Reflections from Chad McDonald

Presenters have been asked to comment on the motivations, perspectives and sources that inform their work in LGBT history as well as their thoughts regarding the upcoming conference. Chad McDonald is a second year doctoral candidate co-supervised at the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton. His thesis explores how individuals have shaped Holocaust remembrance and commemoration in different places within the city of London.

Chad writes …

I think examining gender and sexuality help us nuance how we conceive of the past. Many spaces of the past – such as the home, workplaces etc.- are refracted through issues of gender and sexuality.

I am particularly interested in looking at the intersection between different types of identities, e.g. sexuality, gender and religion. I am also interested in how the past can be examined not just chronologically, but also spatially.

I’m currently looking at the intersection between personal archives, oral history and the British press (both gay and mainstream). I’m looking forward to hearing about the approaches that the different presenters have taken to examine issues related to sexuality and gender. I’m also looking forward to receiving feedback on my work as I refine it as part of my PhD thesis.

I think everyone can benefit from thinking about how we can queer the past.

Molly Merryman Gives Voice to LGBT Lives Using Oral History

Sometimes the most revolutionary act is telling your life story. For far too long, the lives of LGBTQ people have been repressed, silenced or reconfigured by those who oppress us.

I am excited about presenting a workshop on oral history methods. By learning the basics, people who attend this workshop will have the skills they need to interview and record the life stories of their loved ones, their friends, their neighbors, or people they have never before met. This method is particularly important to the LGBTQ population, because the written record does not represent us comprehensively.

I delight in using techniques gleaned from oral history, ethnography and documentary filmmaking as a means of giving voice to marginalized people. I have studied gender and sexuality throughout my academic career. My scholarly work centers on people who are in one way or another silenced by dominant culture. These are people who are smart and talented, people who want to make change in their lives and the lives of others, but who do not have access to larger audiences. Access is a most powerful thing.

I am excited about attending SEXing the Past. I look forward to learning from and sharing with others who do or are interested in LGBTQ history. I come from an American state where LGBTQ people are not legally protected and where LGBTQ topics are not presented in the school systems, so it is meaningful to be part a conference that is open to the public and connected to a larger National Festival of LGBT History.


Molly Merryman is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the recently established Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality at Kent State University in Ohio. Her conference workshop is scheduled for Sunday 5th March at 13:30.

A Message from our Sponsors at DLA Piper

DLA Piper is proud to sponsor the 3rd Allan Horsfall Lecture, the flagship lecture of SchoolsOUT’s National Festival of LGBT History.

At DLA Piper, diversity and inclusion are a part of how we live our values. We are one of the world’s largest law firms, with lawyers and staff in more than 30 countries throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and our efforts to embrace, value and incorporate diversity are woven into our culture. For us, diversity isn’t just about visible differences, it’s the unique blend of talents, skills, experiences and perspectives that makes each of us an individual and we know it’s crucial to have a culture and environment where those differences are genuinely valued.

We are committed to contributing to the wellbeing of the communities we serve and to fostering responsible business. We have a track record of supporting and developing initiatives which represent and support diversity and inclusion within society. In developing these initiatives, we consider it vitally important to form strategic alliances with local, national and global charities.

DLA Piper and its global LGBT+ network, Iris, have supported SchoolsOUT and its National Festival for a number of years. We are proud to call SchoolsOUT an important strategic partner of ours. This year we shall be working closely with SchoolsOUT to collaborate on a series of events designed to promote the values we share and seek to promote:

  • thought leadership through investigating and presenting new perspectives on our past and present;
  • excellence through focusing on research-driven academic output and in presenting high-quality events with well-respected and renowned speakers, such as Diana Souhami and Bisi Alimi; and
  • making a positive impact through taking the initiative to promote and instigate change, challenging current modes of thinking and capitalising on the success of the previous years’ LGBT History Festival.

‘Burnley Plays’ to be performed as part of SEXing the Past 2017

Two plays commissioned for this year’s National Festival of LGBT History will be performed in conjunction with the SEXing the Past 2017 academic conference. The two dramas from Inkbrew Productions mark 50 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act and have featured in a recent article in the Guardian.

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‘The Burnley Bugger’s Ball’ is by award-winning playwright Stephen M Hornby and directed by Matt Hassall. It tells the story of a transformative public meeting held at Burnley Central Library in 1971. The meeting was about the right to open the first ever LGBT centre and saw activists in London join forces with activists from the North West to take on the Establishment.

‘Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator’ is by Abi Hynes and directed by Helen Parry. It dramatises the political activism of Mary Winter, a bus driver sacked for wearing a ‘Lesbian Liberation’ badge. Unsupported by her trade union, she fought back against her employers in 1978 using a network of women’s groups across the UK.

