18 Nov 2020 – Inauguration of Michael Dillon LGBT+ lecture series

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Nov 102020

Side of man's face, perhaps in his mid 30s with beard and moustache and wearing a seaman's cap and shirt.The University of Oxford in partnership with Frontline AIDS is inaugurating a twice-yearly LGBT+ lecture series named after Michael Dillon, the world’s first person known to have successfully transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male.

Michael Dillon spent the war years in Bristol and it was here that he began his gender transition.

To mark the creation of this landmark lecture series, the University of Oxford will be hosting an online launch event titled LGBT Rights in a Time of Pandemic.

Wednesday 18th November 2020,   5:30pm to 7pm

A distinguished panel of guests will discuss the formation of The Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures, Michael Dillon’s life and legacy, and the status of LGBT+ rights in this time of pandemic. Guests will be:

  • Lord Smith of Finsbury (Chris Smith), the first openly gay male MP and Cabinet minister;
  • Justice Edwin Cameron, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa hailed by Nelson Mandela as “one of South Africa’s new heroes”;
  • Zing Tsjeng, executive editor of Vice UK, BBC Sounds host, and author of ‘The Forgotten Women’ book series;
  • C N Lester, classical singer, curator, and author of ‘trans like me’;
  • Jonathan Cooper OBE, human rights and international law barrister;
  • Juno Roche, writer and trans rights campaigner.

This live online event is free and open to everyone. Register on Eventbrite.

On registering you will receive a confirmation email with a link to the event.

6 Nov 2020 – LGBT+ History Month 2021 launch event

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Nov 012020

"LGBT+ 2021 history month' inside the outline of a light bulbThe theme of the 2021 LGBT+ History Month is ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’. The launch event is this Friday and will be streamed online in conjunction with the British Library.

Each year ‘Five Faces’ are chosen to represent the theme of LGBT+ History Month. To mark the 2021 launch, join this online event celebrating the lives of the five selected icons: Maya Angelou, Mark Ashton, Michael Dillon, Lily Parr and Mark Weston.

Michael Dillon was the world’s first person known to have successfully transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male. Michael spent the war years in Bristol and it was here that he began his transition. His story will be told by Cheryl Morgan, Co-Chair of OutStories Bristol.

The event is free and open to all. Book your place on the British Library website.

This is an online event. If you book you will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

Friday 6th November 2020, 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Daryn Carter awarded an MBE

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Nov 012020
Young man with quiff of bright blue hair looks at a pencil portrait of himself

Daryn Carter, director of Pride Bristol, with his portrait by Malcolm Ashman

Director of Bristol Pride Daryn Carter was awarded a MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the LGBTQ+ community in Bristol.

As well as being a principal organiser of Bristol Pride, Daryn has campaigned tirelessly for equality in the LGBTQ+ community. He does lots of schools engagement work talking about being LGBTQ+, works with local businesses across the region to support diversity and inclusion and sits on a number of diversity advisory panels.

You can read more about Daryn on this UWE Bristol blog page.

Your group’s story wanted

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Oct 172020

An assortment of flyers and posters on a tableBristol Archives holds almost two million documents which record the history of the City of Bristol and the surrounding area from the 12th century to the present day. These include minutes, accounts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs and films created by many types of organisations and people.

They have an online catalogue of their collections. Click on ‘Browse Collections’ and you will see an LGBT collection.  Many local organisations have already donated records including Gay West, Freedom Youth and the University of the West of England LGBT+ Society.

Are you involved with a local group?  Bristol Archives want your records to preserve the diverse story of the city and its people. You can donate directly – contact them at archives@bristol.gov.uk. Alternatively give them to us and we will pass them on. Most of the LGBT Collection were collated by us. Click here to send a message to OutStories Bristol.

Oct 072020

It’s Black History Month and we’re starting with a home-grown contribution.

Performance artist and poet Travis Alabanza was born and grew up in Bristol and returns to talk to Sharifa Whitney James and writer and historian Edson Burton, co-founders of Kiki – Bristol’s first visible community for QTIPOC (Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour).

