So June is pride month and GRTHM, but if we are to look back on the documented history of LGBT+ Travellers in this country, we could just about fill a post it note.
Ideally this month we’d be filling your screens with iconic figures from history who were proudly Travellers and proudly not straight. All the mainstream charities can nail it no problem. LGBT+ Charities can link to interviews with Ian McKellen and the like. Traveller charities can link to archive footage of Gypsies in Epping Forest, or early funfairs or whatever. Job done. We, however, are left with the issue that there has been such scant representation of our little intersection that all we have is Mikey Walsh’s “Gypsy Boy” as someone who has any kind of mainstream appeal (but the book is a real tale of misery, and so not especially inkeeping with the celebration atmosphere) and then in terms of activists we have Henry Chapman who made strident efforts with LGBT+ Traveller work a few years before we were founded but his tragic and untimely death in early 2019 makes it still very bitter to swallow and means we didn’t get to see the enormous promise he would’ve fulfilled. Beyond this, who do we celebrate?
Well one point that always sticks out is that it’s perhaps a blessing we don’t have anyone, because they’d be held up as the paragon. “OH! So this is what LGBT+ Gypsies are like”, and then we’d all be measured against them or expected to behave just like them. And anyway, the celebration of celebrities, singers and actors and big personalities, isn’t what months like this ought to be about. It’s the mundane, the vernacular, the people on the ground that are the real history. Of course individual narratives are harder to tease out of general GRT history, but LGBT+ people were there. We’ve been involved throughout the history, but weren’t talked about in those terms either because of secrecy or because when the flatties wrote books about us they knew what they wanted to write about anyway (all the classic anthropological shit) and so weren’t looking for what we’d now called queerness (a term I despise and will probably be the subject of a later blog). So remember, when you’re reading Traveller histories, those are not straight and cis histories. We’re there too. And likewise, when you’re reading LGBT+ histories, remember that Travellers were there, but didn’t wave both flags at once, and often for good reasons at the time.
But there is stuff to celebrate- not least within Traveller Pride. This month we:
· Will host a physical meetup!
· Will send off the paperwork to become an official legal entity, thereby enabling us to get funding and do more tangible good.
· Will introduce you to our lovely (and I genuinely mean that) trustees.
· Will be sharing a few blogs of historical and recent interest.
· Will reveal plans for the rest of the year!
· Might be appearing in some pretty cool media…
It is also worth noting that in Europe, some incredible intrepid pioneers are being very loud and proud and open and have done some outstanding stuff. So maybe my lack of unabashed enthusiasm is due to being too stuck in my “local” context, but then with the threat of the upcoming bill and a ramping up of gross rhetoric (see our last blog, for example) it makes sense to me to stay within the confines of the UK, because there’s enough mess here!
More details on all the aforementioned excitement to come. But for now, welcome to GRTHM & Pride month 2021, glad you could join us. xx