LGBT History Month celebrated in Islington
There is no time to be bored in Islington this month. The borough is hosting the country’s largest programme of events for LGBT History Month.
The theme for this year’s celebrations is “religion, belief and philosophy”.
Islington has always been at the heart of London’s lesbian, gay and bisexual history. The borough is estimated to have the third highest population of LGBT residents of all London boroughs and the highest number of cohabiting same-sex couples in the country.
Running throughout February, the festival includes a range of events that celebrate, explore and share the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.
Shaan is the project manager of “Twilight People: stories of faith and gender beyond the binary”, an exhibition taking place at the Islington Museum until the 5th of March.
The ‘Twilight People’ exhibition captures the voices and images of trans people and interprets them in a heritage context. For the first time in the UK, the project allows us to intimately discover both the oral history and portraiture of the unheard voice across faith communities.
“This is the story of a queer trans masculine liberal Jew,” he explains. Surat Shaan Knan was a very happy child, his father was a doctor – “Very Jewish!” he says, laughing.
However, as many other Jewish family, his family decided to forget about the past and chose to be secular. Shaan felt the desperate need that he wanted to join God.
“I was always a bit of a different child, I didn’t fit in the gender stereotype. I was always dressed like a boy, always dirty. It never really occurred to me that it was ‘wrong’ and that I had to behave a different way. It didn’t work for me because I had no concept of gender, as much as I didn’t have a concept of religion.”
Shaan eventually came out gay as it was the only terminology even though it was not completely working with his sexuality. The word ‘trans’ did not exist at that time.
But Shaan found himself within his faith community.
“There are not only two genders, not only male and female. There’s the androgynous, the tumtum – a person with neither sexual characteristic, or eunuchs, for example. When I heard of it, it was like an epiphany. That was an eye opener. I became a trans-jew activist.”
Regarding the exhibition, Shaan explains: “It’s the first project in the UK on the heritage of trans and lesbian and gay. The project is growing. This is going to go as a collection. It’s a pioneering project and it’s been an amazing month since the launch.”
Shaan explained that there are people in Twilight that couldn’t show their faith. “One particular participant is afraid that if his family learn that his took part in this project, they would consider it as a crime.”
“We are different but then, everybody’s different. Trans are not those chirurgical-altered individuals. It’s just people like you and me.”
“Twilight People: stories of faith and gender beyond the binary”, until March 5th 2016.