It's important to highlight the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community have endured in their past, in order to help understand and support the modern community that continues to thrive today. Today we celebrate the life of Mark Ashton, gay rights activist and co-founder of the Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners group.
Throughout this month, we'll be shining the spotlight on the official faces of LGBTQ+ History Month 2021. I want to highlight what was achieved by these important historical figures, who would have not had the recognition and awareness that they originally deserved. I think it is really important to highlight the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community have endured in their past, in order to help understand and support the modern community that continues to thrive today. Even if all people learn is a new name, a definition, or a whole story, then The SU is actively supporting the steps to move forward.
Who is Mark Ashton?
Mark Ashton, born on 19 May 1960, was a British gay rights activist and co-founder of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group. He grew up in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, before moving to London in 1978. Richard Coles, a musician, wrote about this period: "Mark also worked for a while as a barman at the Conservative Club in King’s Cross, or, rather, as a barmaid, in drag, with a blonde beehive wig. I was never sure if the patrons worked out that he was really a man".
After returning from Bangledesh after three months in 1982, he saw the effects of the textile machinery industry. This motivated his decision to volunteer with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, support the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and join the Young Communist League. In 1983, he featured in the Lesbian and Gay Youth Video Project film Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts, an early documentary that won the Grierson Award 1984 for Best Documentary.
Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Ashton was admitted to Guy's Hospital on 30 January 1987 and died 12 days later. This received a significant response from the gay community and, in his memory, the Mark Ashton Trust was created to raise money for individuals living with HIV.