David E. Martinez – D&I Scholarship (2015, LMU)

David Martinez is a Sharif Rahman Memorial Scholarship (Diversity & Inclusivity route) recipient. He studied with FIE London in the Spring of 2015 and developed a presentation as his project involving two components, ‘History of the LGBT Community During the Holocaust’ and ‘London as a Gay Haven’. He currently attends Loyola Marymount University in California. 

Having lived in London for almost three months and being exposed to the culture and community of the city, I am amazed by the inclusion and exposure the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community has. The history that the LGBT community has in museums throughout the city, the film festivals that explore the lives of individual pertaining the community and also the nightlife that celebrates the community is essential to understand and appreciate how rich London is in regards to the gay community.  On the other hand, I found that LGBT community has not always been welcomed and I was interested in looking at when this happened and the repercussions it had for the community.

Martinez Photo 1On the 28th of March, I was present at the National Student Pride 2015 at Winster University. A panel that discussed LGBT in Film and TV took place with the collaboration of Matthew Todd (the Editor Attitude), Dustin Lance Black (Oscar award-winning screenwriter for Milk) Heather Peace and Waterloo Road & Singer Bethany Black, actress Alicya Eyo Emmerdale & Bad Girls and Dominic Treadwell-Collins the Executive Producer on Eastenders. It was interesting to listen to what the commentators had to say in regards of the LGBT community in film and TV, also to discuss why there are not many LGBT representations in mainstream media. Dustin Lance Black mentioned the difference of exposure of these characters in the United Kingdom and the United States and applauded how England has included more accurately the lives of openly gay characters. For example, British films such as “The Imitation Game” and “Pride” which portray British gay characters, their stories in England and how they made a difference in a political and cultural level for the LGBT community in London have had enormous success because of the welcome the international community is giving. The slow but sure transition of mainstream media in the United Kingdom for gay characters exemplifies the notion that the British community is starting to look at these characters with different and open eyes. The LGBT community is being seen as just another human beings, instead of entities exterior to the British Community. And that is an opinion I strongly agree because of my exposure to the LGBT community in London.

My experience as an American Student coming to study abroad in London and having friends among London’s LGBT community I find it interesting in their lifestyle and inclusion they have with other communities. Acquaintances I’ve made are from all over the world, Venezuelan, Swiss, English, Brazilian, Greek, American, French, etc. Their notion of what London represents is exemplified in one sentence: ” London is a city where their sexuality is not seen a factor that determines their character, but in fact, it enhances the diversity London embraces.”  All those different nationalities enrich the experiences those individuals had back home, their openness in regards to discussing their values and also political views just adds more culture depth to what the city has to offer.

The blend of different nationalities in London brings another topic that has been of my interest since 2009 and that is migrating World War 2 victims in London.

Many Holocaust victims shortly after the war ended in 1945 found refuge in England and European countries, but when it came to homosexual victims no details or recollection were gathered about their stories. In fact, I was surprised by the lack of information in the British Museum and also the Imperial War Museum. There are representations of art and stories about the LGBT community back in the 70s and 80s but post-war information is lacking. My research on victims of the Holocaust did not fulfill my expectations, although found information on many victims that found “asylum” in France or stayed in Germany.

A gay British character that has received attention since last year is Alan Turing. Last January, I went to see a film centered on his life called “The Imitation Game” at the ODEON Cinemas and made me more aware of how gay men were treated after World War 2 in England. The reason why there was no information about homosexuals after the war was because it was still illegal in the country to be gay.  Turing was a British mathematician who deciphered with his team the German code ENIGMA that made England and the United States won World War 2. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted by the British legal system and was castrated after London’s police department found out he was having affairs with men, and later that prompted for Turing to commit suicide. This is a clear example where England did not treat well or fair their homosexual community and that had repercussions in the community; homosexual victims who came to England after the war did not talk about their experiences in camps or Nazi regime because they were not allowed to talk about it.

Martinez Photo 2

Visiting Student National Pride Festival and seeing some booths that were dedicated to inform people about a proposal really made me think of all the progress that the British community is doing to amend the bigotry going out in those years.  The bill that is being passed by is for Queen Elizabeth to give a pardon to every single gay man that was prosecuted during the 50s and 60s across the United Kingdom. The labour party is backing up this bill that would eventually become “Turing Law.” As of now, the bill is gathering support but not official statement from the Queen’s has been given.

I find it essential to make every student coming from any country to see London as a bridge to find paths that could lead to change in a positive way. By making a portfolio with information about how England has moved forward when it comes to the LGBT community and also how the international student community sees London as a main point for the LGBT community is my project, which is below. The main reason why I have been researching and participating in events of the LGBT is that I feel frustrated at the lack of information that our generation has when it comes to unheard stories such as Turing’s. I truly believe that by being informed my generation will not commit the same mistakes when it comes to human rights. Homosexual legal discrimination in Russia and Middle Eastern countries are examples that still to this day the LGBT community needs help and the best tool is to stay informed and actively participate to halt the behavior that those governments are causing to a community that is present in today’s society.

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