LGBTQ+ History Month Celebrations
Here’s a round-up of how we’ve been celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month at ALRA this February.
ALRA’s debut Queer Cabaret was hosted and compered by ALRA graduate and drag queen James Steventon who performed as his drag alter she-go Jazmin Sparks. There were also self-made performance pieces from current students, allies and community members, lip syncs, and living room boogies!
ALRA South MA Professional Acting student Hayley Calleia created a spoken word piece which we uploaded to our IGTV. View it here.
A few ALRA staff members shared their favourite inspirational members of the LGBTQ+ community and their work via email to the rest of the organisation. Here are some of the resources:
Daneka Etchells, Chair of the LGBTQIA+ Working Group
Aiden Crawford, Head of Foundation Acting Diploma (ALRA South)
George Richmond-Scott – Co-Lead Voice Tutor & Course Leader MA Directing (South)
Patrick Gale was my go-to queer writer in my 20s. His books are quirky, off-centre and addictive. The one I remember best is ‘The Facts of Life’ which follows three generations of an unusual family as they confront the harsher facts of modern life. It had a massive impact on me with its depiction of gay men and HIV around the time I was diagnosed myself 20 years ago.
Elliot Page is an awesome actor and has had the bravery to come out twice while in the public eye; as gay in 2014 and again last year as trans. “Hi friends,” he wrote on social media platforms, “I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in trans community. Thank you for your courage. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self…”. The actor also spoke of his fear in coming out and highlighted the difficulties faced by less privileged people who have done the same. “I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I’m scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the “jokes” and of violence. To be clear, I am not trying to dampen a moment that is joyous and one that I celebrate, but I want to address the full picture.”
Janet Mock is an uber talented American writer, television host, director, producer and transgender rights activist. Her debut book, the memoir Redefining Realness, became a New York Times bestseller. Mock is a writer, director, and producer on tv show Pose, and is the first trans woman of colour hired as a writer for a TV series in history. The series is brilliant, vibrant television – some of the best I have ever seen – and has been congratulated for casting trans women in trans roles and for accurately depicting a unique queer subculture. In 2019, she signed a three-year deal with Netflix giving them exclusive rights to her TV series and a first-look option on feature film projects; this made her the first openly transgender woman of colour to secure a deal with a major content company.
Tommi Bryson is a Sheffield theatremaker specialising in solo performances and comedy songs, and co-founder of monthly variety night Sounds Queer. I directed her in a Youth Theatre play at the Crucible Studio in 2017 and was so impressed by her creativity, confidence and kindness. Her recent production ‘A Princess Could Work’, described as “a modern, queer reaction to the Disney Princesses of the early 90s”, is a satirical musical about transgender representation in mass media. I caught it at Theatre Deli in Sheffield and was blown away by her wit and easy connection to the audience. She says: “The work I do falls into three broad spaces: community, representation, and comedy. I get to do all kinds of amazing things (stand-up, composing, facilitation, producing) but primarily I am a theatremaker. I direct, perform, and write whenever and whatever I can; though I admit my home turf is comedy songs.”
Brandon Lee Sears, Co-Course Leader of MA Professional Acting (ALRA South)
“To live completely, we must end the fear of death. To love completely, we must end the fear of disappointment.” –Krishnaji “The Four Sacres Secrets: For Love and Prosperity, A Guide To Living in a Beautiful State”
Zanele Muholi is a South African non-binary visual activist working in photography, video, and installation. Muholi’s work focuses on race, gender and sexuality with a body of work looking at black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex individuals.
Nick Cave is a queer visual artist, dancer and performing artist whose Soundsuits are sculptural costumes that camouflage the body, creating a second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgement. The sculptor envelopes the wearer’s body in materials including, but not limited to dyed, human hair, plastic buttons, beads, wire, sequins and feathers. Cave made his first Soundsuit in response to the brutal and racist beating of Rodney King in LA.
Jane Jeffery, Lead Acting Tutor and Head of 2nd Year (ALRA South)
I want to celebrate one of the original and most influential Queer Icons of my youth, Peter Tachell. I met Peter recently at a festival after listening to him speak; he is a wonderful, warm and inspirational individual whose passion for the cause has driven his work throughout the last 50 years.
Elen Benfield, Head of Foundation Acting Diploma (North)
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – Lady Phyll
Lady Phyll is Executive Director of UK Black Pride and the Kaleidoscope Trust. I also shared Lady Phyll in my contribution for Black History Month because she is a truly inspirational woman who has worked tirelessly over 20 years as an LGBTQ rights and anti-racism campaigner, but I also really wanted to share her work again now too for the same reason. Phyll’s work focuses on intersectional matters of race, gender, sexual orientation and class. Here is an article which explains a little more about Lady Phyll and her work: https://eachother.org.uk/what-uk-black-prides-lady-phyll-is-most-proud-of/ (CW: the murder of George Floyd, Racism and Homophobia are discussed within the interview). And here’s a video of Lady Phyll talking about why Black Pride needs to exist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_XJYA74_Do (CW: Racism, Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia are mentioned within the video).
Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms
Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms – I thought I would attach this as a resource to refer to if any of the information you are coming into contact with this month/beyond contains any terms that are new to anyone, so you can look them up.
Why displaying your pronouns is important
We are all asked to publicly display our pronouns at ALRA, but I wanted to link this article for anyone who perhaps doesn’t know why we are asked to do this/why it is important. This article is succinct and clear and hopefully answers all of the questions you may be holding about pronouns.
Aly Spiro, Course Leader of BA (Hons) Acting and Senior Faculty Member (ALRA South)
Paloma Oakenfold, Assistant Dean (ALRA) and Co-Course Leader of MA Professional Acting (ALRA South)
Kate Coogan, Lead Acting Tutor and Head of 2nd Year (ALRA North)
Lucy Curtis, Course Leader of MA Professional Acting (ALRA North)
Audre Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. “I used to speak in poetry. I would read poems, and I would memorize them. People would say, well what do you think, Audre. What happened to you yesterday? And I would recite a poem and somewhere in that poem would be a line or a feeling I would be sharing. In other words, I literally communicated through poetry. And when I couldn’t find the poems to express the things I was feeling, that’s what started me writing poetry, and that was when I was twelve or thirteen.”
I’m so happy to have this opportunity to share my favourite poem of hers this month as we celebrate.
A Litany for Survival
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak remembering
we were never meant to survive.