Friday, 3 February 2012

LGBT History event at Sheffield Hallam University

So perhaps not so wisely, I have volunteered to talk about my research on Sheffield's LGBT history in front of an audience! Eek!

It is in my capacity as a member of the Sheffield Hallam University Staff Forum, and part of a joint event we are running for LGBT History month. Here are the details, I hope to see you there!

<ힴƊ>LGBT Histories: perspectives from Sheffield and further afield. Monday 20th February 2012
Cheryl Bailey (Sheffield Archives) and Friends of Edward Carpenter discusses the life and work of Edward Carpenter (1844-1929).
Sandra Baker (SHU) discusses her research on the history of Sheffield's LGBT Community.     

Marian Duggan (SHU) discusses her book ‘Queering Conflict: Examining Lesbian and Gay Experiences of Homophobia in Northern Ireland’


5.15pm arrival 5.45pm start 8pm end. To book a free place email

Britain's Gay Footballers.

Ok, so this isn't strictly to do with Sheffield's gay history, but it caught my eye and thought it was worth a look at.

Being as I am a perpetual procrastinator, and often find myself performing mind numbing tasks at my work desk, I am always on the look out for something to watch on the iPlayer. My eye was caught the other day by a BBC Three documentary called 'Britain's Gay Footballers' presented by Amal Fashanu. (available until Monday 13th February)
Those of you with a good memory, or interest in football will instantly know the connection between the Fashanu name and the theme of gay footballers. Amal Fashanu being the niece of Justin Fashanu, the first, and to date last premiership footballer to come out as gay in the UK. Amal follows her Uncle Justin's career, meeting with people who knew him at the peak of his career, including her dad, John Fashanu. I knew in advance of watching this show, just how heartlessly and publicly John Fashanu had rejected Justin's sexual orientation.
In Amal's first meeting with him, John is incredibly vague about the whole situation.
 "His coming out was not favourable. I don't think in two decades of football I have ever witnessed the abuse your uncle received…"
He then reinforces the idea that footballers and football supporters could not accept a gay player, falling back on old stereotypes of gay men as feminine.
"This is a macho, men's game, the game of football is the bully boys, the bulldog, slide tackle, in a wet day, mud all over your face, a few cuts. It was never for two men to do a slide tackle and go back and kiss each other"
Now clearly I am not an expert but this sounds like a pretty homoerotic game to me. Amal then goes home and busies herself trying to get anyone from Premiership football to agree to an interview. Failing in this she goes off to a Brighton and Hove Albion match, and talks to the home fans about the homophobic jeers they receive during matches from opposing supporters. Because Brighton is stereotyped as the 'Gay Capital' of the UK, fans have invented clever little slogans such as "We can see you holding hands" and "Stand up if you can’t sit down". Unsure if this really does constitute homophobia or not, Amal speaks to the paragon of tastefulness and political correctness that is Matt Lucas. He finds the slogans quite funny and draws a clear line between calling one player a 'F***ing P**f' and fans jibing each other from across the terraces. But are homophobic chants the root of the problem?
Amal then interviews John McGovern, former team captain of Justin's at Nottingham Forest, about the attitudes towards Justin's sexuality in the team and how he got on with the other players.
"He was no different from any other player … he used to smell nice, he used to smell lovely"
Amal does not look impressed, and yet the thinly veiled homophobia continues. She asks if they knew about Justin being gay at the time that he played at Nottingham Forest.
"He came out and said he was gay but we didn't actually know at the time"
Lies. During Justin Fashanu's time at Nottingham Forest FC he came out privately to manager Brian Clough. Clough was disgusted by this and suspended him. Defiantly Fashanu turned up to practice anyway, only for Clough to have him escorted from the premises by police[1]. I began to suspect that McGovern's casual attitude to homophobic abuse that Fashanu may have received was having an impact on Amal, and she was beginning to have a real sense of indignation on behalf of her uncle.
Amal then gets an interview with famous PR guru Max Clifford, asking him why no gay footballers have come out and if he thinks they ever will. Once again we find that Amal is fobbed off with excuses about attitudes in football being in the 'dark ages' and talk of footballers coming to him to cover up their homosexuality.  It's even possible that Justin Fashanu himself had taken this route, although this is not touched on in the show. In December 1992, just two years after Fashanu had publicly come out, the Daily Mail reported 'Street's Bet and gay soccer star Fashanu are 'lovers''. This was a short lived attempt to appear as bisexual on the part of Justin, claiming that he and Julie Goodyear were having a relationship.
"A friend of the couple said …they have become lovers and you could say they are an item"[2]
Following this she investigates Rugby, and speaks to Gareth Thomas, the Welsh rugby player who came out in 2009. He spoke of positive attitudes from fellow players and rugby supporters alike, and said that his career has not suffered since coming out.
