Why do we need LGBT+ literature festivals?
There are so many layers to our identities in terms of gender and sexuality, and seeing other people who don’t fit within that cis-heteronormativity validates the feelings and experiences we have.
By Kirsty Smith
So many of us have discovered something about our sexual orientation or our gender identity from seeing that TV show, reading this book or meeting that person. Why? Because a lot of us didn’t just inherently know already – both what we were feeling or what it was called.
For me, it wasn’t something I was aware existed. I grew up in a religious household which, whilst it didn’t necessarily say lots about how it was ‘bad’ to be gay, it constantly reinforced cis-heteronormativity until this was the only narrative I knew.
Given that cisgender and heterosexual is considered to be ‘the norm’ and us queer folk the anomalies, it’s easy to see how someone might not discover something about themselves until later in life, might feel uncomfortable or unsafe exploring their gender and/or sexuality or might receive misinformation.
Most of us are brought up with a very binary way of thinking when it comes to gender and sexuality, with society imposing specific ways to be within mainstream media. We know that being LGBTQIA+ is not a new thing and that our community has a rich and longstanding history. Though some members of our community are now seen more within mainstream media, we still have to fight for good quality, diverse representation.
But what difference can a TV show or a book or an interaction with a queer person – representation - truly make? There are so many layers to our identities in terms of gender and sexuality, and seeing other people who don’t fit within that cis-heteronormativity validates the feelings and experiences we have. It tells us that we are not alone. It can help us accept and even celebrate ourselves. It can help us find love (be that romantic, friendship or found family). In some circumstances, it can even be the difference between life and death. This sounds dramatic, but it’s true.
Quite simply, representation matters. Good quality, diverse representation matters even more.
What role does the Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival play in providing representation?
We believe very strongly in being an inclusive event organiser. We also firmly believe that it’s important to have representation for the LGBTQIA+ community in our events.
We consider literature to have a broad scope, incorporating any form of writing or expression – whether this is enjoyed in written form, verbally or visually. This means that our events include authors, poets, artists, bloggers, performers, activists, vloggers, playwrights and song writers.
Save for the events which were held live (as opposed to just streamed live), the content from the 2021 Leeds Virtual LGBT+ Literature Festival will remain available online via our YouTube channel and our website for people to watch in their leisure at no charge.
This includes representation from all strands of the LGBTQIA+ community in some form. We hope that this helps people see themselves represented and also to learn about other people's experiences from within the community.
In 2013, Tammy Baldwin made history by becoming the first openly gay Senator in the US. [Picture above left is of Tammy Baldwin from the front cover of the 4 January 2013 edition of The Advocate.] I love a quote from Tammy that I read, as follows:
"There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.”
We believe that we are contributing towards giving people a platform to express themselves publicly to help reach that day when we no longer have to fight to see ourselves represented. We do all we can to make this information publicly accessible to people all over the world.
We also love being able to showcase the amazingly talented people we have within our LGBTQIA+ community, who deserve to have their voices heard.
You can support us
We run on grants and donations and the efforts of a number of volunteers who give up their time to make these events happen.
You can help support us by:
Attending our events and sharing the details of our events and blogs with others;
Liking and commenting on our posts and content: show us some love!;
Donating to help fund future events, at paypal.me/lgbtbooks; and
Volunteering your time to help make the events possible - look out for future call-outs for volunteers or drop us an e-mail at email@example.com.
Why do we ask for donations?
As we said above, we try to make our events and content as accessible as possible. One of the ways we do this is by trying to keep ticket costs low or even free as much as we can. However, we’re also keen to pay all our contributors a fair price for their time. While we have been lucky to receive various pots of funding and donations in the past, it’s really helpful to have other money coming in, as funders often want us to demonstrate a level of self-sufficiency and sustainability. This also helps ensure we have enough money to keep running our events.
We are so very grateful for any support that we receive, so that we can continue this important work of providing LGBTQIA+ representation to everyone.
Kirsty is the Secretary for and one of the organisers of the Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival. When she isn't out walking with her wife and pooches, you'll usually find her baking or reading queer lit.