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Our Approach to LGBTQ Heritage

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) histories and heritage are everywhere. Pride of Place is a Historic England initiative led by a team of historians and scholars at Leeds Beckett University's Centre for Culture and the Arts. It will identify the locations and landscapes associated with England's LGBTQ heritage.

As the public body responsible for the historic environment, Historic England is committed to bringing greater attention to the histories of marginalised, under-researched and under-represented groups, whose contribution to making our history has not yet been properly acknowledged. Pride of Place aims to help achieve this.

Gender diversity and same-sex love have long been part of England's history. But LGBTQ identities as we understand them today only date from the last decades of the twentieth century. Prior to this, same-sex love and gender diversity were treated as criminal acts or moral sins, medical or emotional problems, or absorbed within accepted family and community relationships. So LGBTQ people and their histories have often been hidden, marginalised or suppressed.
Pride of Place has been organised to achieve several specific goals:

  • To identify, document, and increase awareness of the significance of LGBTQ histories and heritage in relation to England's buildings and landscapes.
  • To engage community members, the heritage sector and scholars in documenting locations of LGBTQ heritage by identifying sites, and by sharing and recording these histories for the future.
  • To identify a number of key LGBTQ heritage sites for consideration for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE), and to amend existing entries on the NHLE where there are important LGBTQ histories attached to listed sites which deserve to be made better-known.
  • To nominate buildings or landscapes for consideration for local heritage listing on the basis of their significance to LGBTQ histories.
  • To encourage the management of current heritage sites open to the public, as well as those designated in the future, to include LGBTQ histories in their interpretive content as a key part of engaging with the public.

Terminology and language

Pride of Place uses the acronym LGBTQ to acknowledge the widest diversity of lives and experiences. It advocates coalition-building between the heritage sector and LGBTQ communities as well as the vital need to acknowledge the interconnecting experiences of race, ethnicity, class, gender and other protected characteristics with sexual orientation.

In the past, as today, there is no single LGBTQ community, terminology or uniform identity that defines all LGBTQ people or heritage. Pride of Place therefore recognises an expansive range of same-sex love, desire and sexual practices; cross-gender identification and gender diversity; and the historical locations where these experiences took place. Historical terminology related to these lives and experiences has changed significantly over time. Terms such as 'androgyne', 'butch', 'femme', 'homogenic', 'homophile', 'invert', 'molly', 'queer', 'romantic friendship', 'trade', 'transvestite', 'uranian' and many others are all important for understanding LGBTQ histories, and may hold significant resonances for people today, but they don't reduce clearly to familiar understandings of LGBTQ identities.

Pride of Place uses the term 'queer' both in its historical context and also as an inclusive term to indicate the complex experiences of sexuality and gender diversity across history. In the past, 'queer' has been used both as a term of derision and also of self-identification. Many others, scholars and community members alike, have reclaimed the term today, but use it differently: to capture the complexity of gender and sexuality not otherwise addressed by LGBT - it is also with this in mind we use the acronym LGBTQ.

Indentifying LGBTQ heritage sites

Pride of Place aims to uncover new locations associated with England's LGBTQ past, and to revisit existing heritage sites to consider their LGBTQ significance. These include, most obviously, places of LGBTQ social interaction, political action and community organisation, but sites of LGBTQ heritage are not limited to these. They may also include homes and domestic spaces once lived in by 'queer' people as well as buildings and interiors created by LGBTQ designers and architects, locations which may themselves hold 'queer' resonances. Sites may have clear historical importance, or might be otherwise unremarkable. Locations may also be important for LGBTQ people today because of their past use or association with historical individuals who may not have themselves identified as LGBTQ, or been identified by others as such in their lifetimes.

Pride of Place recognises that our LGBTQ heritage needs to be identified, recorded, understood, cared-for, and celebrated, as part of our national identity.

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