Staff networks: What's new? — articles for February 2021

LGBT+ History Month: Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde photo The Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, warrior Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a native New Yorker and daughter of immigrants. Both her activism and her published work speak to the importance of struggle for liberation among oppressed peoples and of organizing in coalition across differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age and ability. An internationally recognized activist and artist, Audre Lorde was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. In designating her New York State’s Poet Laureate, Governor Mario Cuomo observed: “Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice…She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere.”


In a 1979 conference at New York University, Audre Lorde delivered a speech entitled “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” that examined and critiqued second-wave feminism, helmed by white, upper-middle class leaders like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. Lorde gave the speech as part of a panel called “The Personal and the Political,” an appropriate name for a woman whose politics define—and are defined by—issues around “difference” and identity. “I stand here as a Black lesbian feminist,” Lorde announced at the beginning of the speech, enumerating her own marks of difference—but only to lay the groundwork for her subsequent qualification: “I stand here as a Black lesbian feminist within the only panel where the input of Black feminists and lesbians is represented.”


In this speech and throughout her career as a poet, essayist, novelist, civil rights activist (and more), Lorde’s feminism is grounded in intersectionality, the idea that gender oppression is inseparable from oppressive systems like racism, sexism, classism, transphobia, and heterosexism, among others. Sometimes, today, Lorde is referred to as a “womanist,” as distinct from “feminist.” Womanism emerged as a social theory aiming to address the particular experiences of black women and women of other marginalized or oppressed minority groups. Lorde herself didn’t use this word, though much of her work grew out of her (and many other black women’s) observations that feminism struggles with inclusivity, particularly related to race, class and sexuality. 


Across all of her multi-genre work, Lorde sought to resist society’s tendency toward categorization. In her poetry, she brought together the most intimate, personal scenarios with the social, even the controversial. Her first ever published poem “Spring” (1951) appeared in Seventeen magazine when Lorde was just 15 years old, and authentically expressed the intensity and infatuation native to adolescent love. Many of her Lorde’s later poems continue to take on the subject of romantic relationships, as well as the relationships between family members—children and parents, in particular—and friends. But as Jerome Brooks notes in Black Women Writers (1950-1980), “Lorde’s poetry of anger is perhaps her best known….” “Power,” one of Lorde’s most haunting poems, expresses Lorde’s own indignation in response to the murder of a 10-year-old boy by a New York policeman. In “The Brown Menace or Poem to the Survival of Roaches,” Lorde compares the relationships between blacks and whites to cockroaches and humans, offering a fiercely angry but deeply sad parable of racial injustice.     

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Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld photo Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was the founder of the world’s first gay rights movement, who, more than a century ago, put his life on the line to stand up for LGBTQ people. Hirschfeld said, “Soon the day will come when science will win victory over error, justice a victory over injustice, and human love a victory over human hatred and ignorance.” 

Born in May 1868, Kolberg, Prussia [now Ko?obrzeg, Poland]—died May 14, 1935, Nice, France), Magnus Hirschfeld was a German physician who was an important theorist of sexuality and a prominent advocate of gay rights in the early 20th century.

Hirschfeld was born to Jewish parents in a Prussian town on the Baltic coast. He first studied modern languages and then medicine, obtaining a doctoral degree in 1892. After a period of travel, he returned to Germany and established a medical practice in Magdeburg in 1894. Two years later he moved to Berlin, where he would become actively involved in the scientific study of sexuality—in particular, homosexuality—and advocacy efforts on behalf of sexual minorities.

Hirschfeld maintained that sexual orientation was innate and not a deliberate choice, and he believed that scientific understanding of sexuality would promote tolerance of sexual minorities. His sexology research was guided by empiricism and activism, driven by the belief that the sexual ideology of Judeo-Christian civilization was a serious obstacle to the understanding of sexuality and to the reform of laws and practices that regulated it.

Initially Hirschfeld supported the concept that homosexuals constituted the “third sex,” although he soon moved on from that. He is best known for his subsequent theory of sexual intermediaries, which held that there were many types of naturally occurring sexual variations found across the human population, such as hermaphroditism, homosexuality, and transvestism. He is also credited with coining the term transvestite.

Hirschfeld accomplished an enormous amount of work during his lifetime with regards to his research, writing, and advocacy efforts. In 1897 Hirschfeld established the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee with Max Spohr, Franz Josef von Bülow, and Eduard Oberg; it was the world’s first gay rights organization. Its main goal was to fight for the abolishment of Paragraph 175 of the German Imperial Penal Code, which punished sexual contact between men. In 1899 he started the Yearbook of Intermediate Sexual Types, the first journal in the world to deal with sexual variants; it was regularly published until 1923. He also published an important study on cross-dressing, The Transvestites (1910). Hirschfeld was one of the founders of the Medical Society for Sexual Science and Eugenics, established in 1913. The next year he published his study Homosexuality in Men and Women, which was based on the expansive statistical surveys on homosexuality that he had conducted. In addition to publishing works on sexology and sexual reforms, Hirschfeld also wrote about racism, politics, and the history of morals.