Amal then talks to her mother, who reminisces with Amal about Justin and their happy times together. It becomes clear that she had no problem with Justin's sexuality, but other family members did. It is here that Amal discovers the truth about her dad's reaction to Justin coming out, which was to effectively disown him.
I found on the BBC Archive site (an amazing page to sit and watch old tv clips if you have the time) an interview with Justin on the early 1990s programme 'Open to Question'. Justin is surrounded by young people who ask ever more invasive and ridiculous questions. At one point he refers to his brother's reaction after he came out and states that John had offered him far more money not to give the interview to the paper, than he got for giving the interview itself[3]. At other points in this programme, Justin speaks of also loving women, and seems to be trying to reverse some of the effects of being 'pigeon holed' as gay.
When Amal finally sits down and watches the TV footage from the time (when Justin came out and when he committed suicide) hearing for the first time Fashanu's suicide note, she is understandably upset.
Following up her initial enquiries, Amal then speaks to a few of the players at Millwall FC. The few players who will actually go on camera to speak about gay players confirm that homosexuality is not a problem in football and that any fellow teammate would be supported in coming out. This seems to satisfy Amal, but I wondered how much of this would be true in practice. Later in the show she meets Anton Hysen, a professional footballer in Sweden who is openly gay. Seeing that he has had little trouble with homophobia and been well supported by family and team, Amal concludes that this positive reaction is probably to do with Sweden's relaxed attitude in general. She may have a point, but this doesn’t explain how we can have an out gay rugby player in the UK, but no footballers.
Finally Amal confronts her dad and asks him whether he could have done anything differently to support Justin. Despite clearly never having been confronted with these home truths before, John remains adamant that his rejection of Justin was for the good of their family.
In the end Amal decides to go right to the top and speaks to the FA's Equality Manager. She is told that the FA has a 4 year plan in place to tackle homophobia in football. This news doesn't impress Amal very much, and quite rightly.
In preparing to write this piece I had a quick scour of some news articles on Justin Fashanu. I found a depressing amount of news pieces on Justin, from the time when he came out, to after his death, which show a clear disregard for him as a human being.
Allan Hall's Daily Record piece 'Justin Cash-in Noo! (Justin Fashanu) He only has two loves in his life big bucks and himself' from 1994 unashamedly drips with contempt for him. Referring to Justin as "a wanton gay man" the reporter tells the story of the time he spent with Fashanu for a news piece in 1990.[4] Not content with emphasising every mention made about money, hotel rooms and the class of flights Fashanu negotiated over the story, Hall feels the need to recall bursting into Fashanu's hotel room to find a man in his bed.
"The story, according to Fashanu, was that he craved the warmth and love of men in a bonding, friendly, companionship kind of way."
Later in the article.
"He hadn't fastened it [the hotel room door] properly the night before. I called his name out and suddenly someone shot bolt upright in bed. It was a tall, young white man, suddenly followed by Justin Fashsanu. "Oh, err, hi" he said. "this is my …friend". Companionship was clearly what he had been missing."[5]
This is just one of a number of scandalising and degrading news pieces I was able to find on Fashanu. It seemed that any time he was around a journalist once he had come out, anything he said or did was fair game for a smear.
Even after his death, former friend and alleged 'lover' Julie Goodyear spoke to the press saying
"He told a lot of lies about me for money…I maintained a dignified silence but I do believe things catch up to you."[6]
Is there any wonder that gay players are reluctant to come out?
Amal Fashanu's programme focused on the UK Premiership, however the presence of gay people in football in the UK can be found elsewhere in British football. Gay Football Supporters Network runs a small league of gay football teams in the UK and has been going for ten years. They run the league based upon the many local all gay football teams in the UK. Some of these, such as Yorkshire Terriers have been on the go since 1997. Anyone interested in getting into gay football should head towards the GFSN.
Clearly there are many hurdles to get over before we are in a position where gay premiership footballers feel comfortable enough to come out. If you want to find out more about the most high profile campaign on this very issue and how to get involved, visit the Kick Homophobia out of Football website.
Or, launch a campaign of your own. Here is the link to the FA's equalities page, which has an email to which you can report homophobic incidents in football. Enjoy!
Lastly I refuse to accept that the barriers to gay players coming out exist in the hearts and minds of the general football loving public. There are exceptions to this, of course, but if those with the budgets and the power to change things don't know how we feel about the state of homophobia in football, there will be little reason for them to do anything about it.

