An Evening of Gender Exploration Through Performance and Art.  

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Continuing conversations after LGBTQ+ History Month, Arnolfini hosted an evening of visual work which included a performance of ‘Beyond the Buzzwords’ by internationally renowned queer artist and icon, Del LaGrace Volcano.  This was a collaboration with UWE’s School of Art & Designs Visual Culture Research Group and Social Sciences Research Group.

The evening was opened by UWE’s Rachel Miles, Senior Lecturer of Visual Culture, and Bristol performance artist Tom Marshman with a rendition of ‘Deuce 2’. The performance explored gender and sexuality whilst growing up in the 80s. The performance focused on finding solidarity and friendship in other LGBTQ+ individuals and was structured around a Vanity Fair cover, released in 1993, with Kd Lang and Cindy Crawford. The image was deemed progressive for the time for being a visual representation of queer relationships in media. 

Next up was Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer known for their work documenting LGBTQ+ lives, and promoting queer culture. Del LaGrace shared their creative inspiration, which is embedded in the firm belief in non-hierarchal societies and relationships. Their feminist methodology centralises working with people, rather than objectifying bodies as sites for consumption. Del La Grace talked openly about ageing, relationships, raising children as non-binary and the societal resistance they have faced in this decision. 

Del LaGrace shared their personal and professional journey through imagery, with an expansive archive of photographs taken throughout their career. From growing up attending political and civil rights events to years attending art school in San Francisco, Del LaGrace portrays the often-overlooked LGBTQ+ communities in America since the 80s. They also shared multiple, powerful images of global pride marches with well-known icons such as Ian McKellen.    

Del LaGrace was assigned female at birth but now identifies as a gender queer, intersex artist. They have focused on raising awareness of intersex, queer, trans and marginalised lives through photography, focusing on portrait images and images of the body as a site for exploration and expression. Threaded throughout the talk was the consistent message of making queer bodies more visible, and how they have been historically contested in media and society. They discussed the use of photography as a form of activism and as a way of celebrating gender non-conformity.  

The event was attended by UWE staff and students and the general public. Thank you to the event organisers for an insightful and engaging evening. You can read an interview with Del LaGrace Volcano, with Bristol magazine, 24/7 here.  

A Melancholy Love Story in Happy Together – film review.

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For the final review in this series for LGBTQ+ History month 2022, Lydia Cooper provides a review of ‘Happy Together’ a film that follows a struggling queer relationship.

Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) in a shot from Happy Together. Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, The Criterion Collection, 1997. [Description: A close-up film shot of a topless man who is covering his face with his arm. There is a mirrored reflection in the background.]

Wong Kar-Wai’s 1997 masterpiece Happy Together is a film about a gay couple from Hong Kong who have travelled to Buenos Aires but are kept apart by the conflict and toxicity of their relationship.

Wong Kar-Wai’s trademark style comes through with time lapses, snappy jump cut editing and repeated uses of song motifs throughout the film. Many of the scenes between Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) and Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) take place in the small room that Lai is renting and this tiny room and the building it is in, contain some of the best sequences in the film – the dancing scene in the kitchen is one of my favourite scenes of any film.

All the actors are great but the stand out is Tony Leung as Lai, who throughout the film is struggling with his relationship with Ho – which is filled with conflict and jealousy – and the loneliness and struggle of being a migrant without much money. Every performance in the film is organic but Leung’s in particular forms the emotional centre of the film.

Unlike a lot of films centring on queer couples Happy Together does not rely on stereotypes and shows the relationship between Lai and Ho with depth and detail. Despite the film being only just over an hour and a half long, we feel like we know them intimately. It’s also nice to see a film where the two main characters have genuine chemistry and the sexual tension throughout the film is palpable – making the progression of their relationship throughout the film even more heart-breaking and realistic.