Examining blackness and gender non-conformity in the context of growing up in Bristol, Travis discusses the importance of oppressed people archiving their own communities so that they are recorded in history in all their complexity.

Director, DOP: Shivani Hassard
Producer, Researcher: Joanna Boateng
gal-dem magazine

Aisha Sanyang-Meek wrote this interview with Travis for Rife Magazine, an online platform for Bristol’s young people.

10 Oct 2020 – 7th Annual John Addington Symonds lecture and AGM

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Sep 152020

The Seventh Annual John Addington Symonds Lecture and OutStories Bristol’s Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 10th October 2020, 2:30pm to 5pm. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the event will be an online video conference via Zoom.

A muscular middle-aged man wearing a skimpy black tanktop tee shirt and pouting provocatively.

Dr Alan Greaves

The lecture, to be delivered by Dr Alan Greaves of the University of Liverpool, is on statue desecration which stretches as far back as Roman times and has been headline news this year.

Registering your intention to participate in the video conference is essential to receive the link to the Zoom conference. You can register on Eventbrite and you don’t need to print your ticket.

You will receive the link to the video conference by e-mail a couple of hours before the event starts.

We will pick up your e-mail address from your Eventbrite booking. Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose. However if you would like to join the OutStories Bristol e-mailing list, send a message by clicking here.

To join the conference, you will need Zoom enabled on your device. If you have not used Zoom before, you are advised to familiarise yourself with the system. We recommend you test the system with a friend to ensure that you know the settings to get video and sound.

The talk is an annual celebration of the life of John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), Bristol-based writer, art historian and pioneer of homosexual rights.

This event is held by OutStories Bristol in collaboration with the University of Bristol’s Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition (IGRCT). Our thanks to them for hosting this event.

Find out more about the IGRCT on their website; you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

UnivOfBristol_logo_colourOutStories Bristol logoAncient sculpted head on black background with text "Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition"

Life’s a Fairy Tale, Somehow

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Sep 152020

Lockdown is a very weird time for all of us. My lockdown story begins a week or so before it started: I had recently lost my job, and I was searching – unsuccessfully – for a new one. Even then, the Crisis was beginning to creep up on us.

And then my grandmother Whatsapped me asking me to come and stay with her. She’d been having heart palpitations and feeling weak, and my parents thought that a strong young unemployed grandchild was the perfect candidate to lend her a hand. I’m a dutiful grandchild, so off I went with my laptop, some books and some clothes.

So far, so Little Red Riding Hood. She even has a Big Bad Wolf: his name is Gus. He likes to have balls thrown for him and play tug-o-war with frisbees. He’s more likely to lick my feet than gobble me up; in fact, Granny (whose eyes and ears and teeth are perfectly fine, thank you) has deemed him a complete traitorous creep who barely pays any attention to her except for food.

Then there’s the amusing matter of Mrs. Blackbird. Somehow she has decided to build a nest in Granny’s shed behind the greenhouse; in fact, she has several times flown straight past us to get to it. I was not previously aware that I live in a Disney movie, but apparently I talk to animals now. I’ve also caught myself saying hello to various butterflies, bees, and even the occasional frog that I find in the garden. Next thing you know I’ll be kissing one, and then where will we be? Any prince that emerges will have to contend with the fact that I’m probably not who he was expecting. He’d have to be attracted to men, for a start.

The thing is, I’m not a very good fit for this kind of semi-magical life. I’m not a delightful soprano princess, nor am I a sweet little Red Riding Hood. My name is Neil, although not many people know that about me (I’m transitioning from female to male very slowly indeed). I consider myself lower-middle-class, a man who’s becoming more of the soil and who’s really getting into this gardening stuff. More of a Samwise Gamgee type than a lord, really. Hobbit feet included.

Honestly? I don’t mind that so much. I don’t mind it at all. I’m getting more sun and exercise these days. And perhaps, when everyone in my life knows me as Neil, and when my body takes its rightful shape, I’ll be able to take up the mantle of a fairy tale hero more easily.

