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LGBT History Month

The Top Books For LGBT History Month

  • 27 January, 2021
  • Matthew Cornford

Over the last week as many of us have sat down to watch “It’s A Sin” the new Queer series on Channel 4. It’s made me reflect on the history of the LGBT community and how much things have and haven't changed. Not only the attitudes of people towards our community but also within the community itself. While I like to believe I am pretty clued up on many aspects of our history, the show made me realise knowing some facts doesn’t really enable you to fully understand someone else’s journey of those times.

As we head into LGBT History Month, we are given the encouragement to better remember our past and the footsteps walked and marched that have given us the rights we have today, but also the ones to come to ensure the much-needed rights and opportunities are there for others in our family. While I can only discuss in detail my own path to where I am now, my commitment to LGBT History Month will be to step out of my own box and challenge myself to discover the past of others in our community and how to become a better ally for them.

We asked Christine Burns, MBE author of “Trans Britain”, her thoughts on the importance of LGBT History Month.

“Having access to the history of people like yourself is essential for both individual mental health and happiness but also for political and social emancipation. I grew up in a time when I was taught plenty of history about being British and what my cultural inheritance was if straight and cisgender but I had literally no clue that other trans people existed, bar the shock horror stories I began to read in the press. Naturally, the press presented every exposé of anyone remotely like myself as shocking and new, without precedent. That kind of manipulation of how you might possibly see yourself has an impact, almost obliging you to accept the tabloid world’s narrative. Later, having transitioned hardly any wiser, I began to embrace the idea of activism and realised almost straight away how vital it was for us to find and share precious scraps of our history, barely recorded by the mainstream. To learn gradually that people like me had existed throughout history and in every human culture across the globe meant we could see our predicament in an entirely different light. Discovering how to find and piece together our history has remained important to this very day. Indeed, the present push-back against our rights makes a mastery of our history even more vital, since our detractors base their attacks very often in claims that we are new and that accommodating our needs is novel, untested and dangerous. Even medical knowledge amassed over decades is presented as provisional and experimental. So there has never been a more important time for both trans people and our potential allies to have at least a basic, reliable historical framework. I hated history at school and never dreamed I would grow up to be a historian myself.”

 

 

Rob Cookson, Deputy Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation said;

LGBT History Month is such an important part of the calendar. It’s a time for reflection, and to celebrate the diversity and talent of our LGBT communities. LGBT History Month is also about raising awareness of and combating the prejudice and discrimination faced by many LGBT people. It is so important to know our history, of the challenges we have faced and continue to face, so we can make the future better for LGBT people.

We’ve put together what we believe are some of the best books that will enable you to enhance your history of our community and embrace the journey of those before us.

 

Trans Britain by Ms Christine Burns

Over the last five years, transgender people have seemed to burst into the public eye: Time declared 2014 a 'trans tipping point', while American Vogue named 2015 'the year of trans visibility'. From our television screens to the ballot box, transgender people have suddenly become part of the zeitgeist. This apparently overnight emergence, though, is just the latest stage in a long and varied history.

The renown of Paris Lees and Hari Nef has its roots in the efforts of those who struggled for equality before them, but were met with indifference - and often outright hostility - from mainstream society. Trans Britain chronicles this journey in the words of those who were there to witness a marginalised community grow into the visible phenomenon we recognise today: activists, film-makers, broadcasters, parents, an actress, a rock musician and a priest, among many others. Here is everything you always wanted to know about the background of the trans community, but never knew how to ask.

 

 

 

The Red In The Rainbow by Hannah Dee 

This inspiring story of the fight for sexual liberation travels across continents and centuries, uncovering a radical struggle including the Stonewall riots in 1969 and the mass movement against Apartheid South Africa that achieved the first inclusion of LGBT rights in a constitution. This is a remarkably hopeful account of the way women and men have made history even in the most difficult circumstances. It should be read by every activist who aspires to win a world free from oppression and to realise the unfinished dream of liberation.

 

 

 

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker

'Queer: A Graphic History Could Totally Change the Way You Think About Sex and Gender' Vice Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Jules Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this ground breaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what's 'normal' - Alfred Kinsey's view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler's view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we're invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.

Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.

 

 

 

50 Years Legal by Simon Napier Bell

Five Decades of Fighting for Equal Rights.

This is both the story of the 50-year battle for equal rights and deeply personal accounts from high profile politicians, comedians, actors and others in the public arena. The book features contributions from David Hockney, Stephen Fry, Julian Clary, Matt Lucas, Matthew Parrish, Simon Callow, Will Young, Sir Derek Jacobi, Tom Robinson, Marc Almond, Sir Elton John, Alain Judd, Simon Callow, Angela Eagle, Baroness Barker, Dan Gillespie Sells, Evan Davis, Jake Graf, Jason Prince, Jon Savage, Lee Tracy, Lord Browne, Lord Cashman, Lord Paddick, Lord Smith, Manny, Mark Mcadam, Mark Wardell, Mathew Todd, Olly Alexander, Paris Lee, Paul Gambaccini, Peter Tachell, QBoy, Shon Faye, Stephanie Hirst, Stephen Amos, Steve Blame, The Reverend Andrew Foreshew-Cain, Tris Penna, Yotan Ottolenhgi and Zoe Lyons and more.