Further Viewing on Kanopy:

Desert Hearts (1985) – Dir. Donna Deitch

Beau Travail(1999) – Dir. Claire Denis

Thank you to both Lydia Cooper and Aoife Raynell for this engaging series of film reviews for LGBTQ+ HM 2022, following the theme ‘Politics in Art: The Arc is Long’. If you have something you’d like to share, please let us know at

‘Chocolate Babies’, Stephen Winter’s Forgotten AIDS Debut – film review.

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In honour of LGBTQ+ History month 2022, third-year BA Film Studies students are providing a series of weekly reviews that capture this year’s theme of Politics In Art: ‘The Arc Is Long’. Next up is Aoife Ranyell’s review of ‘Chocolate Babies’.

Sam (Jon Kit Lee) and Max (Claude E. Sloan) in Chocolate Babies. Dir. Steven Winters, Frameline, 1995. [Description: A view from the back of a sofa with two people sitting on it. The individuals are looking at each other intently with their heads resting on their hands.]

For the LGBT+ community, the 1980s and ’90s will forever be associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic – an immunodeficiency virus that alters the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. By 1993, over 2.5 million cases had been confirmed worldwide, and by 1995, given the lack of substantial response from the government, AIDS was the leading cause of death for Americans aged 25 to 44, disproportionately affecting the queer Black American population. In 1996, at the height of the epidemic, Chocolate Babies was released. 

Given the lack of narrative films focussed on HIV-positive, Black American minority LGBT+ communities in New York, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Chocolate Babies is a documentary. However, inspired by the New Queer Cinema movement and classic Humphrey Bogart movies, Stephen Winter wrote and directed his debut feature film as a drama. Chocolate Babies follows a group of loud queer activists – Max, Sam, Jamela, Larva (my personal favourite of the group), and Lady Marmalade – as they inflict war against the city’s conservative politicians who are failing to act in response to the AIDS epidemic that is destroying their community and their loved ones. The story not only highlights the epidemic taking place, but also addiction, abortion, religion, alcoholism, and fears of coming out, producing a raw and honest portrayal of inner-city life for the LGBT+ communities at the time.

Despite premiering at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival in 1997, Chocolate Babies never received full distribution and has been mostly forgotten in the world of queer cinema – it had never crossed my radar before now. It’s a huge shame because the film’s unique and transgressive style and point of view make for an absorbing and powerful film, one that will definitely pull on your heart, and has certainly expanded my perspective on the events of the 90s.

Further Viewing & Reading

Queering the Canon: BIOPIC NYC. Chocolate Babies Q&A with Stephen Winter.

The Early Days of America’s AIDS Crisis, by Tim Fitzsimons

I’m Moshanty – Do You Love Me? A Spotlight on the Papua New Guinean trans community – film review.

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In honour of LGBTQ+ History month 2022, third-year BA Film Studies students are providing a series of weekly reviews that capture this year’s theme of Politics In Art: ‘The Arc Is Long’. This week, Lydia Cooper provides a film review of ‘I’m Moshanty – Do You Love Me?’, directed by Tim Wolff.

Films about the transgender community are few and far between and often made without the involvement of, or respect for, the community. Films about trans people outside Europe and the US are even more rare so I’m Moshanty – Do You Love Me?, a documentary about the LGBTQ community in Papua New Guinea, is particularly refreshing.

Shot from the film I’m Moshanty – Do You Love Me? dir. Tim Wolff, First Run Features, 2020. [Description: an image of a band performing on a stage. There are five band members in total, from left to right there is a keyboard player, guitar player, two singers in the middle and another guitarist. ]

I’m Moshanty – Do You Love Me?, centres on the late singer and activist, Moses Moshanty Tau, and the wider LGBTQ+ community in Papua New Guinea. As demonstrated by the statistics at the start of the film, Papua New Guinea is an incredibly dangerous place to be a woman, and trans women are even more at risk of discrimination, homelessness and violence.

Director Tim Wolff intercuts between Moshanty’s music videos, usually shot on beaches, and her discussing her career. The best scenes are when Moshanty and her friends are in the back of a truck going to Hula Village – a more accepting part of the country. These segments are a warm, light-hearted break from some of the more harrowing aspects of the film, as this space acts as a welcoming and accepting one, isolated from the rest of the country.

