Object of the Month – February 2015

February 2015 - Anti-Queerbashing whistle, 1990

Anti-Queerbashing Whistle, 1990, Peter Tatchell Collection @ People's History MuseumThis ‘Anti-Queerbashing’ whistle was produced by the gay rights organisation OutRage! in 1990 to protest against violence towards LGBT people and as a self-protection aid. The simple black plastic whistle on a pink ribbon is accompanied by a small paper leaflet, which states:

‘Blow the whistle on queerbashing!

Violent attacks on lesbians and gay men are increasing.

Accompanying leaflet, side 1Carry a whistle at all times to attract attention. Call for support and help. Frighten off attackers. Help the victim. Call the police.’

On the reverse are three helplines to report violence to.

Accompanying leaflet, side 2OutRage! was formed in May 1990 and was the world’s longest surviving queer rights direct action group. The Labour History Archive & Study Centre holds the papers of campaigner Peter Tatchell, which includes press releases and ephemera of OutRage!. In addition, we hold a number of objects donated by Tatchell, including this whistle.

This object is one of only three whistles in the museum’s collection and it is by far the most poignant when you consider its purpose. In a press release dated 16 August 1990, Peter Tatchell claimed that ’20 gay men have been murdered in London over the last four years’, condemning the Metropolitan Police ‘for refusing to monitor and record gay-bashing violence’.

Outrage flyer, 'Stop violence against lesbians and gay men march', Peter Tatchell Collection @ Labour History Archive & Study CentreAnother OutRage! press release cited research by Gay Times journalist, David Smith, which revealed that ‘32 gay men [were] murdered in the last four years.’ Lesbian and gay activists picketed New Scotland Yard in protest at the ‘derisory and insulting’ police response to the murders. This is just one in a series of press releases and protests highlighting hate crime against LGBT people and demanding that the police take action.

On 19 July 1990 OutRage! voted to buy whistles for fundraising and their first ‘whistle patrol’ was on 27 July 1990. In addition, the group organised self defence classes for men and women who felt threatened by violence.

Sadly, hate crime towards LGBT people is not something relegated to history. Stonewall’s 2013 report Homophobic Hate Crime found that ‘one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people had experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the past three years’. A Home Office report found that in 2013/14, there were 44,480 hate crimes recorded by the police, an increase of five Outrage Self Defence Course flyer, Peter Tatchell Collection @ Labour History Archive and Study Centreper cent compared with 2012/13, of which 4,622 (10%) were sexual orientation hate crimes and 555 (1%) were transgender hate crimes. This was an increase on the previous year, however the report suggested that ‘It is less clear whether the increase in sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity hate crime reflects a real rise in hate crime or improved police identification of these offences’.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 empowered courts in England and Wales to impose tougher sentences for offences motivated or aggravated by the victim’s sexual orientation. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 allowed harsher sentences for Transgender hate crime.

This object of the month is not currently on display in the museum, however you can make an appointment to visit our collections stores by contacting exhibitions@phm.org.uk.

You can find out more about our LGBT collection here.

Celebrate LGBT History Month

Join us this February for LGBT History Month to celebrate the radical heroes who fought for LGBT equality. We are delighted to be hosting the Sunday hub of the LGBT History Festival on 15 February, including performances, family activities and talks by Peter Tatchell, Mike Jackson and more! You can also book an appointment any time to view our LGBT collections in the Labour History Archive & Study Centre. We round off the month with This Is How We Got Here: Prejudice and Pride – Stories of Activism from Manchester and Beyond book launch on Saturday 28 February.