What mixed feelings I have about this exhibition! Positive, first: To have this, at all, even is 2017, is still pretty ground-breaking (sadly and disgustingly), so credit to National Museums Liverpool (and for their-more artistically based-_”Coming Out” exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery). Secondly, it is in a PUBLIC arena; when I came out as gay, from 1984, there was much societal pressure to heavily compartmentalise your life; and the gay and lesbian (the then nomenclature) venues there were: all up stairs or downstairs, still subject to Police raids, ie, HIDDEN. Now, in the UK anyway, we are not (so ) hidden: making your sexual orientation or gender identity public, if you are lgbt, is always complex. So, walking round this space-full of glorious artefacts- made me feel I was 1. walking around my own past (Anti Clause 28 involvement and gay clubs of yore); but I was doing it MORE publically than I had when I was actually in those clubs( though the Anti Section 28 campaign was VERY public https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/section-28-the-fight-against-it-in-merseyside-reportagelgbt-archiveunwritten-histories-by-steven-benson/ )
2. made me see my own, lesbian and gay activist past, through one remove: my memories were unearthed via an EXTERNAL process( the exhibition and mementoes). This had been compounded by being the Organiser of the community group chosen for an NML consultation fairly recently on the content of the net collection, “Pride and Prejudice”, from which some of the artefacts were drawn. In the displayed list of acknowledgements/thanks, there was no mention of our group; so, ironically, the Museum was obliterating and invisibilizing(and thus mimicking and replicating) the very process of societal lgbt marginalisation. This made me angry; though I still appreciated the work of the Museum and the contributors of stories and physical remembrances.
So, as I said, complex feelings.
There was our banner there were posters for the erstwhile 80s bars, Sadie’s and Scarletts, scenes of former adventures(of multiform sorts:P)
Most poignantly of all was a picture (?mid 80s) of the second incarnation of the radical bookshop, “News from Nowhere” in its Whitechapel home (all now demolished), where I had bought all my Gay Mens Press and other gay fiction and political books; the verisimilitude of these memories, initiated by the madeleine of the materials in this exhibition, was hard to inhabit…
There it is….. somewhere in there is my 25 year old self: burrowing, assiduously, through the three gay mens fiction shelves, keenly (if not desperately) seeking mirror images of my own self and life, as a (young, then)gay man, to re-inforce that shaky selfhood, because of what heterosexist, hegemonic “society” had done to me: not feeling like a victim but re-grafting my life back onto my self, via literary representations of people like me…https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/the-role-of-gay-mens-fiction-in-identity-formation-of-a-gay-man-by-steven-benson/
I shall be back at the exhibition to listen to the audios of lgbtq people and their life histories… and to write some post-it note comments…………………………………