 

 

 

Aids : Don't Die of Prejudice by Norman Fowler

Shortlisted for Polemic of the Year at The Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2015.

Eighteen million people around the world live with HIV but do not know they are infected. Endangering both themselves and countless others, they represent a public health challenge that affects not only Africa but every part of the world, including Europe and the United States. We stand at a tipping point in the AIDS crisis - and unless we can increase the numbers tested and treated, we will not defeat it. In spite of the progress since the 1980s there are still over 1.5 million deaths and over 2 million new HIV infections a year. Norman Fowler has travelled to nine cities around the globe to report on the position today.

What he discovered was a shocking blend of ignorance, prejudice, bigotry and intolerance. In Africa and Eastern Europe, a rising tide of discrimination against gays and lesbians prevents many from coming forward for testing. In Russia, drug users are dying because an intolerant government refuses to introduce the policies that would save them. Extraordinarily, Washington has followed suit and excluded financial help for proven policies on drugs, and has turned its back on sex workers. In this lucid yet powerful account, Norman Fowler reveals the steps that must be taken to prevent a global tragedy. Aids: Don't Die of Prejudice is both an in-depth investigation and an impassioned call to arms against the greatest public health threat in the world today.

 

 

 

The Stonewall Reader by Jason Baumann

For the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, an anthology chronicling the tumultuous fight for LGBTQ rights in the 1960s and the activists who spearheaded it. June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising - the most significant event in the gay liberation movement and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Drawing from the New York Public Library's archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first hand accounts, diaries, periodic literature and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots. Most importantly, this anthology shines a light on forgotten figures who were pivotal in the movement, such as Lee Brewster, head of the Queens Liberation Front and Ernestine Eckstine, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s.

 

 

 

Loud and Proud

LGBTQ+ Speeches that Empower and Inspire.

Loud and Proud is an inspirational collection of speeches from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies that have changed our world, and the conversation. A sister volume to So Here I Am: Speeches by Great Women to Empower and Inspire, Loud and Proud places the voices of the vibrant LGBTQ+ community centre stage in the first-ever anthology of LGBTQ+ speeches. From equal marriage to the AIDS crisis, bullying to parenthood, the first 19th century campaigns through to the new trans rights allyship, the issues covered in these speeches touch on all aspects of LGBTQ+ and reflect the diverse and multi-faceted nature of this community.

Pour through a pioneering collection of talks, declarations and lectures, from people whose voices have too often been marginalised and the allies that support them; Find over 40 empowering and influential speeches that chart the history of the LGBTQ+ movement up to the present day; Each speech is presented with a striking photographic portrait and an insightful introduction, offering essential context, fresh insights and a nuanced understanding that brings each character and their words to life. A ribbon keeps your place in the book. We are stronger when we stand together, and this collection from award-winning activist Tea Uglow encourages us to do just that whilst celebrating the beauty of our differences.

The voices: Audre Lorde; Harvey Milk; Munroe Bergdorf; Sir Elton John; Sir Ian McKellen; George Takei; Sylvia Rivera; Bayard Rustin; Elizabeth Toledo; Alison Bechdel; Loretta E. Lynch; Hanne Gaby Odiele; Vito Russo; Tammy Baldwin; Hillary Rodham Clinton; Barack Obama; Dan Savage and Terry Miller; Ban Ki-moon; Karl Heinrich Ulrichs; Robert G. Ingersoll; Theodora Ana Sprungli; Franklin "Frank" Kameny; Sally Gearhart; Harry Hay; Sue Hyde; Mary Fisher; Essex Hemphill; Simon Nkoli; Urvashi Vaid; Eric Rofes; Justice Michael Kirby; Evan Wolfson; Paul Martin; Ian Hunter; Rabbi Kleinbaum; Penny Wong; Arsham Parsi; Anna Grodzka; Debi Jackson; Johanna Sigurdardottir; Lee Mokobe; Geraldine Roman; Cecilia Chung; Olly Alexander.

 

 

 

Kenyan, Christian, Queer by Adriaan van Klinken

Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa

Popular narratives cite religion as the driving force behind homophobia in Africa, portraying Christianity and LGBT expression as incompatible. Without denying Christianity's contribution to the stigma, discrimination, and exclusion of same-sex-attracted and gender-variant people on the continent, Adriaan van Klinken presents an alternative narrative, foregrounding the ways in which religion also appears as a critical site of LGBT activism. Taking up the notion of "arts of resistance," Kenyan, Christian, Queer presents four case studies of grassroots LGBT activism through artistic and creative expressions-including the literary and cultural work of Binyavanga Wainaina, the "Same Love" music video produced by gay gospel musician George Barasa, the Stories of Our Lives anthology project, and the LGBT-affirming Cosmopolitan Affirming Church.

Through these case studies, Van Klinken demonstrates how Kenyan traditions, black African identities, and Christian beliefs and practices are being navigated, appropriated, and transformed in order to allow for queer Kenyan Christian imaginations. Transdisciplinary in scope and poignantly intimate in tone, Kenyan, Christian, Queer opens up critical avenues for rethinking the nature and future of the relationship between Christianity and queer activism in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.

