Poor Show in Liverpool

Steve from Manchester bi group BiPhoria took a table full of bi resources bi to Liverpool Museum’s contribution to LGBT History Month, entitled Outing The Past on Saturday 3 February. Here’s his report.

I turned up at the Museum at 10am with the BiPhoria pull-up banner, a flag to cover the table and a selection of leaflets and copies of Getting Bi in a Gay/Straight World and was welcomed as I strode in (definitely a purposeful stride, not a lost-looking walk, oh no) by a very friendly member of staff who took me to the exhibition area on the first floor. What followed was interesting, not quite what I’d expected, and good in parts. There were two parts to the day: the exhibition area, and speaker events in lecture theatres.

There were about 7 stalls in all, including Liverpool Pride, Merseyside Police and an LGBT football club.
Elsewhere on the first floor was an exhibition called Tales from the City, which had been running from October last year commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act (as mentioned often in BCNs and elsewhere over the past year). I got a chance to look round it later in the day and it was interesting, mixing personal stories and official documents reflecting the last 50 years of Liverpool’s LGBT history.

This was well-signed in the Museum.

By contrast, our one-day event was, I thought, not well-signposted and tucked away round a corner on the way to one of the event’s lecture theatres, where not many casual museum visitors would happen across us. Indeed very few people not involved in the event did come by.

I got three people to sign up to the local bi news and events email list – one of whom was a gay Special Constable from the police stall who has a bi partner. I also had a very interesting chat with a member of the Museum’s staff who is a union rep, as I have been, involved in supporting/ representing LGBT members with workplace problems. But this felt like getting to know other stall holders than reaching the wider public.

Still, the lack of footfall meant I was able to go to some of the talks. Attendance was numerically ok, but again seemed largely to be participants and their supporters.

Caroline Paige gave an interesting and inspiring talk on being the first Officer in the British Armed Forces to transition gender while serving.
Professor Rainer Schultz gave a fascinating account of the forgotten life of a Roma survivor of the Holocaust who became a transgender cabaret artist in post-war West Germany.
Paul Ammann, founder of Kop Outs, the Liverpool Football Supporters Club’s LGBT section, was also interesting on the lead that club has taken on LGBT issues (the first top professional club to march at a Pride, for instance}.
Finally, I must mention Detective Constable Tracy O’Hara (holder of the Queen’s Police Medal), who was very engaging about having wanted to be a cop since watching Cagney and Lacey on TV as a child, on feeling repressed and isolated as a police officer until she decided to come out as a lesbian and her subsequent work, regionally and nationally to promote equality in the Police.

Those were the speakers I saw. In all, there were thirteen speakers and one interactive play about the guilt of Oscar Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas in Wilde’s trial and subsequent imprisonment for gross indecency. This was the last event of the day and stalls were already packing up, so I trolled (I mean strode) along to that too.

My point is that in these 12 contributions L, G and T were all represented, but there was nothing from any Bi contributor. Come on Liverpool Museum, you could have done better there!

So, an interesting day, but the Museum missed tricks on prominence, publicity and bi-inclusion. Overall, I’d say that the event’s success was questionable and probably didn’t justify the Museum’s time, effort and staff overtime to put it on – or the effort in getting the BiPhoria stall there.