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LGBT History Month - remembering the fight

by In Wales Sat Feb 28th, 2009 at 12:38:45 PM EST

(This was started as an OT comment but I thought I may as well diary it.)

I saw Milk on Thursday night.  What a fantastic film.  Izzy has already reviewed it but I was so impressed with Sean Penn, he fully deserved that Oscar.  When the credits roll it gives clips/photos of the real people at the time along with trivia on what happened to them after the time of Harvey's Milk's assassination.  the clip of Harvey himself, showed what an amazing job that Sean Penn did in playing him.  

But it did also bring home how huge the fight has been for gay rights, and the fact that we are teetering in quite a dangerous place right now, certainly in the UK, where a change in Government risks undoing a great deal of that good work.

I also saw two other films; Cowboy and James.

Gay Entertainment Report: 'Cowboy' Takes Iris Prize | On Top Magazine :: Gay & Lesbian News, Entertainment, Commentary & Travel

In Kleinert's Cowboy, city dweller Christian comes to a deserted village where he meets a country lad with whom he spends the day and night. When harvest starts at dawn, the village shows its real face and the two men are forced to pay a terrible price in order to leave.

This was quite haunting, and erotic. And then turned very weird and freaky in the last couple of scenes. Winner of the 2008 Iris Prize - Cardiff based gay film festival.


James has learnt to be withdrawn and secretive in a family with long buried secrets.

Lonely and confused, he is drawn to one of his schoolteachers, Mr Sutherland, focusing

on him as the one person who might understand his inner turmoil. When an older man approaches

him in a public toilet, James panics and calls his mother, but refuses to tell her what happened.

Late that night, James listens to his parents arguing about him. His fathers offhanded dismissal

of his mothers concern results in a vicious row. When a devastated James turns to Mr Sutherland

for help, the teachers response leads James to take an irrevocable step.

This one has won many other prizes and has been selected for the 2009 Sundance festival.  The director was there to talk about the film. Very moving. Again, it raises very contemporary issues around gay children in school. Homophobic bullying is a huge issue, and children struggling with their sexuality need far more support and understanding than they currently receive.

The LGBT Excellence Centre has been going around schools in Wales running workshops to tackle homophobic bullying.  They also take on casework and counselling for LGBT people.

The films have been shown as part of LGBT history month with a number of events going on across the UK to celebrate this.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month UK

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month takes place every year in February. It celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. We are committed to celebrate its diversity and that of the society as a whole. We encourage everyone to see diversity and cultural pluralism as the positive forces that they are and endeavour to reflect this in all we do.

Especially with a film like Milk to raise the profile of LGBT struggles (I'd never heard of the man before) it is important to keep reminding people that the rights we have now have been fought hard for and are too valuable to get complacent about.

I'm old enough to remember when Harvey Milk became mayor of San Francisco. Yes, it was news even here in the UK; surprising, shocking even. At the time over here we had Tom Robinson (gay icon and all-round good guy) making waves with his song Glad to be Gay, so such issues were the background of rock music discourse.

The British Police are the best in the world
I don't believe one of these stories I've heard
'Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
Lining the customers up by the wall
Picking out people and knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they're kicked on the ground
Searching their houses and calling them queer
I don't believe that sort of thing happens here

Sing if you're glad to be gay
Sing if you're happy that way

And I remembered feeling sad when I heard Milk had been shot. It's hard to remember how bad those days were, this was 77/78. Even to be gay had only been legal for 10 years and the general sentiment wasn't so much hostile as murderous. Things were so bad that five years later Boy George had to pretend he was straight (!!) for most of his career with Culture Club because otherwise his songs would not have been broadcast and kids would not have bought them. George Michael had to pretend, Freddie Mercury had to pretend.

In the mid-80s, in response to liberal attempts to dampen the hostility, the Tories decided to bring in Clause 28 which, in terms of chilling effect, legitimised hatred and homophobia in the UK until it was finally repealed a decade ago.

And it is so much better now. Unless you were there you cannot know what it was like, and I was straight at the time. It must have been ten times worse to experience.

Don't try to kid us that if you're discreet
You're perfectly safe as you walk down the street
You don't have to mince or make bitchy remarks
To get beaten unconscious and left in the dark
I had a friend who was gentle and short
Got lonely one evening and went for a walk
Queerbashers caught him and kicked in his teeth
He was only hospitalised for a week

And remember, things were worse even before I noticed. Stonewall did not come out of nothing, it was a riot when the persecution became too much. Sir John Gielgud was arrested int the 50s (a scandal which ultimately led to legalisation). Alan Turing, the hero of the enigma decryptions, was forced to commit suicide. The "Naked Civil servant", the rough biography of Quentin Crisp, demonstrated just how awful things had been.

Short of some catastrophic change in public sentiment, we aren't going back to those places. LGBT history month should remind us of that truth, I'm not sure that it should be involved in scaremongering about the prospects of a change of govt. No, the tories have no interests in helping, but I don't htink they are opposed to lgbt people in the way that previous incarnations were.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 06:31:10 AM EST

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