Researching positive stories about the lives of LGBTs in Newham has been very challenging, but in a way, equally exciting. While during my months of working for the charity I have come to call this particular branch of the tree an “ungrateful desert”, it has produced some very interesting stories.
My favourite is probably the story of the Women’s equality sub-committee councillors who decided in 1986 to highlight sexuality issues by including Lesbian and Gay couples as contenders for fostering and adoption. Their unwavering stance in the face of the mounting criticisms from the public is something I admire, especially given that LGBT’s were only allowed to adopt in 2002, almost 20 years later.
That is the fun side of research, finding people who genuinely tried to change the lives of others. The other side is much more frustrating. The unique nature of LGBT research is that it is concerned with acts deemed illegal until the 60’s.
Being Gay was illegal until the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, and then it was only “legal” in private. This is so obvious when looking for stories of LGBT’s lives, not many people speak out, or do something positive, simply because the backlash is of amazing force. This leads to many stories being lost, for example, the story of Tony Mahoney, who is known for his squatting activity, but his fight for the rights of LGBTs is often recorded in only one sentence “Mahoney was also a leading light in 70s gay liberation”. Details of his support are lost, perhaps only existing among people who knew him personally.
Even worse is researching into the present situation of LGBTs in the area. Every time a thread appears sooner or later it turns out the funding has been cut, or for whatever different reason the group no longer exists. I fail to see how it could be due to a lack of interest.
Only one LGBT group exists in Newham, the Paris Youth Group, who recently had to resort to Crowdfunding to be able to continue its work. Across the borough funding for community groups has been cut, and the residents of Newham are becoming more and more alienated. This undoubtedly leads to more segregation, and more aggression. Where are they supposed to seek a sense of understanding and belonging in the increasingly deprived Newham?
By Justyna Ladosz