In 1919 Hirschfeld opened the first sexology institute in the world, the Institute for Sexual Science, in Berlin; the institute and the considerable holdings of its library and archives were destroyed by Nazi demonstrators in 1933. Hirschfeld also participated in the production of the first film to call for the decriminalization and acceptance of homosexuality, Different from the Others (1919). The controversial film ignited much debate and was banned by German officials within a year. In 1928 Hirschfeld founded the World League for Sexual Reform (WLSR), which had its roots in an early conference that he had organized in 1921, the First International Conference for Sexual Reform on a Scientific Basis. The WSLR called for reform of sex legislations, the right to contraception and sex education, and legal and social equality of the sexes.

Being a Jew, a gay man, and a sexual liberation activist made Hirschfeld the target of right-wing supporters, and he suffered serious injuries from an attack in 1920. Later, with the Nazis’ growing power, he was regularly assaulted, his lectures were disrupted, and, upon completion of his international speaking tour in 1932, he was unable to return to Germany. He instead went to Switzerland and then in 1934 to France, where he died the next year.

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A Gay Man in the Civil Rights Movement: Bayard Rustin.

bayard rustin Bayard Rustin was a civil rights organizer and activist, best known for his work as adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and '60s. Bayard Rustin was a key behind-the-scenes leader of the black civil rights movement—a proponent of nonviolent protest, a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the principal organizer of the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  He was gay and open about it, which had everything to do with why he remained in the background and is little known today in comparison to other leaders of the civil rights movement.


Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He had been raised to believe that his parents were Julia and Janifer Rustin, when in fact they were his grandparents. He discovered the truth before adolescence that the woman he thought was his sibling, Florence, was in fact his mother, who'd had Rustin with West Indian immigrant Archie Hopkins. 

Rustin attended Wilberforce University in Ohio, and Cheyney State Teachers College (now Cheney University of Pennsylvania) in Pennsylvania, both historically Black schools. In 1937 he moved to New York City and studied at City College of New York. He was briefly involved with the Young Communist League in 1930s before he became disillusioned with its activities and resigned.

In his personal philosophy, Rustin combined the pacifism of the Quaker religion, the non-violent resistance taught by Mahatma Gandhi, and the socialism espoused by African American labour leader A. Philip Randolph. During the Second World War he worked for Randolph, fighting against racial discrimination in war-related hiring.

Rustin was punished several times for his beliefs. During the war, he was jailed for two years when he refused to register for the draft. When he took part in protests against the segregated public transit system in 1947, he was arrested in North Carolina and sentenced to work on a chain gang for several weeks. In 1953 he was arrested on a morals charge for publicly engaging in homosexual activity and was sent to jail for 60 days; however, he continued to live as an openly gay man.

By the 1950s, Rustin was an expert organizer of human rights protests. In 1958, he played an important role in coordinating a march in Aldermaston, England, in which 10,000 attendees demonstrated against nuclear weapons.

Rustin met the young civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and began working with King as an organizer and strategist in 1955. He taught King about Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent resistance and advised him on the tactics of civil disobedience. He assisted King with the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956. Most famously, Rustin was a key figure in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which King delivered his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963.

In 1965, Rustin and his mentor Randolph co-founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a labour organization for African American trade union members. Rustin continued his work within the civil rights and peace movements, and was much in demand as a public speaker.

Rustin received numerous awards and honorary degrees throughout his career. His writings about civil rights were published in the collection Down the Line in 1971 and in Strategies for Freedom in 1976. He continued to speak about the importance of economic equality within the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the need for social rights for gays and lesbians.


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LGBT+ History Month Webinars

We have also put together a small selection of free EventBrite webinars that are available throughout February below.
There are plenty more on offer and the good news is, they do not stop at the end of LGBT+ History Month.


Please also note that if you are unable to make the specific dates/times below, you are able to register your attendance and will receive a link to a recording of the event after it has taken place.


table of links to webinars with dates and times




Your ABC of LGBT

Tuesday 2nd February 2021


Queer Histories and Presents, for LGBT History Month

Tuesday 9th February 2021


Where are all the LGBT+ leaders?

Thursday 11th February 2021


LGBT+ History Month Quiz

Friday 12th February 2021


Understanding Transgender Healthcare

Wednesday 17th February 2021


Bertie’s Book Group: February.
Rose Tremain’s, ‘Islands of Mercy’

Thursday 18th February 2021


People like me: LGBT+ History Month Webinar

Tuesday 23rd February 2021


LGBT+ History Month: Sexuality and Design

Wednesday 24th February 2021



LGBT+ History month



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HWB support for BAME Staff

Our national NHS England and NHS Improvement team are pleased to confirm that two support offers for BAME NHS staff are now live.

These are:

  1. Mental Health First Aid Training
  2. Strength Coaching (Train the Trainer)


BAME colleagues across the NHS can apply via the link below and the closing date is 14/2/21.


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