As Pride Month has started, many will celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and the marks they have left on European history over the years, in buildings, squares and palaces. The posters, films and objects they made or used during their civil rights struggle, form a part of Europe’s heritage as well. Because Pride Month is much more than colourful parades, festivals and gatherings. It is a remembrance of the years of struggle for civil rights and legal and social equality. But where can you start to learn more about Europe’s LGBTQIA+ heritage?
Supporting the community means commemorating and learning about its efforts for social justice in the past and now, understanding the deeper heritage behind it. So here are six resources you can use to learn more about Europe’s LGBTQIA+ history. While the list is far from complete, we would love to hear your thoughts on collections, films, places or other resources that you believe others might find helpful to learn about this heritage. You can contact us via [email protected]
Editor's note: The EHT is aware of the complicated history of the word queer, and that the reclamation of the word is not accepted by everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community. In this article, we intend to use queer as an inclusive term to refer to those who fall outside of cisgender and heterosexual identities.
1. LGBTQIA+ Histories of 40 Places in England
The researchers of Historic England have put together an impressive list of 40 English monuments, pubs, castles and other places where LGBTQIA+ history took place. It includes famous sites, such as Trafalgar Square in London, where the first official Pride rally in England was held by the Gay Liberation Front. The square was the end station of the pride march and witnessed a mass “kiss-in.”
Numerous lesser-known places are also listed, such as Shibden Hall in Calderdale. Here Anne Lister, often called ‘the first modern lesbian’, lived with her partners. A descendant discovered Anne’s diaries and deciphered the secret code in which it was written. It revealed Anne’s relationships with women, including Ann Walker, whom she unofficially married. Though advised to burn the diaries, descendant John hid them instead. Decades later, Anne’s diaries were published, giving voice to the person she was forced to hide.
2. Ma Vie en Rose (1997) – Alan Berliner
The Belgian film, translated to My Life in Pink, gives a chilling and dramatic account of the issues and stigmas trans people, especially youngsters, face. In the film, protagonist Ludovic’s family, neighbours, and community struggle to accept her as a trans girl, making the film one of the most recognizable international works of the last couple of decades on gender identity. Ma Vie en Rose went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1998 and was nominated for several more honours.
3. Schwules Museum in Berlin
The Schwules Museum was founded in 1985 as the first museum in the world dedicated to queer history. It displays items dating back as far as 1896. Schwul is a slang German phrase meaning gay. Although it previously had mostly degrading overtones the phrase has been reclaimed by the community and is nowadays more comparable to the modern-day use of queer in English.
Alongside its huge archive, the Schwules Museum also hosts exhibitions on queer history and community. It held its first exhibition in 1986, celebrating “90 Years of Homo Press”. The space has also housed a nightclub, a café and an LGBTQIA+ rights lobby and support group. If you happen to find yourself in Berlin, it’s definitely worth visiting.
4. Europeana’s LGBTQIA+ collections
While Europe has a number of LGBTQIA+ museums and archives, Europeana‘s online collections form an easy and accessible way to engage with history. From artists and artworks to the Gay Games and Aids awareness posters, all can be accessed for free and from the comfort of your own home. The digitalised archive of the International Gay and Lesbian Information Centre and Archive in Amsterdam and the Cork LGBT Archive feature countless posters, condom packages, t-shirts, written documents, and numerous other objects waiting to be used in research and education.
5. Pride (2014) – Matthew Warchus
The British comedy-drama Pride from director Matthew Warchus is based on the actions of the Lesbians and Gays Suppor Miners campaign in the 1980s. The gay activist decided to raise funds for the striking miners in the Welsh town of Onllwyn in 1984, which created solidarity between the two communities. While the plot is definitely romanticized and tailored to the needs of a broad audience, the film is an excellent example of how political activism, solidarity and grass-roots actions are core values of the LGBTQIA+ community.
6. Vienna’s gay heritage
Often seen as one of the most LGBTQIA+ friendly cities in the world, the Austrian capital of Vienna has a long history where gay people play an important role. For example, the gay Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the Ottomans during the siege of Vienna in 1683. But it wasn’t just on the battlefield that Eugene was surrounded exclusively by men. In private, he preferred to have intimate relations with men, something which was well known even during his lifetime. His summer palace, Schloss Belvedere, is an impressive baroque building which today houses the Austrian Gallery with numerous famous paintings.
Apart from Eugene, his Emporer Charles VI reportedly had a relationship with Count Michael Johann Althan. Meanwhile, famous gay composer Franz Schubert’s birth and dead houses can still be visited.