Moshanty and other members of the LGBTQ community also discuss the discrimination that trans women face in Papua New Guinea and this is highlighted about twenty minutes in, with a trans woman being attacked in the street. It’s not particularly violent but it is uncomfortable and forces you to remember the hostile environment these women are living in. Although Moshanty is respected as an artist she is repeatedly misgendered throughout the film and explicitly referred to as a gay man by her mother, a reminder that even though people are willing to accept some members of the LGBTQ+ community in Papua New Guinea they are still unaccepting of trans people.

I’m Moshanty – Do You Love Me? is not only a great documentary about an artist mostly unknown outside of their home country but also an eye-opening look into the trans community of Papua New Guinea that is equal parts sad, funny and hopeful.

Further Viewing on Kanopy:

Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger(2014) – Dir. Sam Feder

The Journey of Mona Lisa (2019)Dir. Nicole Costa

‘Dykes, Camera, Action! – A Celebration of Lesbians on Screen’- film review.

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In honour of LGBTQ+ History month 2022, third-year BA Film Studies students are providing a series of weekly reviews that capture this year’s theme of Politics In Art: ‘The Arc Is Long’. Next up, Dykes, Camera, Action! – A Celebration of Lesbians on Screen by Aoife Ranyell.

Women have always been marginalised within the filmmaking world – struggling to find a voice or a break in the male-dominated landscape. For lesbian and queer women, this is even more true. Although, thanks to a trailblazing group of female filmmakers and the 90’s New Queer Cinema movement, queer women have used their voices and made themselves visible.

Dykes, Camera, Action! is American filmmaker, Caroline Berler’s, first ever feature-length documentary film, showcasing the history of lesbian and queer cinema, told by the pioneering women who made it happen. Barbara Hammer, Cheryl Dunye, Yoruba Richen, Rose Troche, Desiree Akhavan, and many more, sit down and tell insightful first-hand stories of their lives and what motivated them to get involved with film – whether that was the social and political climate of the time, or frustration of not seeing accurate representation of queer identities on screen.

At its core, this is simply a very comforting and encouraging film to watch. The 61-minute runtime flies by and, to be honest, I could’ve easily watched another whole hour of it. If you’re already well-versed in the world of lesbian cinema, this film will reveal nothing ground-breaking, but it is still a very valuable watch and an excellent entry point to the genre if you’re new. It is so heartening to see women unapologetically talking about and celebrating the things that they love and enjoy: filmmaking, the queer films they love and hate, art, social activism, and (of course) other women. I recommend getting your notes app on hand (or a pen and paper, if you’re old school) to make note of the various films that they talk about.

Kanopy Further Viewing:

UWE LGBQT+ History Month event: Screening of Rebel Dykes (2021) at Arnolfini on 19 February 2022, open to UWE staff and students.

LGBTQ+ History month film recommendations

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In honour of LGBTQ+ History month starting today, third-year BA Film Studies students Lydia Cooper and Aoife Ranyell, are providing a series of weekly reviews that capture this year’s theme of Politics In Art: ‘The Arc Is Long’. First up is Lydia Cooper’s review of Caravaggio (1986).

Shot from the film, Caravaggio, dir. Derek Jarman, British Film Institute, 1986. [Description: A person sitting gazing into the distance with a dark backdrop. They are wearing a white top with their shoulder exposed and they are holding different fruits and leaves in their arms.]

January 31st would’ve been the pioneering queer filmmaker Derek Jarman’s 80th birthday, and with this in mind I re-watched his 1986 film Caravaggio.  Caravaggio was the first film of Jarman’s I saw and it’s still my favourite because, despite not having the outwardly political themes or avant-garde quality of some of his other films, Caravaggio’s style, aesthetic and character add together to make a perfectly composed film on queer art and history.

Caravaggio is an important film in British queer cinema because of its unapologetic portrayal of a historical figure in same-sex relationships. There has been much debate about Caravaggio’s sexuality, so for Jarman to show him as openly queer, without relying on subtextual homoeroticism, was (and, in some ways, still is) ground-breaking.

