The LGBT+ Students’ Committee has held its largest exhibition in recent memory to celebrate LGBT+ history in Sheffield and beyond.
Held in Foundry, last week’s flagship event to mark LGBT+ History Month featured archived cut-outs, artwork and banners from student committees past and present, some dating back to the early 1970s.
Hailed by the organisers as a “success”, there was also a series of four talks in the evening, all recorded by Forge TV, about LGBT+ history focused on mental health, asylum seekers, literature and Sheffield.
It was a fitting location given one of the displays exhibited the original posters of ‘Climax’ LGBT+ monthly club night from the last two decades, up until its de-sexualised name change last year to ‘Proud’.
Strikingly, one of the timelines documenting the growth of LGBT+ rights nationally and in Sheffield saw the changing committee campaigns from the early 1970s to present day, such as controversially ‘outing’ Bishops in society and the Never Going Underground campaign.
This was followed by a message of hope for future committees, which included urging “comprehensive records” of activities to be kept for future students to look back on.
The message continued: “The history of this committee shows that, when utilised, it has the power to enact real positive change and it is so important to keep this legacy going.”
Ruby Penman, Inclusions Officer on the committee, explained: “Never Going Underground was about Section 28 which was a big deal when it first came in in the 80s, until it was appealed in 2003. It was a law that had no prosecutions but it fostered these ideas and prejudices and just made it harder for the community to be out and about.”
These changing campaign themes were shadowed by a timeline of cultural and legal changes for the LGBT+ community, from the 1957 Wolfenden Report through to the first official UK Gay Pride rally in 1972, and the establishing of Stonewall UK in 1989.
Visiting students and staff were reminded of the struggle ahead by the fact that only 26 years ago, the World Health Organisation declassified same-sex attraction as a mental illness.
Another area was dedicated to trans history, featuring the Transgender Pride Flag and a look at how people think about trans history in non-Western countries.
The ‘trans map’ of trans-friendly businesses in Sheffield, created by the LGBT+ committee in 2015, was also showcased.
Marina Georgiou, Secretary of the LGBT+ Students’ Committee, said: “I’m really happy, it’s been a success. Wow.”
Penman added: “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people came as we were worried that not many people would show up. There’s been a steady flow of people all day so I think it’s been really good.”