Transgender Awareness Week | 12th – 18th November 2020

Trans Awareness Week is the time leading up to Trans Day of Remembrance. Trans awareness week aims to raise the profile of issues affecting the trans community as well as the stories of trans people and their allies. Trans Day of remembrance is a day dedicated to remembering victims of transphobic hate crime.

Ricki Kettle of Northern Ireland Civil Service was Stonewall’s Trans Role Model of the Year in 2019 had this to say about Trans awareness week:

“Trans Awareness Week is especially important for me as not only does it focus on promoting the visibility of trans people, it also highlights the importance of trans allies and how they can help make a difference to trans peoples lived experience.  Despite some progress in recent years, stigma against transgender people remains a reality.  In my experience, trans people want to live their authentic life and with the support of allies in this journey, it is made much more rewarding and empowering.  My own journey was impacted positively by friends, family and work colleagues and the many allies in our community.

“There are many resources that allies can access online on how to be a good ally, even watching a programme on Netflix such as ‘Disclosure’ will go towards educating people on just some of the issues that trans people face.  Many trans people’s lives are like many others, we go to work, clean our house, make dinner, take the dog for a walk, have a glass of wine or watch a movie.  We just want to do these things as our authentic selves, it’s no biggie! – Happy Trans Awareness Week!”

Paul Bloomer, Co-Chair of the PSNI LGBT+ Network followed on with:

“I would like to take this chance to tell the Trans and non-binary people of our organisation that the LGBT+ Network is working with senior leaders to make this organisation a better place for Trans and non-binary people to work in. We need your help though, we need the voices and lived experience of Trans people to help us drive the positive change we need in this organisation. We have a reserved seat on our committee for a member of the Trans community and we would be delighted to welcome into that seat.”

Profile | Remembering Harvey Milk

In celebration of LGBT History Month the Network will be profiling a selection of LGBT figures who have played significant roles in shaping modern LGBT culture or had a significant impact on LGBT issues in the public consciousness.

Today we remember Harvey Milk. He was a leading civil and human rights leader who became the first openly gay official in the United States when he was elected to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, taking his place on the Board of Supervisors on January 8th, 1978. Milk openly campaigned as a gay candidate at a time when the LGBT community both in the United States and across the world was experiencing widespread hostility and discrimination.

Harvey Milk was born in Woodrow, New York on May 22nd 1930 to Lithuanian born Jewish parents. He attended high school and college in New York City, before enlisting in the United States Navy, attending Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. His career in the Navy was cut short after he was officially questioned regarding his sexuality and he resigned in 1955.

Following his time in the Navy, Milk spent time working in New York City. It was in New York that he first became involved in politics and advocacy, demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

In late 1972, Milk moved to San Francisco, where he opened a camera store on Castro Street, in the heart of the city’s growing gay community. Milk quickly became a popular figure in the Castro neighbourhood and the city as a whole. His first political campaign was a year after he moved to the city and despite losing that campaign, Milk became a force to be reckoned with in local politics. It would take Harvey two more campaigns before he was elected to San Francisco’s board of supervisors .He was elected in 1977 and was inaugurated as a San Francisco City County supervisor on January 9th 1978.

Although Milk was openly gay and was an advocate for the Castro neighbourhood, he was popular as a supervisor due to his commitment to serving a broad constituency. Milk established day care centres for working mothers and sponsored an important anti-discrimination bill in his short time as a San Francisco city official. He was also very vocal in his support of women’s rights and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.

Milk was aware of the likelihood that he may be assassinated – he received daily death threats and even recorded several versions of his will to be read “in the event of his assassination.” Harvey Milk was assassinated by Dan White, a former colleague on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on November 27th 1978.  White’s attorney later claimed that his client had consumed too much junk food on the day of the killings (in what became known as the “Twinkie defence”) and only received a sentence of eight years in prison on May 21st 1979. This enraged many within the LGBT community in San Francisco, igniting what came to be known as the White Night Riots.

Constable Belinda Dodsworth says: “Harvey Milk is a man I admire for his tireless work for the advancement of LGBT and broader human rights at a time when it was incredibly hard to be openly gay in public office. I have long identified with certain aspects of his life being an LGBT person from a Jewish background; but Harvey’s tireless commitment to LGBT and human rights was something that one from any cultural/religious background or sexual orientation can identify.”

The life and career of Harvey Milk was portrayed in the 2008 film “Milk”, starring Sean Penn.

Profile | Remembering Marsha P. Johnson

In celebration of LGBT History Month the Network will be profiling a selection of LGBT figures who have played significant roles in shaping modern LGBT culture or had a significant impact on LGBT issues in the public consciousness.

Today we remember Marsha P. Johnson. She was a trans black woman activist that lived in New York until her death in 1992. She is remembered by some as the person who threw the stone which broke the front window of the Stonewall Inn, in New York on the 28th June 1969. While the account that she cast the first stone is disputed, what is not in dispute is that the Stonewall uprising birthed the modern LGBT rights movement.