Assuming the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t get me first.

I think I’ll just throw him another frisbee…

Neil M

Sep 152020
Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard

Dale Wakefield

OutStories have received the following message:

I am a Humanist Funeral Celebrant and will be leading the funeral of Dale (Billie) Wakefield next week. I know she started the Gay Switchboard from her Hill Street Totterdown home in !975, was a founder of Bristol Pride in 1977, and that her work is represented at M-Shed (which re-opens this week, and I hope to visit). She was clearly a legend! Is there anything you more you can tell me? I would of course check with her family, with whom I am working to create her ceremony.
Many thanks,
Chrissie Hackett

Please respond direct to Chrissie at chrissiehackett@gmail.com.

12 Sep 2020 – Bristol Virtual Pride Day

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Sep 112020

This year Bristol Pride are bringing an online celebration of our community. Pride Day will be streamed on Saturday 12th September from 11am to 1am, so get your flags ready, Pride outfits on and the snacks in!

For the most reliable feed, subscribe to their Youtube Channel and you’ll be able to cast the broadcast to your TV or simply watch on a laptop, tablet or your phone. It will also be streaming live via the Brispride Facebook page on the day.

Full details from https://bristolpride.co.uk/virtual-pride-day/

Sep 112020

Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay SwitchboardIt is with great sadness we learn that Dale Wakefield died in Bristol Royal Infirmary on Saturday 5th September 2020. Her family were at her side. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she was a prominent figure in lesbian and women’s rights in Bristol.

Dale was born in Bristol in 1941, started her working life in insurance firms and subsequently worked as a teacher, a nurse and in later years in accounts. She married and had two children but the marriage broke up when the youngest was only months old. Dale went to London to work as a prison officer at Holloway women’s prison and it was there she first fell in love with a woman although no relationship ensued.

She returned to Bristol in the early 1970s and came out first on the gay scene. Soon she was active in the second-wave Women’s Movement and with Monica Sjöö and two others started the Gay Women’s Group and a collective that produced ‘Move’ magazine for about three years.

Attending a Gay Women’s Group meeting in Clifton, the constant phone calls received at the premises (from gay men and lesbians alike) alerted her to the enormous need for information and a friendly ear. Bristol Lesbian & Gay Switchboard was founded at Dale’s home in Hill Street, Totterdown on 1st February 1975, using her private phone line.

For over three years it ran from her house, with volunteers taking phone calls during the advertised hours and Dale answering at all other times, often during the night. In 1978 Switchboard moved to new premises at Bristol Gay Centre, however Dale remained involved until the early 1980s. She later helped organise Bristol Lesbian Line, and was active in Women’s Aid providing refuge provision for women fleeing domestic violence.

Dale remained a resolute advocate of women and men working together at a time when there was a lesbian-separatist trend within the movement in Bristol.  A believer in collective approaches to action, she was critical of the hierarchies that characterised orthodox and male-oriented ways of organising. Her quiet authority, clear focus and belief in the power of collective action made her one of the most significant figures in the story of LGBT rights in Bristol.

In the words of Tim Manning, a fellow founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard: “Because of her, lives were saved, closets opened, and she helped us change our world for the better”.

We send our thoughts to her son Shaun, daughter Teraza, and four grandchildren.


Dale in 2013 beside her portrait by Malcolm Ashman; now displayed in Bristol’s M Shed Museum. Copyright: Matt Seow.

Aug 282020

Text 'Lost Spaces' in a blue rectangle overlaying an inverted pink triangleJamie Jamal, the Bristol-based lead singer of electronic pick n mix duo This Human Condition remembers Bristol nightclub Just in this delightful and amusing podcast from Lost Spaces, a queer podcast about lost gay venues. He also talks about gay club music, growing up gay, coming out and ‘guncles’ (gay uncles).

Listen to Jamie on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or Anchor.

