LGBT Community Organising Oral Histories was one of the projects in the Digitally Democratising Archives programme, supported by Digital Skills for Heritage. Many thanks to The Audience Agency’s funding and continued support to make this project a reality.
The interviews on this webpage are a snapshot of community organising, past and present, by LGBT+ people in and beyond Greater Manchester.
Interviewees were asked in respect to their experiences of being an LGBT person involved in LGBT+ activism and community organising in Greater Manchester, and how things have changed.
This project is hoping to show community organising is not ‘only’ protesting in the streets, or for ‘only’ certain people and there’s not ‘only’ one way to make change. It can include: mutual aid, community groups, volunteering, helplines, protests online and offline, knowledge and resources sharing and the list goes on.
We can define community organising as “Bringing people together to take action around their common concerns and overcome social injustice"
Definition from: www.coorganisers.org.uk
This archive was made a reality thanks to the efforts and time given by interviewees, volunteers and wider project team involved. Thank you.
So, take a listen, have a read and ask yourself: What issues feel most important to you right now? How might you be able to or want to support the action against that issue?
Want to listen to these in full? Click here!
Episode 6: Jen Yockney (She/Her)
Jen Yockney (she/her) MBE is a nearly-50 year old bisexual genderqueer trans woman residing in Manchester, at the time of recording. Jen is from South Wales and came to Manchester in 1991 for University. She discusses coming out as bisexual in 6th form (ages 16-18). The political situation of Section 28. Jen talks about labels, being bi in lesbian and gay spaces and the memories of BiPhoria. BiPhoria is a social support group for bisexual people in Manchester that continues today.
Jen discusses bi experiences of and in Manchester's Gay Village, Manchester City Council and LGBT organisations during 1990s. She details the impact of Section 28 on employment, schools, education. Example given about Trafford Council removing a requested workshop because of Section 28. Discusses internalised bi-erasure and bi invisibility in wider society. Discusses the practical aspects of organising for BiPhoria since 1995. The importance of community led social spaces as a form of organising that has big impact to people's wellbeing. Editor for 20 years of Bi Community News,that is still publishing at time of recording. Discusses how bisexual news was reported, recalls article about EastEnders actress Pam St.Clements. Discusses the power of physical / non-digital mediums.
Jen discusses navigating research requests and how these reports were not being fed back to the community. Jen initiated The Bisexual Report in 2012. Jen discusses the support offer for bisexuals from LGBT organisations before 2012, details the response to civil partnership consultations. Jen discusses changes she has noticed with community organising including speed and reach of activity, faster now due to internet and technology. Discusses the anonymity of social media and technology age. Mentions how misinformation and lies can travel faster and further this day in age. Jen discusses the change towards access to information for smaller groups after the LGBT Action Plan 2011 was released.
Discusses the importance of recording smaller groups and individual stories and experiences so organisations and structures can be held accountable and not only story gets heard. Jen talks about capturing smaller scale stories helps create a bigger picture. Jen finishes talking about how activists are human beings. Reminds listener/readers that you can contact her via jenyockney.com but doesn't promise to reply!
Read the full transcription here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vtssJqtB6VrCSd...
Episode 5: Aderonke Apata (She/Her)
Aderonke Apata (she/her) is a 55-year old lesbian woman, Founder and CEO of African Rainbow Family [ARF], residing in Manchester at the time of the recording. Aderonke is a refugee from Nigeria and has settled status.
In this interview Aderonke share about her experiences before coming to the UK, and what it was like growing up in Nigeria, and the persecution faced. Aderonke discusses her experience of detention centres following arrests for working without papers due to lack of support and how she self-studied to help her own case. Discusses feelings of the asylum system in the UK not making sense and how these experiences led her to campaigning as she does today.
Aderonke details her reality as a person seeking asylum, including homelessness, risk of assault, arrest and long periods of time in detention centres. Discusses the early stages of African Rainbow Family, before it was constituted and meeting in member’s homes, cafes and National Express (coach station) waiting area. Aderonke talks about the culture of ARF and how campaigning is at its core despite changes.