Marsha is believed to have played a key role in the uprising that began at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village after police raided the gay bar. Protests followed over the next six days. Marsha was on the front lines of those protests against oppressive policing, which disproportionately affected the LGBT community in New York at that time. Throughout her life she advocated tirelessly on behalf of trans people, sex workers and people with HIV/AIDS. She did all this in heels, fabulous outfits and flower headpieces.

“We were … throwing over cars and screaming in the middle of the street ’cause we were so upset ’cause they closed that place,” Marsha told historian Eric Marcus in a 1989 interview. “We were just saying, ‘no more police brutality’ and ‘we had enough of police harassment in the Village and other places’.”

The first anniversary of the protests prompted the first gay Pride parade in 1970.

An interaction with a reporter gave us one of her many memorable quotes, when asked what she wanted from the Pride protests she responded: “Darling, I want my gay rights now.”

Marsha was a drag queen and a sex worker; she was often homeless and she is remembered as one of the most significant activists for transgender rights, although the term ‘transgender’ wasn’t commonly used during her lifetime. Johnson identified as a ‘transvestite’, gay and a drag queen, and used she/her pronouns.

Marsha died in disputed circumstances following the 1992 New York Pride march. Her body was recovered from the Hudson river with a large wound to the back of her head. Her death is recorded by the NYC Coroner as a suicide but her friends and family dispute this.

Constable Paul Bloomer says: “It’s sad that she never got to see the many changes that have come about as a result of the activist movement she helped start. She never got to see police eventually embrace the LGBT community and become part of the Pride parades which were once protests against police action. She never got to see the New York Police Department on the 6th June 2019 make a formal apology for the past treatment of LGBT people and the raid which started the Stonewall uprising.

“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple” said James P. O’Neill, the NYPD Commissioner. That frank admission was a momentous moment for LGBT activists, many of whom felt it was long overdue. The city of New York has also recently commissioned a public monument dedicated to Marsha’s memory.

Constable Paul Bloomer continued: “When I was searching for images for this article I found it hard not to smile when looking at pictures of her. Marsha will always be remembered as an icon of the LGBT rights movement. Her smiling face remains a beacon of inspiration to many today.”

Profile | Remembering Justin Fashanu

In celebration of LGBT History Month the Network will be profiling a selection of LGBT figures who have played significant roles in shaping modern LGBT culture or had a significant impact on LGBT issues in the public consciousness.

In the first of these, the focus is on Justin Fashanu who was posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame yesterday, Wednesday 19th February, 22 years after his death. Justin is Britain’s first and only ‘out’ gay male professional footballer. Yesterday would have been his 59th birthday.

“Bond to Downs to Paddon to Downs to Bond to Ryan to Fashanu…oh oh what a magnificent goal…”

The famous commentary of Barry Davies, February 1980, when Justin Fashanu scored THAT left footed curler for Norwich, beating England keeper Ray Clemence in the Liverpool goal. The strike sent Carrow Road into raptures and was MOTD’s 1980 goal of the season. Fashanu was ambitious, talented and above all, young. Scoring 34 goals in 90 matches for the Canaries was convincing enough for Brian Clough’s recently crowned two time European champions, Nottingham Forest, to come calling.

In 1981 Fashanu became the country’s first £1m black player (and the first under 21) switching Carrow Road for the City ground of Forest. His potential was soon curtailed, caused in part by his strained relationship with the traditional and direct speaking Brian Clough. Fashanu was openly frequenting gay bars, his sexuality was well known among his fellow players and Clough didn’t approve – important to keep this in the context of early 80s Britain and the backdrop of the arrival of HIV/AIDS and the famous John Hurt voiceover campaign: “There is now a danger that has become a threat to us all…”. Clough eventually barred Fashanu from training with the team.

In 1982 Fashanu went out on loan to Southampton. Fashanu’s transfer value plummeted and his off-pitch life became the focus of the red tops. Fashanu spent much of the rest of his career at a mix of English, Scottish, Swedish and American clubs, never repeating that incredible moment at Carrow Road on the 9th February 1980. In October 1990, Justin Fashanu ‘came out’ as a gay man in an interview with The Sun newspaper, after years of denial and having previously sued for damages when a paper reportedly ‘outed’ him. Fashanu’s relationship with his family was strained; he was now in the shadow of his younger brother, John, who was getting all the right headlines whilst playing for F.C Wimbledon. John paid Justin £100,000 to keep his mouth shut and never spoke to him again. Justin Fashanu was found dead on 2nd May 1998 having taken his own life. A note that he had written said that being gay was just ‘too hard’.

 

Written by Sergeant Morena Wickham-Thomas – PSNI LGBT Network Committee