The Love That Dare Not Speak its Name
Freelance archivist Jane Speller writes:
History, and by that token the archive, is full of gaps. Often the names that are remembered are those of the great and the good. Queer histories, women’s histories and BME (Black, minority and ethnic) histories are conspicuous by their absence.
Within LGBT histories, the lives and experiences of women are often hidden, or made secondary to those of men. So, what of the dykes, lesbians, butches, femmes, drag kings and trans men – how do we hear their stories?
The Sahir House archive gives us tantalising glimpses of the women who were there at every step of the way in the fight for better HIV/AIDs resources, providing services for HIV positive people, and in tending the sick and dying.
The MASG (Merseyside AIDS Support Group) phone help-line initially operated through the women’s phone line before establishing its own service. In 1985 several women trained as MASG ‘phone liners’. The Women’s Group was one of the first groups within MASG, alongside the Buddies (initially known as the Home Support Volunteers), Family and Friend’s Group, Phone Line Group, and the Gay Men’s Collective, and judging by the MASG Management Committee Meeting Minutes they were a lively bunch! Later, the Positive Women’s Group and the Sexual Health and Dykes Group aka SHADY (great acronym) were established. That’s all we know at present. We know nothing about these women, not even their names.
Naming names within LGBT history has always been a complex matter. On the one hand we want to name those involved, to remember them and to mark their contribution to history. On the other hand there are issues of privacy that may not always make this possible. The legacy of being legislated against (decriminalisation – England & Wales 1967, Scotland 1980, Northern Ireland 1982, and the Republic of Ireland 1993; and Thatcher’s Clause 28 1982), is within living memory and has contributed to secrecy within our community.
Within the archive we can ensure that names are protected by closing records for specified amounts of time, typically 70 years for an adult and 100 years for a child.
So…if you are one of the un-named women who helped make the history of Sahir House don’t be shy, please let us know!