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LGBTQ+ History Month at Christ Church

Written by Louise Collinson, posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Louise Collinson, a second-year Biochemist, discusses Christ Church’s plans to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month.

Lousie Collinson photographed by Mercury in Tom QuadDespite being scattered around the world, I don’t doubt the power of our college community to come together in celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month. As the JCR’s LGBTQ+ officer, I’m so happy with what I and others have organised for this February.

I knew we were off to a great start when the College enthusiastically accepted our request to fly the Progress flag! It has become a tradition for most Oxford colleges to fly flags to celebrate Black History Month, as Christ Church did last October, and to display Pride flags in February and July. While we have previously flown the classic Pride rainbow flag, our new Progress flag will now be used to highlight solidarity with the trans community and LGBTQ+ people of colour, and also to represent an awareness of intersectionality within the queer community. Our Progress flag is now fluttering proudly in Peckwater Quad - it looks stunning flying in front of the Library!

In terms of events, on February 11th, all members of Christ Church have been invited to a virtual talk by Ross Brooks. ‘A Little Queer History Of Oxford’ will cover exactly that, reflecting the work in Brooks’ Queeroxford.info project - and honing in on LGBTQ+ figures associated with Christ Church itself! The talk has received a lot of interest from both students and staff, and I think the familiarity of talking about Oxford will be a great way to inspire LGBTQ+ people and allies alike to take an interest in queer history. As well as talks, I’m hoping to get the college community actively involved in other projects this month. For instance, the Arts representatives and I are working together to organise some projects we can encourage everyone to take part in - such as a collaborative photo collage to make our own rainbow Pride flag. 

The new Progress flag flying in Peckwater Quad. Photo Amelia SeymourIn addition, throughout February, the College’s social media will be posting about LGBTQ+ alumni and celebrating their impact, so keep your eyes peeled and you might learn about someone you didn’t know! Looking back at those who have walked the same paths as ourselves makes us more aware of the past. Finding something in common with people from a different time, whose lives were in many other ways different to our own, is a perfect way to put oneself in their shoes and understand the huge changes that have taken place in the lives of LGBTQ+ folk through the years. 

Other colleges’ LGBTQ+ representatives and I, as Christ Church’s rep, are hoping to organise more talks throughout the month, covering a range of topics. As importantly, we are sharing as much information as we can find with the student community. This sharing serves as a reminder of why LGBTQ+ History Month is so important. The discrimination that the queer community has fought against for many years—indeed for decades—cannot be forgotten nor downplayed, and should serve to remind everyone nowadays that there is still progress to be made, and that it can be made. From looking back at the AIDS crisis to learning about the past and present of LGBTQ+ rights across the world, ‘history’ covers recent years just as equally as it covers ancient ones. Reflecting on how perceptions, prejudices, medical advances, literature and protests have influenced the lives of queer people today is crucial to knowing what steps still need to be taken, and how to take them. It is a broad topic, which is why we are sharing many resources, talks and events during this month. 

I encourage you to make time to participate in these discussions because regardless of how much can be summarised in history books, or other records of the past, there are marginalised groups whose personal experiences are less frequently discussed, or are even omitted. These are the voices that need to be heard and the stories that need to be told during LGBTQ+ History Month. Spreading awareness of and providing a platform for these events, and making an effort to learn from them, is how we can best celebrate this month.

I am so proud that my College is helping us achieve this and the encouragement I’ve received from the Censors is heartwarming.

To members of Christ Church, of the University, and far beyond, I wish you a happy and informative LGBTQ+ History Month!