Lost Spaces explores queer experiences as told through now-closed bars and clubs. Every episode singer/songwriter K Anderson interviews a different member of the community to find out about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know.

Meet St Wilgefortis

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Aug 212020
Wooden statue of a bearded lady with a floral dress being crucified

St Wilgefortis statue in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Pas-de-Calais, near Wissant, France (Wikimedia Commons)

Saint who, you may well ask? She was the patron saint of Unhappily Married Women and the ruined St Mary le Port church in Bristol’s Castle Park had a chapel dedicated to her.

The legend is that her father arranged for her to marry someone she did not like, so she prayed that she might be made repulsive so that he would reject her. When she woke up the next morning she had a full beard. That put paid to the marriage, but her angry father had her crucified as a punishment.

Our Cheryl Morgan has written a delightful article on her Cheryl’s Mewsings blog and refers to speculation that Wilgefortis may have been intersex.

‘Bristol Magazine’ article on Michael Dillon

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Jul 272020

The Bristol Magazine has published an excellent article on Michael Dillon, the world’s first person known to have successfully transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male.

Whilst living in Bristol in 1939, Michael was given hormone treatment by Dr George Lush Foss, a doctor who had encountered the masculinising side-effects of hormone treatments in several diseases. Dr Foss’s father had practised as a GP from Cloud’s Hill House in St George. Whilst attending the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1942 Michael met a surgeon who subsequently performed a double mastectomy.

The article is on pages 42 to 44.



Film celebrating 25 years of Freedom Youth

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May 242020

‘Freedom 25’ is a film made by members of Bristol’s Freedom Youth and local film-makers Black Bark Films
to mark 25 years of Freedom Youth, one of the longest running LGBTQ+ spaces for young people in the UK.

The film celebrates and recognises 25 reasons why @FreedomLGBTQ is as important in 2020 as it was in 1995, creating community and crafting friendships.

Watch and share Freedom 25.

#iWill   #powerofyouth   #youthvoice

OutStories receive grant from Voice & Influence Partnership

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May 182020

Five figures waist up, in silhouette, arms raised and speaking forcefully.The LGBTQ+ Voice and Influence Panel (LGBTQ+ ViP) have awarded OutStories Bristol a grant of £250 towards the gathering of oral history. When restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus end, some of our volunteers will resume interviewing and recording the stories of local people to expand our community history archive. The money will allow us to reimburse the travel costs of those experiencing hardship and other direct expenses. Thanks Vip!

Led by Off the Record, the LGBTQ+ ViP panel represents LGBTQ+ voices on the city-wide Voice and Influence Partnership. Funded by Bristol City Council, the Partnership ensures individuals, groups and communities whose voices aren’t always heard are listened to, and help them be a part of shaping Bristol’s future.

The Partnership consists of various local equalities groups: The Care Forum, Bristol Older People’s Forum, Centre for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, Off the Record Freedom and WECIL. The forum aims to hear the voices of equalities groups and ensure their representation in citywide decision-making.

Everyone is invited to become a member of the Voice and Influence Partnership. Membership is free. As a member you will hear about events, upcoming consultations, participation opportunities and news about the Voice and Influence Partnership. You can sign up here.

"OTR" on magenta, purple, turquoise and yellow stripesLGBTQ+ Voice and Influence social media:

May 162020

Rainbow-coloured mask to cover mouth and noseWe are living in unprecedented times and OutStories Bristol want to hear how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected Bristol’s LGBT+ communities. We rely heavily on social interaction but now have to cope with isolation. What has been your experience?

My Queer Quarantine will collect and record your stories.

You can contribute in a variety of ways: video, audio, prose, poetry, art;  whatever you feel comfortable with. Our plan is to post as much as possible on our website for the rest of the community to see.

Email your contribution to us at contact@outstoriesbristol.org.uk with the subject “My Queer Quarantine”.
Please say clearly how you wish to be identified on our public blog: full name or just a first name / pen name.