 

 

 

Drag: The Complete Story by Simon Doonan

Drag is transformation, communication, and, above all, exaggeration, where gender non-conformity is the plat du jour. This fearless book observes this increasingly complex world by exploring drag's journey, from the surprising, to the sophisticated, to the utterly bizarre, through the twentieth century and up to the present day. With witty text, dazzling photography, and corralled into thematic chapters, this is the first flamboyant and poignant survey of drag culture.

Drag is not just for fabulous queens and drag enthusiasts, but for anyone interested in gender fluidity and the culture surrounding it. Simon Doonan is a former drag queen who impersonated Queen Elizabeth. A veteran in the fashion industry, he has won every fashion award on Earth including the CFDA Award. Today, Simon is the Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York and a judge on the NBC television show Making It, co-hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.

 

 

 

How to Survive a Plague by David France

The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. Winner of The Green Carnation Prize for LGBTQ literature. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT non-fiction. Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017.

How to Survive a Plague by David France is the riveting, powerful and profoundly moving story of the AIDS epidemic and the grass-roots movement of activists, many of them facing their own life-or-death struggles, who grabbed the reins of scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Around the globe, the 15.8 million people taking anti-AIDS drugs today are alive thanks to their efforts. Not since the publication of Randy Shilts's now classic And the Band Played On in 1987 has a book sought to measure the AIDS plague in such brutally human, intimate, and soaring terms.

Weaving together the stories of dozens of individuals, this is an insider's account of a pivotal moment in our history and one that changed the way that medical science is practised worldwide. 'This superbly written chronicle will stand as a towering work in its field' Sunday Times.

 

 

 

 Pride : The Story of the LGBTQ Equality Movement by Matthew Todd

In June 1969, police raided New York gay bar the Stonewall Inn. Pride charts the events of that night, the days and nights of rioting that followed, the ensuing organization of local members of the community - and the 50 years since in which activists and ordinary people have dedicated their lives to reversing the global position. 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. Includes essays by: Travis Alabanza, Bisi Alimi, Georgina Beyer, Jonathan Blake, Deborah Brin, Maureen Duffy, David Furnish, Nan Goldin, Asifa Lahore, Paris Lees, Lewis Oakley, Reverend Troy Perry, Darryl Pinckney, Jake Shears, Judy Shepard and Will Young.

 

 

 

Indecent Advances by James Polchin

A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall.

"A grisly, sobering, comprehensively researched new history." - The New Yorker. Indecent Advances is a skilful hybrid of true crime and social history that examines the often-coded portrayal of crimes against gay men in the decades before Stonewall. New York University professor and critic James Polchin illustrates how homosexuals were criminalized, and their murders justified, in the popular imagination from 1930s 'sex panics' to Cold War fear of Communists and homosexuals in government. He shows the vital that role crime stories played in ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories became tools to discriminate against and harm gay men.

J. Edgar Hoover, Kerouac, Burroughs, Patricia Highsmith, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and Gore Vidal all feature. Published around the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 1969, Indecent Advances investigates how queer men navigated a society that criminalized them. Polchin shows how this discrimination was ultimately transformed by gay rights activists before Stonewall, and explores its resonances up to and including the policing of Gianni Versace's death in 1997.

 

 

 

Queer : A Collection of LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday

LGBTQ writing from ancient times to yesterday selected by award-winning translator Frank Wynne. Drawing together writing from Catullus to Sappho, from Arthur Rimbaud to Anne Lister and Armistead Maupin, translator Frank Wynne has collected eighty of the finest works representing queer love by LGBTQ authors. These pieces straddle the spectrum of queer experience, from Verlaine's sonnet in praise of his lover's anus and Emily Dickinson's exhortation of a woman's beauty, to Alison Bechdel's graphic novel of her coming out, Juno Dawson's reflections on gender and Oscar Wilde's 'De Profundis'.

With stories, poems, extracts and scenes from countries the world over, Queer is an unabashed and unapologetic anthology, which gives voice to those often silenced.

 

 

 

 LGBTQ Social Movements by Lisa M. Stulberg

In recent years, there has been substantial progress on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights in the United States. We are now, though, in a time of incredible political uncertainty for queer people. LGBTQ Social Movements provides an accessible introduction to mainstream LGBTQ movements in the U.S., illustrating the many forms that LGBTQ activism has taken since the mid-20th century.

Covering a range of topics including the Stonewall uprising and gay liberation, AIDS politics, queer activism, marriage equality fights, youth action, and bisexual and transgender justice, Lisa M. Stulberg explores how marginalized people and communities have used a wide range of political and cultural tools to demand and create change. The five key themes that guide the book are assimilationism and liberationism as complex strategies for equality, the limits and possibilities of legal change, the role of art and popular culture in social change, the inter connectedness of social movements, and the role of privilege in movement organizing.

This book is an important tool for understanding current LGBTQ politics and will be essential reading for students and scholars of sexuality, LGBTQ studies, and social movements.

 

 

 

 

 

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