Schools OUT UK Chair and co-founder of LGBT History Month Sue Sanders had a crowd at the RSA rapt last night (25th of September) as she recalled a lifetime of activism.
Speaking as a guest of the RSA LGBT network, Sue spoke of how she bought The News of the World at the tender age of 10 to read about The Wolfenden Report and engaged the audience with her account of the following 61 years of teaching, counselling and campaigning for LGBT rights in particular and equalities and human rights in general.
Thanking those who worked to make Schools OUT UK the success it is today and those, such as the late Paul Patrick, who helped her found LGBT History Month, she brought the room alive with happy and sad tales of the struggles, the challenges, the victories and the occasional defeats that have brought us where we are today.
She spoke with some anger about how lesbians were disappeared from women’s history and how “Oh Sue, we know you are passionate about these issues” became a ‘put-down’ when she challenged institutions about their homophobia; as if being passionate were some kind of lack of perspective on reality rather than a synonym for commitment. She spoke highly of fellow campaigners and gave Peter Tatchell a specific mention for his tireless work.
After her speech, Sue answered questions from Niranjan Kamatkar FRSA, artistic director of LGBT and BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) arts charity Wise Thoughts, and the founder and current network lead of the RSA LGBT Creative & Cultural Network. She ‘confided’ that she had faced conflict at work because she refused to compromise and that she was self-taught in most of her equalities work as one had to be as a queer campaigner without a guide book.
Then it was the audience’s turn to put Sue under the spotlight with a lively range of questions concerning faith and faith schools, whether we still needed queer spaces or whether there will ever be a permanent Queer museum, how she felt about academies and how she felt about corporate support as a grass-roots campaigner.
At the end people hung round until they were asked to leave the building and one sensed that a dreary autumn Monday evening had been cheered up by a profoundly thoughtful discourse inspired by one of our nation’s most experienced and engaging LGBT voices.