Both plays are made possible by funding from the Arts Council of England and patronage by Russell T Davies. The TV writer and producer famous for Doctor Who and Queer As Folk, said:

This is precisely what LGBT History Month should be doing, uncovering hidden history, finding great stories and bringing them to life again for new audiences.  And who knew they’d both be about Burnley!  It’s marvelous to think of this mill town in East Lancashire being the centre of the struggle for UK gay and lesbian rights in the 1970s.

The Liverpool performance is scheduled for 17:30 on Saturday 4th March. The plays will be staged as a double bill with a running time of 75 minutes. A number of free tickets are reserved for conference delegates: CLICK HERE to register.

Caroline Paige brings ‘True Colours’ to SEXing the Past 2017

Caroline Paige will take part in this year’s SEXing the Past conference as an invited contributor to a forum that will examine the ‘Law and the Military’ in the 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. Her participation also follows the publication of her book ‘True Colours’ later this month. The following is an extract from the book’s jacket.

true-coloursIn 1999, Paige became the first officer to transition gender within the military, and to remain in service. She rose against the extraordinary challenges placed before her to become a highly respected aviator and to be the first openly serving transgender woman on the front-line in the war on terror, flying battlefield helicopters for sixteen years and serving in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paige describes a personal conflict influenced by prejudice and acceptance, in a military that initially persecutes its LGBT personnel before ultimately celebrating them. It is a journey set in a world of change, a story of secrecy and vulnerability, of fear and courage, of challenge and hope.

This is a unique and inspirational memoir that reveals the triumphs and tribulations that shaped Paige’s life, from her birth and childhood struggles with gender identity through to her 35-year military career.

Conference delegates will be able to purchase copies of ‘True Colours’ at a discount. Information will be provided at the conference.

Elaine Chambers and Patrick Lyster-Todd will join Caroline Paige for the ‘Law and the Military’ forum on Saturday 4th March at 14:00. A limited number of free tickets for this (and other selected sessions) are available to the public. Booking is essential. Please follow this link and click on ‘Tickets’.

‘Learn Your History’ at SEXing the Past 2017

Participants and presenters for the SEXing the Past 2017 academic conference have been voicing their enthusiasm for the event that marks the end of LGBT History Month. The following provides a sample of the messages they’d like to share with others about the joining them in Liverpool 3rd – 5th March. You can register here!

When you look you find LGBT+ people everywhere, often doing remarkable things. Come and see the evidence. Cheryl Morgan, OutStories Bristol.

Come and explore LBGTQ+ history – it will enrich your life. Knowledge of the past struggles and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community gives us all strength. Mark Dutton, The National Archives.

Sexuality and gender are among the most fundamental aspects of human experience, and the conference will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how official and societal approaches to non-normative sexualities and genders shifted and how this impacted lived realities and sexual and gender identity development. Julia Maclachlan, History PhD Researcher, University of Manchester.

In order to better understand the ways in which LGBTQ individuals are persecuted in various socio-cultural settings, we need to understand the historical tracts of these settings. In tracing patterns of discrimination, we can understand homo- and transphobia more broadly, and challenge it more effectively. Nick Mayhem, PhD student, Department of Slavonic Studies, Jesus College, Cambridge.

My experience from previous conferences is that it offers a supportive and constructive environment for reflecting upon various matters related to historicizing LGBT. Fia Sundevall, Department of Economic History, University of Stockholm.

The 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 is an important opportunity to reflect on progress towards sexual and gender equality in law. Neil Cobb, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Manchester.

And, to end with the simple message that began this post …

Learn your history. Kate Gleeson, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie Law School (Australia).

SEXing the Past 2017 Opens Events to the Public

A limited number of free tickets to some of the events scheduled as part of SEXing the Past: The What is and How to Do LGBT History Conference are now available to the public. The two-day conference, which takes place at the Bluecoat in Liverpool on March 4th and 5th, marks the end of the National Festival of LGBT History.

Events on Saturday March 4th are closely related to the conference theme: the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. They include two 45-minute forums on the Law & Civic Society and the Law & the Military. These will take place at 14:00. A panel discussion on the (Post)Colonial Legacies of De/criminalisation is scheduled for 16:15.

Three How to Do LGBT History Workshops are scheduled for 13:30 on Sunday March 5th. These 45-minute sessions will consider statistical approaches to historical research, using oral history methods, and historicising trans*.

Free tickets are also available for the 3rd Allan Horsfall Lecture, which opens the conference on Friday March 3rd at 18:00. This year’s speakers are the activist Bisi Alimi and the author Diana Souhami.

More information on these events, invited contributors and presenters can be found on the conference programme. Booking is essential. Please follow this link and click on ‘Tickets’.