The life of a seventeenth century nun who received papal permission to live as a man and the support given to the miners by lesbian and gay campaigners during the 1984/5 Miners' Strike are among the wide-ranging topics of talks at Caius marking LGBT+ History Month.
Caius research fellow Tam Blaxter has been involved in forming a group to programme talks and events for the month, which sees celebrations take place countrywide throughout February. CamQueerHistory, brings together students and staff from a variety of colleges and departments interested in LGBTQ+ history, scholarship and activism. The group grew out of a smaller project based at Pembroke College for LGBT+ History Month 2017, but this year has expanded its horizons and ambitions.
Many of the upcoming events will explore the lives of LBGTQ+ people in history. On 2 February, historian Cheryl Morgan will speak at Caius on the search for evidence of transgender lives in ancient Sumer and Assyria. On 6 February, translation theorist Emily Rose will present on the interpretation and translation of the 17th century memoirs of Catalina de Erauso, the ‘lieutenant nun’ who received dispensation from the Pope to live as a man.
Other events will focus on the history of LGBTQ+ activism. On 20 February, a panel discussion at Caius will bring together three members of the influential group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, which played a pivotal role during the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike and was featured in the film Pride. Historian Chris Wall will speak at Selwyn on 16 February about a community of lesbian squatters in 1970s Hackney.
Still more events have a literary bent. On 16 February, Eleri Watson will speak at Pembroke on ‘fag hags’ in Christopher Isherwood’s writings, while on 19 February, a panel of young adult novelists including Tanya Byrne, Wei Ming Kam and Fox Benwell will be discussing the ‘gay agenda’ and the difficulties of writing about LGBTQ+ issues in books for young people.
Tam said: "It's so important that we're starting to take queer studies more seriously - finding our places in history is of immense personal value for many LGBTQ+ people today, as is celebrating the activism that has got us this far. As well as giving a platform for some wonderful researchers and writers to showcase their work, I hope these events will help to open these conversations up to a wider audience."
To mark the start of LGBT+ History Month, Caius proudly flew the rainbow flag over the Old Courts today. The flag was raised by outgoing MCR President Hugo Larose, and MCR and GCSU LGBT+ Officers Cameron Smith and Nadia Dahrup Razali, accompanied by Head Porter Russ Holmes.
For the times and locations of all these events—plus the rest of CamQueerHistory’s programme—see the CamQueerHistory website.