Do you have questions abour our Museum of Transology display and our LGBTQ programme? See below for some answers to frequently asked questions.
Why are we focusing on LGBTQ lives and stories in 2017?
2017 marks 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 and the partial decrimalisation of homosexuality. Royal Pavilion & Museums (RPM) wanted to use this anniversary to actively build links with Brighton & Hove’s LGBTQ communities and work with them to respond to it.
This work is being paid for through RPM’s Arts Council England Major Partner Museum award, and a partnership with the University of the Arts London supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It addresses concerns that we were not adequately reflecting LGBTQ lives and stories in our displays, collections and activities, a particular omission in a diverse and welcoming town like Brighton & Hove.
How did these projects come about?
Consultation with LGBTQ communities in 2016 challenged RPM to ‘Be bold, surprise us’: work in a new way, recognise the need to reflect society, actively seek to redress inequalities and work directly with people to ensure they can record and share their histories. Our Be Bold programme is the result of this consultation.
Be Bold held an open call in early 2017, asking LGBTQ communities to submit proposals for exhibitions, workshops and events. We received 16 proposals which were discussed by a Steering Committee (including internal project staff and council / external contributors) and a selection made for the programme.
The ‘Museum of Transology’ (MoT) was chosen to be the first display in the programme given its fit with the Be Bold remit and its advanced state of development. Initiated by Brighton based curator E-J Scott, MoT was shown at the London College of Fashion in early 2017 and at RPM will be exhibited in a new format in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery’s Spotlight Gallery.
Is there sensitive material in ‘The Museum of Transology’?
Some display items are of a sensitive nature, including human remains, human tissue and human fluid, and RPM is aware that visitors may find this – and possibly other content – discomforting. Our Human Remains Advisory Panel has ensured that our display of human tissue accords with RPM’s ‘Policy for the Care of and Treatment of Human Remains’ (2005), and other specialist guidance in this area, and also discussed the ethical issues and potential audience sensitivities involved at length.
The Panel agreed with our Steering Committee that it is extremely important to respect the trans community members’ brave approach, choice of material, honesty and sensitivity in representing themselves and their journeys. The Panel felt that it would be disrespectful to the display’s contributors, and undermine the spirit of community curation, to censor any of the content or replace it with images or substitutes.
Having consulted other organisations about the display of human remains material we will include an introduction to the gallery clearly stating that some visitors may find objects in the display discomforting, and advising parents and carers to supervise visiting children. Similar guidance is presented on the RPM website, and visitors to the display are directed to a number of organisations and groups if they need information, advice or support in response to seeing the exhibition. The human tissue is also contextualised within personal narratives, and displayed alongside other material and at height, to ensure the items are not isolated or sensationalised.
What is the profile of LGBTQ communities in Brighton & Hove?
Local estimates of the proportion of lesbian, gay and bisexual residents in Brighton & Hove is 11-15% of the population aged 16 or more, and recent research suggests that 1-2% of people in the city identify as trans. The best national assessment (by Public Health England) is a little lower, suggesting that 9.9% of the city’s residents are LGB, but this still means that the city’s LGB population is likely to be the largest in the UK .
Public Health England recently produced data relating to LGB (not trans) people: ‘Regionally, the highest prevalence was found in London, North West and North East regions with each having an overall LGB prevalence of 4.3%, 2.5% and 2.3% respectively. There are higher proportions in large city regions like Greater London (5.1%), Greater Manchester (3.6%) and Brighton and Hove (9.9%).’ http://lgbt.foundation/policy-research/estimating-the-lgb-population/
Brighton & Hove City Council and other city organisations have used an aggregation of responses from local surveys over the last ten years to produce an estimate of a 11-15% LGB population (aged over 16) – see for example: https://www.bhconnected.org.uk/sites/bhconnected/files/City%20Snapshot%20Report%20of%20Statistics%202014%202.pdf
The Trans Needs Assessment in 2015 estimated the city’s trans population at about 2,700 people, about 1.2% of the population. However, this is likely to be an under-estimate as about half of trans people said they didn’t usually disclose their gender identity in surveys (which were the basis of this research). So, the figure might be 2%-2.5%.
Why do we use the acronym LGBTQ?
In 2013, RPM staff developed a trail to explore LGBTQ histories and themes as reflected in permanent display objects in Brighton Museum. Although the term LGBT was more broadly used in the UK, we took our lead from similar initiatives at other major museums exploring ‘hidden histories’, and the work they’d done to develop consistent terminologies.
The use of the broader acronym responds to people (especially young people) increasingly defining their sexual orientation flexibly. These identities may change over time and/or overlap between ‘traditional’ categories, so the four ‘fixed’ labels of LGBT don’t always suit.
We acknowledge that, for some, the term’s ‘Q’ (interpreted as standing for ‘queer’) can have negative connotations, but this varies regionally and across generations. In the Brighton & Hove context we believe that the ‘Q’ (for both ‘queer’ and ‘questioning’) is embraced by the vast majority of people within LGBT communities, and this is also reflected in academic and artistic usage in the city. When working directly with LGBTQ communities RPM seeks to respect their preferred terminology in the projects we collaborate on.
When talking about our work in broad terms RPM uses the term LGBTQ for consistency, but we are open to change. We value ongoing conversations about how identity is defined and, in continuing discussion with local communities, will continue to be sensitive to the terms that they prefer to use about themselves and how we label our work in relation to them.