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LGBTQ+ Lives: History, Identity and Belonging
Volume: 48, Issue: 1 (2020)
Articles
Listening in, listening out: intersubjectivity and the impact of insider and outsider status in oral history interviews
When undertaking oral history research with any group defining itself as a community, the researcher’s relationship to this ‘community’ must be considered. Intersubjectivity’s central role in the oral history interview is widely acknowledged. However, there is little work investigating how being an ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ among those whom we interview impacts on the interview encounter. This article will draw on my experience of conducting two very different sets of interviews in order to assess this impact. First, I examine the ramifications, positive and negative, of being an out lesbian interviewing other lesbian women. I then compare this with being an ‘outsider interviewer’ among survivors of the Bethnal Green Tube disaster of 1943, where interviewees were bonded together in a community of trauma.
Author(s): Amy Tooth Murphy
Keywords: LGBTQ; lesbian; methodology; intersubjectivity; community; insider; outsider

Reticence and the queer past
This article uses a moment of discomposure and reticence within an interview with an openly gay Church of England priest about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in England to discuss ‘queer reticence’, namely the extent to which a mutually imagined ‘queer past’ shaped the interview. I question why my interviewee was reluctant to speak about the death of a monk in his care, and of my unwillingness to question him further. I then discuss how the building up of a public queer image and the construction of a queer past, especially around the HIV/AIDS epidemic, can result in silences, discomposure and moments of reticence which are anchored in a personal and political deference to an imagined and highly desirable queer history, one which was especially difficult to broach intergenerationally.
Author(s): George J Severs
Keywords: reticence; memory; HIV/AIDS; queer history; intergenerational

Creating space in the community archive for queer life stories to be (re)performed and captured
This article explores the notion that LGBTQ lives have historically been signified in specific moments in times and spaces perceived as safe to perform these identities. Consequently, on a national level, and in the case-study city of Plymouth, LGBT+ lives have often failed to generate those materials regarded as appropriate for archiving and study. Instead, those moments seen as most significant to LGBTQ individuals have remained ephemeral and performative. This article explores how the oral history interview process can provide the opportunity to create a contemporary space in which these moments can be performed again, witnessed, recorded, archived and made part of the historical record.
Author(s): Alan Butler
Keywords: LGBTQ heritage; performativity; place; Plymouth

‘It’s telling your story to your family’: reflections by an older lesbian on being interviewed for a verbatim theatre production
This article focusses upon the reflections provided in a follow-up interview of an older lesbian who, after being interviewed about her dishonourable discharge from the Royal Navy in 1970, saw parts of her life story being enacted on stage in a piece of verbatim theatre. I examine the concept of shame, as experienced historically by older lesbians and gay men, and, specifically, in regard to this narrator. I discuss how the experience of a lesbian narrator being interviewed by a sympathetic ‘insider’, that is, someone who shared her sexual orientation, and then seeing an actress on stage speaking her own words, provided a path to self-respect, positive identification and pride.
Author(s): Clare Summerskill
Keywords: lesbian; Navy; verbatim theatre; shame; longitudinal interview

The perils of the recording: ethical issues in oral history with vulnerable populations
This article draws on the author’s oral history work with lesbians born before 1950. Older lesbians have been consistently under-represented in research, so that less is known about them than about any other part of the LGBTQ community. Their voices need to be heard, but when anonymity and confidentiality are the speakers’ chief concerns, the implications of such ‘hearing’ are complex. The article discusses the practical and ethical challenges of presenting and interpreting older lesbian lives in four different contexts and formats: an academic thesis using excerpts from the transcripts; a radio programme using extracts from the oral recordings; a documentary film; and a book comprising a curated collection of life stories.
Author(s): Jane Traies
Keywords: lesbians; women and ageing; LGBTQ history; ethics; methodology

Public History
‘Dry Your Eyes, Princess’: oral testimony and photography – a case study
This article explores ‘Dry Your Eyes, Princess’, a project that used oral testimony and photography to narrate the experiences of trans veterans of the British armed forces, an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. It discusses the historical background of the underpinning research and the impact of the project. It also reflects on some of the methodological considerations that arose as a result of the close collaboration between an artist, a historian and the trans community, particularly in relation to queer oral history.
Author(s): Emma Vickers
Keywords: photography; trans; public history; armed forces; queer oral history; co-creation

Rainbow Pilgrims: The rites and passages of LGBTQI migrants in Britain
‘Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI Migrants in Britain’ was a UK landmark project exploring the interconnection between faith, sexuality, gender and ethnicity in place and time. This photo essay draws on testimonies of LGBTQI migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and Romany Travellers in London and Manchester and how these identities interrelate with each other in the framework of UK migration. ‘Rainbow Pilgrims’ is a model for engaging minority communities with archive and heritage projects by empowering marginalised voices.
Author(s): Shaan Knan and Susanne Hakuba
Keywords: migration; journey; identity; trauma; marginalisation; LGBTQI; faith; photography; refugee; asylum; Gypsy; Romany Traveller

Learning
Two case studies
This article continues the debate about oral history practice within education. Two senior teachers describe their experiences of using oral history in schools. Whereas John Ross, a retired secondary school assistant head teacher, argues for the benefits of of oral history as an investigative methodology, Gosia Brown, a primary school head teacher, has envisioned and developed a whole-school project based on the memories and history of her school. From different perspectives, both fully acknowledge the benefits for young people of using oral history but at the same time question what it might mean in practice. Gosia Brown additionally suggests that the teacher training curriculum should include oral history.
Author(s): Kate Melvin with John Ross and Gosia Brown
Keywords: schools; young people; First World War; National Curriculum

Reviews
Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans and Black Truck Drivers
Author(s): Anne Balay

Now You See Me: Lesbian Life Stories
Author(s): Jane Traies

Queen and Country: Same-Sex Desire in the British Armed Forces, 1939-45
Author(s): Emma Vickers

Gateway to Heaven: Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History and Gateway To Heaven: The Play
Author(s): Clare Summerskill