Image: Birmingham LGBT.

From Edgbaston to Digbeth we live, some of us ‘came out’ at fourteen, some of us forty, some of came out in the noughties and some of us in the eighties. We look differently, dress differently, sound differently, from Birmingham tones to northern twangs. Some of us have lived in Birmingham all our lives and others found a more temporary home here but each and every one has a different story to tell. We have taken a fresh page and begun to record these stories for ourselves, for history to remember, a history that all too often forgets its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals.

Birmingham LGBT, based on Holloway Circus, is proud to have recently received £49,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new project entitled Coming Out Stories which will celebrate and circulate LGBT history on a local level. Led by young LGBT people from the local community, the project focuses on individual’s coming out stories from the Birmingham and the West Midlands area and is provisionally set to run over the course of six quarters.

Birmingham LGBT, which is both a healthcare hub and a community centre, aims for the project to enable young LGBT individuals to investigate the political, social and personal context of coming out, from the impact of legislation like Section 28 to the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act to very personal family relationships.

Birmingham LGBT is an organisation which has always worked closely with the LGBT community and with the help of fifty participants from across the city it hopes to launch this project to great success.

Working with Out Central youth group and a number of other young people, Coming Out Stories will not only provide an opportunity for a more detailed understanding of previously under-researched historical LGBT identities but it also provides a chance for the development of new skills including research, the recording of oral histories, social media, advertising, radio broadcasting and film-making. It is not only a celebration of a rich past of LGBT histories but also a project that arms its young participants with skills for the future.

Commenting on the award of the HLF grant, David Viney, from Birmingham LGBT said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and are confident the project will support young people to be active citizens, boost their confidence and take pride in their LGBT Heritage.”

Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “This project, supported under HLF’s Young Roots programme, will span generations with younger members of the LGBT community interviewing their elders to put hitherto untold stories on record and into the city’s archives.”

The provisional outcome of the project is the inclusion of the project’s research into Birmingham Central Library’s archives, the creation of a classroom toolkit and educational DVD for use in local Birmingham schools on the topic of coming out and finally an exhibition and film tour on the histories recorded.

Birmingham LGBT urges anyone interested in giving an oral account of their own coming out story to contact them for interview. Further information, images and interviews surrounding the project, including details of the HLF grant, can be found by contacting David Viney, Birmingham LGBT’s Health and Wellbeing Manager.

These stories are windows into a very real understanding of what coming out can look like in all its forms over the decades. They are personal narratives, living histories and what they give Birmingham, not just its LGBT community, is an insight into being an LGBT individual in the West Midlands today. A good ally for LGBT rights is one who knows when to speak and when to listen, so open your ears, because the LGBT community in Birmingham is speaking up.

This article was originally published in a print edition of Slaney Street


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