She talks about volunteers and how they are essential to ARF but also people seeking asylum, so there can be changes in availability. Aderonke discusses her experience of ARF over time, including doing a Bar course as she hopes to represent people in court. Speaks about the person-centred approach of ARF and what that means practically for running the centres. Explores the question of how to keep campaigning and people at its core, whilst also being sustainable. Discusses difficulties but also highlights of the African Rainbow Family ethos. Finishes with a reminder for listeners about people-first language – people seeking asylum.
Discussion of homophobia, discrimination, asylum system in the UK, detention centres, mention of r*pe (threat, not explicit)
Read the full Transcription here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1i1hWIXL_7TeEwp...
Episode 4: Sarah Wilkinson (she/her)
Sarah (she/her) is an older lesbian in her late 50s, at the time of recording. Sarah discusses moving to Newcastle for university in 1982, where she became involved in political activism for various causes - the anti-apartheid movement, supporting the miners’ strike, feminism - which continued into LGBT activism when she came out as a lesbian in the late 1980s. Sarah discusses early experiences of LGBT activism like the Never Going Underground march in Manchester in 1988 and other direct action against Section 28. She talks about how LGBT+ activism was not inclusive of bisexual and trans people and there was little awareness around intersectionality. Sarah details how at the time the police were seen as the enemy, especially due to heavy-handed policing - Sarah was arrested at a feminist protest and had to go to trial, which was a very negative experience for her. The local and national press was another major target of their activity.
Sarah feels that becoming a community organiser came naturally through being very politically motivated, and wanting to feel part of a movement that was bringing about change to homophobic oppression - but she also found friends in her campaigning group, and the social side was a factor. There were many groups and individuals, including women’s groups and men’s sexual health organisations that were brought together through the campaign against Section 28. Another key issue in Newcastle was protesting the removal of an adopted child from the care of a lesbian couple, which contributed to her later community organising around LGBT parents and families in Manchester.
Sarah remembers having lots of meetings, and some of the heated discussions that came from people with different identities and viewpoints working together. When she moved to Manchester in the 1990s, she worked at Manchester City Council, supporting them to improve their support for people living with HIV and AIDS. She got involved in the LGBT members’ section of her trade union, Unison, where there were many conversations around issues such as access and challenging racism in the community, particularly as they worked alongside sections representing other groups of members. In the early 2000s, she got involved in community-based LGBT parents’ organising, at a time when she herself was going through the process of adopting children. Sarah discusses how community organising has affected her identity and the impact of working with others towards a common goal.
Sarah discusses how changes in information technology mean that the ways people are able to connect, communicate, and organise have transformed. She was recently a community curator for the Never Going Underground exhibition on the history of LGBT activism at the People’s History Museum. Sarah reflects on how LGBT activism and narrative is remembered. She talks about how it’s important to her to remember and recognise the diversity and expansiveness of what LGBT community organising has been, and what it has meant to the people involved.
Full Trancription here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1csgtv6hnarRdfd...
Episode 3: Mx Dennis Queen (she/any)
Mx Dennis Queen (she/any) is a genderqueer, pansexual and polyamorous person residing in Manchester, at the time of recording.
In this interview, Dennis discusses how she got involved with activism and in particular The Disabled People’s Movement, following the birth of their first child. Dennis talks about how much he learned about organising and activism and how inclusive the Movement felt for her as an LGBT person.
Dennis details how it was being LGBTQ+ in Manchester at 18 in 1991 and reflects on the impact of the activists that came before her. Dennis talks about the range of tasks that are involved in activism that he has taken part in. Including in-person protests, peer advocacy, emails and policy writing. Dennis discusses their involvement in sex rights activism and recalls a protest that took place outside Parliament in response to The Extreme Porn Bill.
Dennis talks about assumptions about activism and community organising, internal and external, going into detail about the variety of jobs and tasks that are involved in activism and making change. Dennis discusses how his identity has been influenced by community organising they have been involved in. Identifies ally and allyship as an identity that continues to grow the more she learns. Reflects on the importance of sharing memories and understanding what has come before, for example, a friend who was involved in the Campaign for Accessible Transport [CAT].
