What happens when you're harassed, hunted, and persecuted? You stand up and stand for others.
Many of us were shocked and disgusted when we learned the story of Alan Turing, the man who basically ended World War II and was later convicted of "indecency" and chemically castrated during the fifties. I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve heard people arguing and questioning the LGBT community for fighting for their rights, since according to them, “they have everything they could possibly dream off nowadays.” In an interview with New Statesman, Mike Jackson, one of the leaders of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, explains how there are two types of homophobia: the one that’s learned and cultural (like the people I just mentioned), so there's still the chance to change their point of view, and the one that’s so ingrained it pushes people to harm those that don’t fit their life scheme, which is basically the one we’re going to discuss today.
In the early eighties, coal mines proved to be unprofitable for the government so, led by Margaret Thatcher, they decided to close some of the pits and privatize the others. Naturally, the miners' syndicate didn’t agree with the measures that intended to leave them without jobs and without any of the social benefits they had worked so hard to obtain. In 1984 they decided to declare a national strike all over the United Kingdom. Thatcher’s government declared the mobilization as illegal so they decided to cut all the benefits from the strikers and closed the open account where people could make donations to their syndicate. However, that didn’t shatter their spirit. Enter the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group.
More or less at the time, Jackson became acquainted with Mark Ashton, a politically active member of the Young Communist League. Jackson asked him if he wanted to help him collect some money for the miner's cause. They both grabbed a bucket and started raising funds. The pride march was soon to happen, and both thought it would be great to collect money at the march and join their cause to that of the miners. That’s when the LGSM was born. Their association brought attention throughout the country, although it wasn’t entirely the kind of attention they were looking for.
We’re talking about the eighties, a decade where persecution against the LGBT community was still rampant, especially because it was aided and promoted by the conservative government of the time. There were riots, unjustified arrests, and violent demonstrations going all over the country. As Jackson explains, some handsome officers were deliberately sent to places where the gay community gathered to seduce them and arrest them. Besides the hunt, many of them were dying because of AIDS (Ashton died months after meeting Jackson, at the age of 26).
You can imagine the panorama of the time, so it's no surprise that some miners didn't approve their link with the LGSM and decided to stop the strike. And yet, the gay community kept helping them. In recent times, inspired by the LGSM historical movement, a group belonging to the LGBT community started their own group, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. One of their members, Ida-Sofie Picard, explains that queer communities have always shown solitary hand to those marginalized groups because they’ve been as historically persecuted as them. They know first hand what oppression means and its consequences. That's why they believe the only way to stop this persecution is by joining forces. It doesn’t matter if their goal is different. Together, they are stronger and prove no one has the right to abuse others because they don't fit standard ideologies. It didn't matter if some of the miners weren't supporting their cause. They knew it was time to call for action, and they needed the funds they were raising. It was a time of solidarity.
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Images from the 2014 film Pride based on the LGSM movement.