Robert Howes – Opening the public sphere to LGBT issues in the Bristol region, 1980-2000

Robert Howes Pride MarchRobert Howes will speak to us on Sunday about LGBT issues in Bristol.

was born and brought up in Bristol.  He has been a committee member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) Westminster group, a volunteer with London Friend and a member of Gay West since 1983.  As a historian, he has published a book on the LGBT+ history of Bristol and Bath and a number of articles on the LGBT+ press and literature of Brazil and Portugal, as well as articles on Brazilian and Portuguese history.

Robert’s talk will be based mainly on the history of the Gay West group (1982 to present) and its two predecessors, CHE Bristol (1970-1983) and Bath Gay Awareness Group (1971-1982), which form one of Britain’s longest running LGBT+ institutions.  It discusses the varying activities of the groups and their members, ranging from political campaigns to social activities and personal support for members, showing how these activities have varied over time.  It is structured around the concepts of civil society and the public sphere, arguing that the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967 gave more freedom for activists to explore different ways of getting LGBT+ issues onto the agenda of public political debate.

The way in which this aided greater recognition of the human rights of LGBT+ people can be better understood by comparing the position of LGBT+ people in Britain before 1967 with the situation in authoritarian dictatorships such as Brazil in the 1970s.  By drawing parallels with the role of social movements in facilitating the transition from dictatorship to democracy, I aim to show how the varied activities of LGBT+ organisations helped promote greater acceptance of sexual diversity in the UK after 1967.

Cheryl Morgan – Chosen of the Goddess

At out main event Cheryl Morgan will talk about trans women in the ancient world. Cheryl Morgan

Media coverage of trans people often states that we are a recent invention, perhaps dating only from 1930s Germany. The reality is much more complicated. People have been living lives outside of the gender binary for all of human history. Indeed, in the past societies were often more open to different genders than they are now.

In the ancient world, living outside of the gender binary was often closely associated with religion. Certain goddesses took an interest in gender and made space for those assigned male at birth to become priestesses and live as women, or at least not as men. Sometimes this involved early forms of gender surgery.

Cheryl Morgan 2In this talk Cheryl Morgan will look at evidence for gender variance in Goddess worship from Sumer through Assyria and Babylon to Rome. The talk will include the world’s first known author, non-binary people from Sumerian mythology, a tavern owner who became a queen and perhaps a goddess, an emperor who identified as female, the earliest known trans woman in Britain, and some early examples of legal discrimination against trans people.

What role did Claudius play in trans emancipation in Rome, and why did Hadrian sabotage this? We may never know what their motivations were, but it is clear from the laws they passed that LGBT+ rights were an issue for Romans just as they are today.

Cheryl Morgan is a science fiction critic and publisher. She is a Co-Chair of OutStories Bristol and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature. Some of her work can be found on Cheryl is a regular presenter of the Women’s Outlook show on Ujima Radio in Bristol. She is a Director of The Diversity Trust for whom she run trans awareness courses. You can find her online at or follow her on Twitter @CherylMorgan.

John Vincent (The Network) – Flicking back the pages…

John Vincent

John Vincent is one of our speakers at our day of talks on LGBTQ+ history. John has worked in the public sector since the 1960s, primarily for Hertfordshire, Lambeth and Enfield library services. In 1997, he was invited to become part of the team that produced the UK’s first review of public libraries and social exclusion (from which The Network that he currently coordinates originated).

John runs courses and lectures, writes, produces regular newsletters and ebulletins, and lobbies for greater awareness of the role that libraries, archives, museums, and the cultural & heritage sector play in contributing to social justice.

He is particularly interested in supporting the work that the cultural sector does with LGBTQ people, with young people in care, and with ‘new arrivals’ to the UK.

In September 2010, the book he co-authored with John Pateman, Public libraries and social justice, was published by Ashgate (now Routledge); and, in January 2014, he published LGBT people and the UK cultural sector … (also published by Ashgate, and now Routledge).

In February 2014, John was given a CILIP CDEG Special Diversity Award, and, in September, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of CILIP.

John’s Talk:

“Through using my personal ‘story’, this presentation will outline how libraries can support LGBTQ people, especially in their coming out, and will emphasize their positive role in people’s lives.”

Surat-Shaan Knan (Liberal Judaism) – Twilight People: Stories of Faith and Gender Beyond the Binary – Pop Up Exhibition


On Sunday Surat-Shaan Knan will talk to us about the Twilight People projectBritain’s first and only source of trans & faith history and heritage. This hidden history explores the intersection of trans and faith identity via oral history, photography and film. The collection is now at the London Metropolitan Archives; its legacy is still growing and developing, e.g. book publication.

The Twilight People pop-up exhibition will be on display (free) at Exeter Central Library, Castle Street, EX4 3PQ on:

Saturday 11th February, 09.00 – 17.00

Sunday 12th February, 12.00 – 16.00

The Multi-faith initiative Twilight People was supported by the Lottery Heritage Fund from 2014 to 2016 and proudly hosted by Liberal Judaism. For more, please go to:

Find out more about Surat-Shaan Knan’s new project, Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI Migrants in Britain.

Surat-Shaan Knan works for the Liberal Jewish movement UK and is a campaigner for faith related LGBTQI+ issues. Shaan is the founder and manager of the landmark Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects Rainbow Jews , Twilight People and most recently Rainbow Pilgrims. Shaan is a proud member of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group, and actively involved in the Global Interfaith Network GIN SSOGIEs. Shaan is a non-binary trans activist from a mixed heritage. He blogs on LGBTQI+ and faith issues for Jewish News UK.