Once upon a Sunday, in the darling month of March, the Pinkies gathered together to hear three leading scholars discuss the last three decades of social and political change within the LGBT community, Louise Chambers, Sasha Roseneil and Jeffrey Weeks.
As a Spring baby of 1989 and having grown up unaware of most of the significant developments that occurred, I was personally very keen to learn about the last 30 years, and more specifically how it linked in with our own history as a choir. If it wasn’t for the time limit I’m sure we could have continued our discussion for hours!
Our dear Susan Rudy did a fabulous job of leading the workshop and introducing our three inspirational scholars, Louise Chambers, Sasha Roseneil and Jeffrey Weeks. Each were invited to share about themselves and their specific area of research, before we Pinkies were encouraged to interact by posing questions and issues of debate to get the ball rolling. A big thanks also to our choir mummy Jenny Cousins who graciously laid out the thoughts and intentions behind our summer exhibition and how we hope to ‘tell our story in the context of the last 30 years of history.’ In fact, I think the most memorable quote of the workshop for me came from Miss ‘It’s all about us’ Cousins herself:
‘Life is like a plate of spaghetti Bolognese. It’s all tangled up. But what you look for a good writer/exhibitionist to do is simply take out one strand of spaghetti…and you still want the sauce attached to it.’
Ok, so my bias may be linked to the fact that I love food, but a great quote all the same!
It’s quite a challenge for me to sum up such an interesting and extensive workshop in a blog post, but I’d like to highlight one or two of the most significant points that came out of our debates. Firstly, in response to a question relating to the outbreak of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, it strikes a powerful chord to realize that The Pink Singers were founded in that very same year, 1983. We were one of several LGBT groups that began to emerge in response to what was going on politically and culturally at the time. Particularly as Britain found itself caught in a ‘return to Victorian values’ as part of the conservative Thatcher administration, the eruption of AIDS and its growth into becoming a symbolic battlefield could not have come at a more significant time. The fact that we have a direct link to that momentous period in British politics and the fight for LGBT rights shines quite a special light on our choir. The Pink Singers offer a pathway within its members and its history to open up and reveal so much around such a rich period of change in British history.
Another fascinating point of debate that came up was the creation of a rather significant paradox lying beneath the surface of LGBT organisations like ourselves. That being that in order to become a ‘we’ collectively, we have to first stand apart as being different. As Professor Weeks highlighted,
‘In oppressive climates, it’s inevitable that people of the ‘other’ have to define themselves against that [the ‘norm’] in order to live viable lives.’
Indeed, much of the aim behind gay liberation was arguably to end the ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ as a concept; to make them meaningless. However, the very movement behind this actually achieved the reverse, and in fact solidified the distinction between the two ‘camps’. As the last 30 years have progressed, the question today now seems to be based around the sharpness of these different identities, and how much they have weakened and evolved as LGBT rights have continued to be fought, acknowledged and achieved, and the need to stand out in order to be heard has gradually diminished. Thus, our very identity as a choir shifts along these sands of time, and we may pose the question to others and ourselves: what does it mean to be an LGBT choir in today’s climate? And perhaps even more interesting is the fact that The Pink Singers are still continuing to grow in size and reputation in being recognized internationally for its status of ‘longest running European LGBT choir.’
I could go on…and on and on and on, into the realms of thesis and textual diarrhea! So I shall stop here, phew! I hope that this relatively small amount of ramble (by my standards!) gives an impression of the vast extent of our debates on that Sunday afternoon and the sheer amount there is to learn from the past 30 years by delving into our choir’s history, and vice versa. There was so much to discuss, to consider, to explore. I am so excited to see the project unfold and the exhibition to develop and come into its own.
Well done again everyone for such a fantastic day!
Louise, Sasha and Jeffrey, we can’t thank you enough!