King’s hosts Queerness and Literature night to celebrate LGBT+ History Month

The importance of queer culture, its visibility, and KCL celebrating it (in the Chapel)

If you haven’t got the memo babes, February means LGBT/Queer History Month.

With the help of the LGBT+ society here at King’s and the Queer community itself, we have sought to shine in visibility more than ever and get people talking about queerness.

February 16th saw a community of queer identifying folks come together as one to enjoy a night of queer performance and reading in, wait for it, the King’s Chapel. Being allowed to host such an event in a holy place shows not only the progress we as a community have made, but also how diverse and accepting King’s as an institution is.

The event was organised by King’s English Literature Society in collaboration with KCL LGBT Society, notably Travis Alabanza and Poppy Mostyn-Owen.  There featured a diversity of readings from poetry and excerpts from Queer texts to personal essays, as well as performances by Travis Alabanza himself and the acclaimed Liv Wynter.

Speaking to The Tab about the event, Travis gave an insight into the reasoning behind some of the key decisions.

Hi Travis. Why did you want to set up this event?

“Poppy and myself wanted to organise the event as a way to relax and have fun during LGBT+ history month. So often Queerness (needingly) is linked to the political, but it is also a political act to have fun and rejoice.

“We both love literature, so really just wanted a fun night of performance and community celebration. Add in Liv Wynter as a headliner, and you have a great night.”

Why the chapel?

“The chapel was kind of a mistake, but afterwards we realised how powerful it is to reclaim a space we are told is not for us. The chapel is in fact very welcoming at King’s, and hopefully by us doing the event there it shows King’s LGBT+ students they can also take part and be in that space.

“LGBT+ and faith are not two things that do not go together. They are things we are told that do not go together, yet actually can, and do, beautifully.”

Queerness is important and isn’t given enough visibility. Such a term is often misunderstood, unexplained, and often associated with the academy and academic discourses, and rightly so. But it is a complex term in its own right, more than just a word associated with the academy or the political.

Here’s a quote from the piece I wrote to perform for the night:

“Queer is an umbrella term, and encompasses and accepts anyone that may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, pansexual, asexual, cross-dresser… etc But it’s not limited to just them, of course.

“It’s open to anyone black, mixed race, Latina, Gaga fans, Beyonce fans, Cher fans… anything with a heart. And that’s what I think Queer is, a term for those strange all-lovers who accept anyone for who they truly are, despite what society says we should feel towards them.

“It’s important to be Queer because I think everyone is born Queer. Queer is unique; you’ll never find the same person whose queer in quite the same way. That’s the beauty of it.”

Speaking with Andy a few days prior to the event brought to light his fresh perspective on sexuality and gender performativity.

Hi Andy. What do you identify as?

Andy: I identify as a cis male and mostly straight, hetero-queer maybe? I don’t even know if that’s a thing but it’s the best word I can think of!

Why do you like cross-dressing? Do you just not see clothes “as a thing” or as gendered?

“Beyond it being able to fit my body, I’ll wear whatever I like, the gendered element is largely taken out. There is a kind of transgressive power to it that I like though. I do Philosophy.

“It makes me feel attractive and bold, like I’m following through on myself, like I will wear that pattern or that cut of dress if I like it, which makes it quite freeing.”

Tell someone they’re beautiful and queer. Tell them they look good dragged up, because gender is a drag performance anyway. Tell somebody they  look good with shaved, short, long hair, or that weave, because gender appearance is just capitalist commodification garbage anyway.

You’re beautiful however you choose to look, whatever you choose to wear, whatever pronoun you choose to identify as. It’s time for the rest of the world to see it, too. And our voices to be heard.

We look forward to seeing you at some of our other exciting events – remember, heterosexual identifying allies are just important to our community, too.

For information on more upcoming events held in February for LGBT+ month at King’s, click here.