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After Backlash, 'First Modern Lesbian' to Be Recognized on Plaque


LGBTQ activists were dismayed when Anne Lister was not explicitly called a lesbian in a plaque honoring her legacy.

A plaque honoring 19th-century writer Anne Lister, who has been dubbed "the first modern lesbian," will be amended to directly recognize her queer identity after advocates complained at Holy Trinity Church at York, England, was erasing her sexuality.

Lister, a well-known diarist, and her female partner had exchanged rings and then received communion at the church in 1834, and the plaque, which was unveiled July 24, marked that spot. However, it identified Lister as a "gender-nonconforming entrepreneur" who "celebrated marital commitment without legal recognition, to Ann Walker in this church," reports The Guardian.

"Anne Lister was, most definitely, gender non-conforming all her life. She was also, however, a lesbian. Don't let them erase this iconic woman from our history," read an online petition signed by 2,500 people demanding that the York Civic Trust include the word.

In response, representatives of the trust met with Churches Conservation Trust, York LGBT Forum, and organizers of York LGBT History Month. Together, they decided a draft new wording that soon will be released for the public to review.

"The plaque is intended to be a positive celebration of the union of Anne Lister and Ann Walker, and this remains the case. The last thing we wanted to do was to cause offence or upset to any community," said a statement issued by the York Civic Trust.

"I am very happy that they have realized that lesbian erasure is not acceptable, but I will wait to hear on the final wording before expressing opinion as to that," petition author Julie Furlong told the BBC.

"I am really, really pleased that we've got a permanent plaque to Anne Lister in York. It's incredibly important to have visible memorials to LGBT people," Kit Heyam, who once served as an organizer of York LGBT History Month, told The Guardian.

"It is clear that we made a mistake with the wording. It was made with absolutely the best of intentions, but it is clear that we made a mistake by not consulting on the final wording before casting the plaque."

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