[1] Obituary: Justin Fashanu, The Independent, by Ivan Ponting, May 4th 1998
[2] Street's Bet and gay soccer star Fashanu are 'lovers', Daily Mail by Tim Jotischky December 15th 1992
[3] Open to Question: How has 'coming out' affected the career of Justin Fashanu?, BBC Archive
[4] Justin Cash-in Noo!, Daily Record by Allan Hall February 10th 1994
[5] See reference 4
[6] Fashanu just ran out of lies, Daily Record by Iain Ferguson May 4th 1998

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone!

It only seems like 5 minutes since my last blog post but it was actually over two months ago. In that time I have been singing with my choir (out Aloud, Sheffield's LGBT Choir) in Germany, Meadowhall and the Winter Gardens, visiting family, graduating and finally having a rest over Christmas.

Here I am in the cap and gown with my very proud Mum!

As I have been so busy lately, I don't have much to report on the Gay history project, but today I have created a Facebook group for it. Find it here!/groups/306596282709747/

I am also planning a small event at Sheffield Hallam University to disseminate what I found during my inital research. This will be some time in February, so watch this space for more updates.

Lastly I want to metion that 2012 is Alan Turing Year! For those who are unaware, Alan Turing was a gay mathematician who, during World War Two was placed at the top secret Bletchley Park to work on cracking the now infamous Enigma Code. He was highly successful there and is credited by many as having changed the course of the Second World War (for the better, of course).
After the war, his work still highly secret, Turing went to Manchester to work as an academic. It was there that he was reported for being a Homosexual. For men to have sexual contact with other men at this time was still illegal, and Turing was found guilty and given the opportunity to undergo 'corrective' treatment instead of prison. This treatment consisted of taking various male hormones, thought at the time to reverse the desire for Homosexual behaviour. It was also known as chemical castration and was highly unpleasant for the 'patient' both mentally and physically to go through. By 1954 Alan Turing had been rejected by the establishment, considered a threat to National security and committed suicide on 7th June of that year. 2012 marks the 100th year since Turing's birth. Many organisations have decided to mark the occasion by running lectures and exhibitions in his honour. You can find out more about this here and follow updates on Twitter here!/Turing100in2012 and here!/AlanTuringYear

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Friends of Edward Carpenter

On Wednesday 18th October my partner Claire and I attended the Friends of Edward Carpenter launch event at The Crucible Theatre. The Friends of Edward Carpenter project is being managed by a voluntary committee, aiming to raise enough funds to erect a monument to Edward Carpenter in Sheffield by 2013.
I got to have a chat with the lovely staff from the Sheffield Archives service about my dissertation, and to see some of the Carpenter artefacts on display. Amongst the speakers at the event was BBC Sheffield’s Rony Robinson, discussing his personal connections with Carpenter’s legacy and how he was almost given a memorial in the 1980s. We were also treated to two numbers from local songsmith and folk artist Grace Petrie.
For anyone who doesn’t know about him, Edward Carpenter was an influential writer who pushed for gay rights (as well as other liberal ideas) at a time when it was very dangerous to do so. He lived near Sheffield at Millthorpe from the early 1880s until his death in 1929 with his partner George Merrill. In 1908 he wrote of same sex love in his book The Intermediate Sex.
Carpenter’s achievements in promoting progressive campaigns and ideas such as Socialism, Feminism, Vegetarianism and even clean air prove him to have been a significant part of Sheffield’s history and certainly Sheffield’s LGBT history.
If you would like to learn more about Edward Carpenter have a look at or to arrange a trip to see some of the wonderful artefacts held at the Sheffield Archives go to To find out more on the Friends of Edward Carpenter group and to support their work on achieving a permanent monument to such an important figure go to

