Author Elaine Chambers launches her debut book at London’s legendary LGBTQI bookshop
BY BEATRIZ VASQUES
Queer Angel, published by the crowdfunding platform Unbound, narrates Elaine Chamber’s battle with the British Armed Forces – because of her sexuality.
Chambers, who was a nurse in the British armed forces in the 80s, was sacked from her position for being a lesbian after a five-month investigation into “unnatural conduct”, ultimately culminating in her expulsion.
After the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 after which homosexuality was partially decriminalised, the Armed Forces continued to deem homosexual behaviour illegal.
The author battled for 10 years with Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests in order to be granted access to evidence regarding her case. She then co-founded Rank Outsiders, a group “campaigning for gay men and lesbians to be allowed to serve in the British armed forces”, which provided guidance to many individuals going through similar ordeals.
In 2000, the case was taken to the European Court Of Human Rights. It was then ruled that investigating someone’s sexual orientation breached the right to privacy.
Elaine Chambers told the attendees how penning the book hadn’t been an easy feat:
“This book took me a long time to write. It was put aside because I wasn’t in a good place to write it. At that time, I was still very angry at what had happened and frustrated about the legal process that took us thirteen long years to reach an end.
“It’s actually really good that I only picked it up again quite some years later,” she concluded.
The location of the launch was particularly poignant, Gay’s The Word, which has been running LGBTQI discussion groups for a great number of years and is a significant and historical space for queer people sharing their stories.
Store manager, Jim MacSweeney told DIVA, “The discussion groups are a really important space for those coming in, making their first steps, making friends and talking about ideas.”
Katy Guest, Unbound’s publisher also added of the event, “A story like Elaine’s is unique but also common to lots of people — it has [the powerful] being abusive, it has the [underdog] fighting back, it has triumph over bullying and it’s the greatest story.
“I’m so proud to have published it.”
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