February is LGBT+ History Month, which aims to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of all. Five years ago, I was honoured to be invited to speak at the launch of a project to create an archive of LGBT+ history in Derbyshire, near where I live.
That year – 2017 – marked the fiftieth anniversary of Britain’s Sexual Offences Act. I’d naïvely assumed this Act spelt liberation but no! I learnt, from another speaker, that decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting men over 21 in private led to an increase in persecution for behaviours outside the narrow scope of the law.
The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr, published by riverrun in 2021, brings a new perspective to the story of the transatlantic slave trade by focusing on the threat the love between two adolescent boys brings to both slavers and enslaved people.
Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo, published in 2013, explores closeted homosexual love within London’s Caribbean community in the warm-hearted story of a seventy-four-year-old’s coming out.
Devotion by Hannah Kent, published by Picador in 2022, is a beautifully-written LGBTQ coming-of-age historical novel set in a community of Old Lutherians embarking on a gruelling six-month voyage to South Australia for the freedom to follow their religion as they choose.
She beamed when her phone pinged with a new notification. Her request to join the 49ers had been approved. Supported by her peer group, she’d learn to manage middle age.
Her peer group? Images of surgically-sculpted doll-like masks. Wrinkled faces framed by wispy orange hair. Miss Havishams stuck at forty-nine since she was in her cot.
She closed the app and texted friends and family. She’d warned them previously: No surprise parties! No fifty badged cards! She’d changed her mind, she told them. Hitting fifty was a cause for celebration: all that life behind her, all that fun ahead.