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Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Pride

Posted on 24th June 2019 by Mark Skinner

It is now 50 years since the Stonewall riots inaugurated Pride month, a period of global festivities and activism that celebrate LGBTQ+ lives and lifestyles. Ahead of the centrepiece UK parade in London on 6 July, Cambridge bookseller Radclyffe looks at the progress of queer rights in the last half century and what still needs to be achieved, as well as recommending some enlightening and entertaining LGBTQ+ literature.
With the speed and grace of a drag queen on the runway, 2019 has delivered June to us already and with it, we have seen the initial glimpses of the golden weather that comes hand in hand with the summer months. For many, June is the beginning of the holiday period: warm weather, good food, and a whole load of sunny memories. For some, however, June also carries with it memories of a summer 50 years ago in New York City, 1969. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which took place in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn. Since then, parades have taken place every year all over the world. Throughout those 50 years of parades and marches, the world has seen a gradual positive curve in attitudes towards queer people and the LGBTQ+ community. 2019 has been a year of a remarkable number of countries legalising same-sex marriage - Ecuador, Taiwan, and Austria to name just a few - and even more countries have decriminalised homosexuality this year. 

This undoubtedly hopeful news should help to carry us through darker times, such as seemingly constant news of violent attacks against queer people and cultural intolerance of queer identities. Often, however, it does not feel like enough. The importance of communities and a support network can never be understated but in times of crisis, the need for them is unparalleled. Communication in the queer community has not always been easy, especially when simply having your name on a list of subscribers to a lesbian magazine in the 1950s would land you in jail. And yet, despite this, the written word has always played a huge part in the queer world, with landmark works like Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room demonstrating the lengths taken by queer people to create some form of permanent legacy in paper and ink. 

Jumping forward from obscenity trials in 1928 to the plethora of queer books available to all those interested today is quite phenomenal. We have a choice of novels celebrating non-binary identity longlisted for the Women’s Prize (Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi), stunning photographic accounts celebrating queer liberation (We Are Everywhere by Leighton Brown), and even journals encouraging us to be our most authentic selves (Free to Be Me by Dom&Ink), all of which give us a hint of the joy that can be found in a shared history and a common goal of global love.

During Pride month, reach out to your LGBTQ+ loved ones and friends, for what better time is there to remind them that you’re thinking of them than the month of rainbows and revolution? 

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Angela Chadwick demonstrates the abilities that scientific advances afford through the decision of a lesbian couple to give birth to a child… ovum-to-ovum. Political and ethical questions sparring with fear-mongering and vitriol, Chadwick paints a picture not too distant from today.
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A compulsive read about falling in love with a woman for the first time, Caldwell has done an excellent job of weaving an intelligent plot-line into a truly heart-wrenching romance, finished off with a cheeky narrative that makes a sumptuous, cheeky dessert of a novella.
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Queer Intentions asks all of the questions many of us are not willing to delve into. With honesty, comedy, and just a little bit of magic, Abraham’s voice is a voice sorely needed to be heard.
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Lorde’s first and only novel ‘Zami’ was classed a “biomythography”, which combines myth, history, and biography through a narrative form, detailing her childhood in New York City, and navigating life as a black lesbian in 1950s America. This book is an ode to intersectionality, and Lorde will remain someone whose work we must learn from for centuries to come.
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The Waterfront Journals immerses us in the underbelly of gay America, portraying the complexity of all those we meet: gay hustlers, sex workers and drug users, forcing us all to confront our misconceptions. The various stories Wojnarowicz tells are all at times gentle, cruel, and utterly honest.
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How better to learn about queer history than from the journals of one of the most prominent figures in British LGBTQ+ culture? The entries are a fascinating journey through one woman’s struggle against society’s expectations, and the relationships she forged along the way.
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