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Well it has been such a long time since my last post, I thought it was about time to get on with it! In my defence I decided to prioritise writing my dissertation over writing about writing my dissertation, and due to this stroke of genius, and having three weeks off work I have finally got it done and even better, I passed! I'm not going to pretend it was done to the best of my abilities, given the timescales and slight 'rabbit in headlights' syndrome which descended upon me during those last weeks, but at least Sheffield's LGBT history has got a place to start.
My intentions now, once I have tidied all of the scattered journal articles and scraps of paper from the spare room, is to pick up from where my dissertation left off and carry on in much the same way. In terms of the blog I will be disseminating much of what I have found during my research (some, in fact most of which never made it to the dissertation) in the form of themed posts and I will hopefully continue to do this as I build upon my research. I also hope that this blog can become a place where people can discuss their stories of Sheffield's LGBT past, and post their own memories.
I have loads to talk about regarding what I have found and other things on the horizon so watch this space as they say!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

February updates

As LGBT History month is almost over I thought I would take the opportunity to spread the word about some fantastic events taking place in Sheffield to celebrate.

  •  On Monday 28th February Sheffield Out of Office - a group set up by and for LGBT professionals in Sheffield to meet, socialise and network - are holding a fantastic pub quiz at the Crucible Corner Bar in Sheffield from 7pm. £2 per person to enter and loads of prizes. Here is the link and whilst you are there check out their site for othe upcoming get togethers.

Apologies that this post hasn't been as much about my MA but rest assured I will have some more updates on that soon!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

welcome to the blog

Welcome to my little blog. As the name suggests I hope to make this blog about and instructive to my forthcoming dissertation on Sheffield's gay history. Let me tell you a bit about me and why I am undertaking this project. I am originally from Beverley, near Hull, and I came to Sheffield in 2000 to study the History of Art, Design and Film at Sheffield Hallam University. In 2007 I joined Out Aloud, Sheffield's only LGBT choir and loved it! It wasn't long before I found myself on the organising committee for the local pride event. There hadn't been a pride event so far in Sheffield, and so working on the event was great, as we had a blank canvas almost to create the event we wanted to see. The first Sheffield Pride was in 2008 (officially called South Yorkshire Pride) and for that I co-ordinated a community tent with workshops and activities, and helped with some fundraising nights along the way. I stayed on the committee for the next event in 2009, again running the community tent and acting as treasurer too. Work on the Pride events was a huge amount of fun, and even more hard work. In September 2009 I started the MA I am currently on now, in History, Local and the Global.

Being involved in the gay community of Sheffield on the Pride Committee way started me thinking about the nature of the gay community here in Sheffield. It has always seemed odd to me that we never have had many gay bars in town, and the ones that we do have are spread out, some of them right out of the city centre. Comparing this to local places such as Leeds and Manchester, where the gay bars are close to one another and seem very close knit, made me wonder about the history of Sheffield's gay community, and how the members of this community interacted with one another in the past. A workshop by the Sheffield Archives staff about Sheffield's gay history made me even more intrigued. There seems to be very little material and evidence of what Sheffield's gay community has been like during the 20th Century. We know of course, of Edward Carpenter who lived near Sheffield with his partner, and are lucky to have so many records of his life and his literary works. However, after Carpenter, came a gap in the records of the local archives. My project aims to fill this gap, and to delve into where people met, who they talked to and had relationships with, how they coped with the prejudice and discrimination of the times and what kept them going.

So if you have memories of living in Sheffield as a gay person, please feel free to share them on the blog, and contact me if you would like to take part in the project.