lies in Lee’s ability to use her narrator’s innocence to convey the gravity of the situation. Scout doesn’t fully understand the implications of what she sees, but we as readers do, and that’s what makes it so frightening. The writing is deceptively simple, pared down, with not a word wasted, so that when Lee does use symbolism, you really feel the impact of it. The placing of the scene in which Atticus shoots a rabid dog and the way she uses this incident again later, for example, is just brilliant.

But, as critic Alice Hall Petry notes, it’s strange that TKMB has been read as a wholesome family book when you think that it includes:

“false accusation of rape, the shooting (seventeen times) of an innocent black man, the acknowledgment of actual incestuous rape, the attempted murder of children, the stabbing to death of the would-be murderer, a man kept prisoner in his own home, and a lynch mob… a morphine addict.. and a boy calling his well-meaning teacher a ‘snot-nosed slut'”

Quoted in The Independent.

The representation of class in this novel deserves a post of its own.  TKMB unquestioningly promotes middle-class values and the division of the “respectable” poor (the Cunninghams) from the “trash” (the Ewells).   The “good” poor shut-up and put-up, and ‘know their place’.  “Trash” are trashy because they’re visibly poor.  

The white, middle-class reader is encouraged to identify with Atticus Finch, not the men who come to lynch Tom. There’s also the problem that Mayella Ewell has been raped, not by Tom Robinson, of course, but by her own father. This is made apparent in Tom’s testimony.  While the novel doesn’t suggest that it’s a good thing that a black man has to take the blame for the white man’s rape of his daughter, nor is it suggested that the community could or should do anything about the actual rape that has occurred.

But there’s something else going on too. Despite all the problems with the text, I feel strong emotional identification with the narrative of queer childhood that it contains.  Scout is the resistant tomboy who enjoys physical fights, hates dresses, and is very sceptical about the idea that she will grow up to be interested in boys.  Her tomboyishness is generally represented as a good thing in the novel and those who would suppress it are seen as unreasonable. Dill is the wickedly clever and charming little queer boy who is based on Lee’s childhood friend, the real-life gay writer, Truman Capote.  Scout and Dill talk about getting married and those of us who are inclined to do so might surmise that what they’re really attracted to is the queerness in each other. It’s been noted that the principled father, Atticus, is an unrealistic representation. I agree, and think it’s interesting that this ideal, fantasy father makes no attempt to stifle his daughter’s queerness, a forbearance that’s also highly unlikely for the time and place.

I did a bit of looking around and found that Publishing Triangle does have TKMB listed as one of the 100 best lesbian and gay novels. I also found a reference to it as a “lesbian coming of age tale”, which I think is too reductive, not least because Scout does not come of age at all and is only ten when the book finishes!  But queer, yes.

Then there’s Boo Radley, a metaphor for queerness, if ever there was one. Boo is literally in the closet for most of the novel, shut up in his oppressive family home and feared by the community, only able to leave the house at night.  The children are frightened of him, but compelled to keep trying to make him “come out”. When he does appear, he turns out to be, not only a benevolent force, but a threat to certain forms of patriarchy.  It is Boo who rescues the children from Mr Ewell, the child rapist/murderer.  This role for Boo is set up from the beginning of the novel in the story of how he stabbed his own oppressive father in the leg with a pair of scissors.  Boo is not like other men; his masculinity is entirely other.  I’m not attempting to make a case to TKMB as a great anti-homophobic novel (Boo is returned to his closet at the end), but I do think there’s a message here.  Boo represents certain kinds of fears and when Scout faces those fears, she finds that there she never had any need to be afraid of him (though some men should be).

But “Boo Radley” still can’t come out.  The other day I watched the BBC Four documentary about the novel in which writer Andrew Smith went to Alabama in search of Harper Lee, hoping to score an interview.  He found a still racially segregated community, and the queer issues remained unspoken in the programme, although they were there as an undercurrent.  Then there’s Harper Lee herself who has become weirdly, and perhaps self-consciously, Boo Radleyish. She hides from sight, leaves hints and signs of her presence, gives Smith a helping hand on his journey, but never actually appears.  I began to wonder if Boo Radley in the novel is an avatar of the author.  Perhaps the camera would swing round and we’d be unexpectedly confronted by Lee standing in the corner of the room behind the door.  The white community of Monroeville went all out to protect Lee from Smith’s prying, but as my partner pointed out, if she IS a big old lesbian, then it’s in their interests to do so.

In Truman Capote’s novel Other Voices, Other Rooms, based on the same biographical material, the queerness is far more upfront. The character of Randolph is gay and it’s strongly suggested that Joel, based on Capote, will grow up to be gay too. The character of Idabel, based on Harper Lee, seems to convey more of a transgender subjectivity.

It made me think about how desperate we can be for the representation of queer childhood.  I read all of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, even though the right wing politics disturbed me even then (I was being raised by socialist parents and felt there was something wrong about the books), but I kept on reading because of the tomboy character, George.  I also read her even more reprehensible school stories because they represented proto-lesbian characters.  Okay, so those characters were usually evil, but I still wanted to read about them, hunting around for scraps of queer representation wherever I could find it.

Interestingly, I wasn’t a tomboy at all, but I was still massively attracted to any representations of gender deviance. I remember being bowled over by Gene Kemp’s The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler when I was eleven.

Anyway, I don’t really have a conclusion to this post.  I suppose I’m just thinking about how our emotional responses to texts can be rooted in aspects of our identity in ways that sometimes we’re not even fully conscious of.