The First LGBT Memorial in the UK Goes to Britain’s 'First Modern Lesbian'

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Anne Lister, a 19th-century businesswoman, traveler, and lesbian has been honored with a rainbow plaque at the Holy Communion Church in York where she symbolically married her wife in 1834. 

Commonly referred to now as Britain’s “first modern lesbian” and in her time as “Gentleman Jack,” Lister kept a series of diaries that recorded her daily life. But when a coded section was cracked for the second time in the 1980s after being discovered and hidden by a family member in the 1800s, her many same-sex love affairs were revealed.  

Lister’s history is “enormously significant because she is one of the first people for whom there is documentary evidence of what she saw as a queer marriage. She also saw no conflict between her Christian faith and her sexuality. And an important part of her legacy was her gender non-conformity,” Kit Heyam, one of the activists who campaigned for the plaque, said to the Guardian.

Lister’s diaries were recognized as a “pivotal document” in British history by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2011. They were also added to the Memory of the World Register, which documents heritage of “world significance,” UNESCO’s website says. 


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