Struggle for LGBT rights remembered in Westminster banner

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An exhibition of banners celebrating 800 years of constitutional history, which features one about LGBT rights, has been unveiled at Westminster Hall.

Paula Stevens-Hoare has launched her banner at a talk hosted by ParliOUT, commemorating the struggle for LGBT rights in the time of significant legislation.

“My hope for the banner is that it poses as many questions as it answers.” said artist Paula Stevens-Hoare.

Her 1967 Sexual Offences Act banner was created to remember the struggle of the fight for rights but also celebrate the progress made since early legislation. It will be on display in Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament until November.

Paula, who was born in the same year homosexuality was decriminalised, particularly wanted to promote the achievements for LGBT rights made by wome. The banner features April Ashley, one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the ’60s and Ruth Hunt, the CEO of Stonewall.

The banner also features silhouettes of little-known activists, the three women who abseiled onto the Floor of the House of Lords in protest against Section 28- legislation that stated that homosexuality must not be ‘promoted’ as an acceptable lifestyle. Paula was particularly fascinated by these women because nobody is still quite sure who they were.

She told PinkNews: “I’m a bloody feminist. Women’s achievements for LGBT rights aren’t as well documented because women generally aren’t as well documented.

“I suppose whilst I acknowledge that homosexuality for men was criminalised it was more pertinent to them to get the law changed, I recognised there were probably women involved in those campaigners but they probably weren’t in positions of authority or power and weren’t able to make those changes. I particularly wanted to add women to make that gender balance a little bit better.”

The banner features a ribbon connecting the very beginning of the movement to the struggles it faces today. The knots in the ribbon represent the times when the struggle for LGBT rights was very tough, such as Oscar Wilde’s arrest and sentencing and the fight to repeal Section 28.

Paula told Pink News that she hoped the banner would do exactly what Section 28 didn’t want LGBT people to do- promote equal rights.

“I love that it does that. I hope that school kids, anybody and everybody, but especially school kids, will ask questions passing the banner and think about what’s been achieved and what’s still left to achieve. That they will have the confidence to come out if they feel they want to and have the support and help of friends, allies and teachers.”

Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall, told PinkNews that the fight for LGBT rights is not over and the next big change has to be transgender rights.

“The bigger change is how we can inspire LGBT people to get involved in politics in its widest sense and be interested and concern about legislation across the piece.”

Ruth said that the piece is important to remind us of the vitality of remembering our history: “It’s really important that we remember where we’ve come from. It’s our DNA as a movement, if we forget where we’ve come from we can’t safeguard our future.

For Paula Stevens-Hoare, remembering the struggle is personal: “I think seeing how things have changed within my life time gives me great hope for what’s coming next.”

‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’ banners exhibition is on now until November.

The banner is available to view below

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