The film follows Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) as he reflects on his life as a young artist during the Italian Renaissance. The cinematography and framing are spectacular, making the film look like a prolonged series of paintings, bringing Caravaggio’s paintings to life and enriching them with the emotions of the film. Although the film doesn’t contain much dialogue and has a slightly slower pace, the beautiful colour palette evokes everything that extra words could not. The film is filled with striking reds, glistening golds and melancholy blues and purples, depicting the feelings of passion, religion, death, love, sex, loneliness and isolation shown throughout the film, and Caravaggio’s life. Jarman blends the past and the present to create a queer classic that evokes equal parts art, politics, desire and passion while breaking conventional film form to create a more radical take on the classic historical film.

All reviewed films are available to stream via Kanopy, where as a UWE Bristol student your membership is free.

Further viewing on Kanopy

Jubilee (1978) – Dir. Derek Jarman

Wittgenstein (1993) – Dir. Derek Jarman

Finally, if you have an EDI or Health and Wellbeing story to tell, please do get in touch at as we welcome contributions from all staff and students for our blog.

LGBT History Month: events, allyship, and trans inclusivity

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By Liberty Strong, LGBT+ Officer, UWE Students Union

This year the LGBT+ Society, UWE Feminist Society and The Students’ Union brought together a cross campus programme of events around the theme of allyship. We invited the UWE community to #ShowYourTrueColours and join us in a month of celebration, education and awareness. This included free films, HIV fast testing, workshops on  gender & intersectionality, discussions about pinkwashing, arts & LGBT+ resistance, Bisexual Visibility, queer history monologues and LGBT+ takeover of Lock In! As well as an incredible reading & resources list produced in collaboration with UWE Library.

Image of Rainbow map of UK on quilt cover thanking MP's who supported same-sex marriage in 2013
Politics and textiles: Oliver Bliss’s quilt project celebrating equal marriage

Our main goal this February was to invite UWE students to #ShowYourTrueColours, encouraging LGBT+ students to be proud of who they are, and to not be afraid to express themselves at university. We achieved this through launching our Ally Campaign. This meant bringing together student representatives and staff members from across the university in a show of solidarity for the LGBT+ community, promoting the idea that you don’t have to be a member of the community to support it.

None of these events could have been possible without the incredible work of the LGBTPlus Society Committee and members. They managed to come up with a broad range of activities to ensure that there was something for everyone this month. Together, with Marianna the SU’s National, Faith & Identity Societies Coordinator, we have had a more diverse and well organised LGBT+ History Month than ever. It’s important that we appreciate the work put into this month, as it is important that the students here raise awareness of the issues faced and milestones achieved by the LGBT+ community from UWE and beyond.

Trans Awareness and gender neutral toilets on campus

As LGBT+ Officer, I have become very involved in the conversation on trans student rights. After the SU wellbeing survey revealed 98% of trans students have suffered from mental health issues, I felt it important to facilitate trans students needs and make their university experience easier.

Poster promoting UWE bathroom as a safe space for Trans and Gender Questioning Students
Trans awareness posters to be put in toilets

Therefore during February, I have also started liaising with the UWE facilities team through the SU to establish more gender neutral toilets in the university. At present, the only gender neutral toilets exist in the SU building and the new X Block. The university has agreed to change any single cubicle gendered toilets around the university into gender neutral toilets. They have also committed to building gender neutral toilets into all new buildings.

As part of the LGBT+ Month campaign and the theme of allyship – working with the university we have developed Trans Awareness posters to be put in toilets across all three campuses. We are encouraging students to respect others’ privacy, identity and continue as normal if they are questioning someone’s right to use a specific bathroom.

This is important because transitioning students may find it hard to adjust to using their preferred gender toilets. This may be due to fear of judgement. Having a bathroom accessible to either gender is a safer option. We are doing everything we can to make the environment for students transitions as comfortable as possible.




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