Dennis talks about the importance of telling our own stories and being the ones to record as well is important.
CN: Discussion of ableism (direct and systemic), discussion of porn (in relation to sex rights), mention of police.
Read ful transcription here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cxByYFerjyFzmx...
Episode 2 : Chloe Cousins (She/Her)
CN: discussion of racism within LGBTQ+ community.
Chloe Cousins is a youth worker and community organiser from Birmingham now living in Manchester. She has been living in Manchester for 10 years, at the time of this recording. Chloe discusses the journey of moving to Manchester from Liverpool where she’d studied. Her partner at the time was one of 3 queer Black women who created Rainbow Noir, a group for LGBT people of colour (PoC) that Chloe is co-lead of today.
Chloe speaks about helping with sessions plans and taking up an organiser role once her partner moved away. She discusses the early days of Rainbow Noir and that social community space has always been the priority. Chloe discusses how having paid roles in LGBT and community-based organisations whilst also being an organiser in Rainbow Noir has provided a network and enabled her to confidently approach topics in official circles. Talks about the visual presence of Rainbow Noir at Manchester Pride Parades and the use of signage/banners to raise awareness and bring focus on the experiences of LGBTQI+ people of colour.
Chloe recalls how she feels the climate was in Manchester at the time of starting in 2011-12. Chloe discusses organisers having cautiousness around a supportive response, alongside the increased demand on organisers and they want to be everywhere. Chloe discusses the increased support today for LGBT people seeking asylum. Reflects that there has been global change and acknowledgement that racism exists, alongside an increased media presence of LGBTQI+ people of colour. Chloe discusses the lack of representation felt by herself and other QTIPOC. Talks about the visibility Rainbow Noir had and has today, in Pride, panels and other events. Chloe discusses how she feels community organising is remembered can be focused on American figures.
Chloe recalls some of the UK-based LGBT organising by people of colour. Including Black Lesbian & Gay Centre in London, Black & Gay, Back in the Day. Chloe reflects on the power of archiving and her feelings around archives.
The interview concludes with Chloe discussing Rainbow Noir in more detail the community and opportunities it’s created and what happens there.
Notes: Victoria McKenzie is referenced. The director is Veronica McKenzie, the film is “Under Your Nose” about the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre in London. Black & Gay, Back in the Day is @blackandgaybackintheday on Instagram, at the time of recording.
Full Transcription: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1brKJTP7VpLLbLD...
Episode 1: Kyle Jakubowska (He/Him)
Kyle Jakubowska is a 25-year-old trans man residing in Salford, at the time of recording. Moved to the UK from Poland at age 18.
In this interview Kyle discusses his time as a student, studying Graphic Design from 2016 at University of Salford, located in Greater Manchester. Kyle talks about attending events run by the Trans Programme at LGBT Foundation.
Kyle discusses how he sought support from University of Salford’s Diversity & Inclusion Team for administration changes. Worked with the University’s Diversity & Inclusion Team to identify ways to improve student-life for trans and non-binary students. Kyle set up the student-led Trans & Non-Binary Forum that continues to run today . This Forum advises on the University’s trans inclusion work.
Kyle discusses his time as a Student Ambassador for the University, with a focus on trans issues. Activities included completing an audit of University toilets, providing training for University of Salford staff and creating a guide to student life for trans students.
Kyle reflects on the longer-term impact of his community organising work. Kyle highlights how he feels the role of allies is important in making change.
Notes: This interview mentions GRA and GRC. For context the GRA (Gender Recognition Act 2014) Consultation started in July – October 2018. This was about proposed changes to the Act that would affect the current process of obtaining a GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate).
Full Transcription here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1F4Y0Cxh9B5xict...
Full Transcription: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1F4Y0Cxh9B5xict...
If you feel inspired or have questions about what you’ve engaged with on this webpage, get in touch with Nico (firstname.lastname@example.org) our Community Organising Coordinator and Project Organiser.
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Please attribute as: “ORAL HISTORIES (2022) by LGBT FOUNDATION supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 40