Saturday, 2 February 2008

Small Victory

This afternoon, I went to the Imperial War Museum (next door to where I live) to attend one of the two screenings of Sex and War, a documentary directed by Annie Paul in 1998 for the BBC's Timewatch series, the museum had scheduled to mark LGBT History Month.

The film uses the stories of British servicemen who fought bravely for their country during the Second World War and the example of the Dutch Army which started to welcome gay people in its ranks from 1994 to explore the arguments in the debate around the legalisation of homosexuality which was taking place in the UK at the time of the making of the film.

The film includes testimonies from gay (and straight) men from the three services as well as a particularly prejudiced interview with Air Chief Marshall Sir Michael Armitage, the former head of military intelligence (his view are reproduced in the contemporaneous links below).

The ban on gays in the UK armed services was official lifted in 2000.

The film was very and, with hindsight, the homophobic comments were rather funny ("real men don't like to take showers with men who like to take showers with men"). There were about 20 people in the room (though some left early), which is rather good considering how little promotion was made and also tallies with what we get for our local events. They also had flyers on prominent display at the information desk for the Month in general and the local events in particular.

This is the first year that the Museum is celebrating LGBT History Month and I am proud to say that am less than a little instrumental to this happening. As I think I mentioned before on this blog, I have now been trying to get the museum to celebrate the month for about two years now. This started after my attending an event for Black History Month and thinking: Why not us too?!

Last year I drew up a long-ish document explaining the Month, what it could do for the museum, how it could be promoted and giving ideas of events and a list of resources they could tap into. I then had a meeting with the Head of Education at the Museum to submit this. And kept on nagging lobbying her gently...

If she had looked a little bewildered when I first button-holed her at the end of that Black History Month meeting, she has been otherwise quite supportive of the idea and if there was some reluctance (which I am not sure there was), it came from higher up. Anyway, I do hope that the experience has been positive for the Museum and that it will be an incentive for them to organise more and bigger events in the years to come.

(The second screening is tomorrow, Sunday 3rd at 2pm)

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