Not comfortable about having your story posted publically? It will still be valuable to future historians so mark your contribution PRIVATE and it will not be seen by anyone except us and any accredited researchers who have been given access to our archives.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need further information or advice about how to record or submit your story.

We hope to hear from you!

Cartoon open-mouthed face with text Queer in Quarantine

©Sam Leighton-Dore

Five figures waist up, in silhouette, arms raised and speaking forcefully.

Radio 3 ‘Queer Histories’

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Feb 232020

BBC Radio 3’s ‘Free Thinking’ podcast Queer Histories discusses how we apply modern LGBT+ language and identities to historical figures both real and fictional and what it means to have to “prove” your identity in today’s legal world.

Presented by Shahidha Bari, the participants are Jana Funke who teaches Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter, Senthorum Raj who teaches at Keele University School of Law, and Morgan M Page – writer, performance artist, and trans historian whose podcast is called One From The Vaults.

Other LGBT+ related podcasts from the BBC include:
Writing Love: Jonathan Dollimore, Sappho;
Queer Icons: Plato’s Symposium in which Shahidha Bari discusses the LGBTQ movement in the history of philosophy;
Censorship and Sex: Naomi Wolf on John Addington Symonds and Sarah Parker on Michael Field;
Comrades in Arms in which Tom Smith explores the East German Military’s fascination with its soldiers’ sexuality;
and a vast library of programmes in the Gay Britannia season that marked the 50th anniversary of 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

Avon Pride and the earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK

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Feb 182020
15 party balloons floating out of an inverted triangle.

The earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first Avon Pride, the 1991 organising collective led by convenor and philatelist Rob Brettle sponsored a special postmark. It is the earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK and was only available by post from the Wales & West Special Handstamp Centre based in Cardiff.

The postmark comprised 15 balloons, representing the 15 years, floating out of a triangle. Gay men incarcerated in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s were forced to wear an inverted pink triangle on their prison clothes as an identifying symbol intended to be a badge of shame. In the 1970s the pink triangle was reclaimed as a symbol of LGBT pride and against homophobia.


Postal envelope with artwork showing 12 exuberant smiling people crammed in a small boat.iling part

Special cover

A special cover (envelope) was available and used artwork from the 1991 Avon Pride programme. It was designed by Kate Charlesworth, a British cartoonist and artist who has produced comics and illustrations since the 1970s. Her work has appeared in LGBT publications including The Pink Paper and Gay News, as well as national newspapers The Guardian, and The Independent.

Today Pride is seen as a festival with big-name singers and bars selling alcohol. Pride ‘back then’ was about the community getting together and sharing in activities: picnics, boat trips, films at the Watershed, singers at the Arnolfini, guided walks, coffee mornings, and an annual garden party at the Oasis Club which raised money for Bristol Lesbian & Gay Switchboard.

Chris Leigh, with thanks to Rob Brettle for information.
Last edited 18/2/2020

8 to 24 Feb 2020 – ‘Revealing Stories’ at Aerospace Bristol

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Feb 142020

OutStories Bristol’s highly successful ‘Revealing Stories’ exhibition is on display at the Aerospace Bristol museum from 8th to 24th February.

The exhibition is based on archival records and oral history interviews with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people associated with Bristol and the surrounding area. Focusing on living memory (c. 1940s to the present) it tells how people fought to shape and control their own lives. It is the story of those who witnessed these changes and helped to make history.

Saturday 8th to Monday 24th February 2020

Aerospace Bristol, Hayes Way, Patchway, Bristol, BS34 5BZ
Maps and how to get there       Opening times

Please note: the exhibition is located in the hanger housing Concorde ‘Alpha Foxtrot’, the last ever Concorde to fly. You will require a ticket to the museum to see Revealing Stories.

This display comprises vertical text panels only; it doesn’t include the objects that were in the original exhibition at Bristol’s M Shed in 2013.

P1030387 Revealing Stories display panelP1030397

HLF logoDelta wing pointing upwards and text "Aerospace Bristol"