Secret diaries and special languages: LGBT history month celebrates Coded Lives

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history month is being celebrated throughout February with a number of events and talks taking place across south west London.

The focuses of this year’s celebrations are the hidden histories of homosexuality and Coded Lives, in a bid to continue the ever-growing acceptance of varying sexuality in the UK.

Among the 10th anniversary celebrations famous gay icons of the past will be studied through talks and schemes that are taking place to raise awareness of matters affecting the LGBT community.

Wandsworth LGBT forum is one of the groups organising events that include a screening of Love Is Strange at the Clapham Picturehouse on Thursday February 12, with a guest introduction by MP for Battersea Jane Ellison.

The same evening lesbian comedian Clare Summerskill will visit Putney Library to talk about her experiences as a member of the LGBT community and her most recent book, Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History.

Tales of gay or bisexual women’s experiences of coming out are being recounted at Brixton Library on February 25, inviting any women to come along and share their own stories.

The event will also stage a short play written by Amie Taylor called Princess and Princess, encompassing life as a lesbian looking for love in a city.

Putney Library will also host author and principal lecturer at Roehampton University, Louise Tondeur, on Thursday February 26, who will be talking about LGBT history has affected and influenced her work.

There will be comedy from award-winning Rosie Wilby, as she brings her show Nineties Woman to Croydon’s Spreadeagle Theatre on Friday February 27.

The following Saturday evening The Victoria and Albert Museum will host a seminar focused on sexual identities and alternative queer reading of museum objects with guest speakers and filmmakers.

Featured figures throughout the festival will be icons such as Anne Lister, who kept a coded diary of sexual experiences in a time when she couldn’t be openly lesbian.

Actors Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick will also appear, they popularised the secret ‘gay’ language of Polari in a 1960s BBC radio show Round the Horne.

Polari, which has fallen out of use since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1960s, was a secret slang made up of Roma words, backwards words and euphemisms that allowed LGBT people to talk in code.

Internationally famous figures such as bisexual artist Frida Kahlo and transsexual Le Chevalier d’Eon Beaumont, who lived for 30 years as a woman after the French Revolution, will also be studied.

Image courtesy of Maria de Oro, with thanks

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