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  • Writer's pictureLGBT+ Lit Fest

Between Identity and Pain

I was brought to tears as I stood in front of a physical representation of the anger and frustration I feel when my friends are attacked by the media and through UK Government policy.

Content Warnings: Discussion of transphobia, physical violence and physical abilities, and slight nudity.

By Charlie Roberts

Towards the end of 2023, I stayed in Osnabrück, Germany - a small town, with limited tourist attractions. However, I did get lost in the emotions and significance of the Felix Nussbaum and Artistic Resistance exhibit at the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus. Recently, I have visited a number of art galleries, but this was the first time I understood the power of art as a form of political expression and dissent.

Each piece evoked a range of emotions deep inside and I felt the power of the works in front of me. Unlike other art I’ve seen, I didn’t want to take the projects home and use them to decorate my living room, I wanted to place them outside 10 Downing Street and force the Cabinet to engage with the pain expressed and end the current far-right policies which engulf the UK.

One piece, in particular, stood out to me. It is the first sculpture on display as you enter the gallery. When I saw it, I did not feel sadness, I felt awe. I was in awe that someone else had fulfilled my angriest of daydreams: Punching and kicking out all their queer rage.

The sculpture is imposing and very moving. As you stand beside it, you can see foot and handprints from the punches and kicks; the anger and pain exudes from the piece. And you know, as you look at this huge block of bronze - a mold of the clay used in the performance - just how much effort it takes to push so deeply into clay. (In fact, Cassils talks about the training required to complete the piece here.)

Further into the museum, photos ('Becoming an Image') were on display, beside a TV screen playing 'Monument Push'. The effort required to create 'The Resilience…' was emphasised and depicted as Cassils beat the clay. Their body in physical tension and strain; their face in pain from years of abuse being pushed and forced onto the clay; their semi-naked body displaying the beauty of trans bodies.

As I stared at 'The Resilience…', and the 'Monument Push', my pain was reflected. The sculpture, the performance and the film manifested the abuse so many queer/LGBT+ people experience, often daily. I was brought to tears as I stood in front of a physical representation of the anger and frustration I feel when my friends are attacked by the media and through UK Government policy (sadly, things have not improved since my last blog post - see below).

I love being queer. I love how free and honest the community allows me to be. My queer friends from across the LGBT+ spectrum mean more to me than I can ever express. But there is an unfortunate pain that comes with accepting your identity. You are free to be yourself, and the price you pay is to watch people you will never meet decide who you can marry; your access to healthcare; erase your history from the textbooks.

Human identity is everything. We cannot be without it, and it is disgusting to watch the media question its validity. I know that I am lucky, because I am “just” Bi+. I straight-pass. My mum loves to hear about the queer events I attend. But this doesn’t mean I’m not angry. All the love and acceptance I have from my immediate circle does close my eyes to the reality for so many of my queer/LGBT+ siblings across the world, in my hometown, and in my friendship circle.

Cassils put that into art. It was there, it had been pushed out. And I was in awe to behold 'The Resilience….' I hope Cassils found it cathartic to create.


The UK government has recently published draft guidance for schools and colleges, 'Gender Questioning Children.’ There is currently an open consultation that anyone in the UK can respond to. The consultation closes at 11:59pm on 12 March 2024. This "guidance" is dangerous and does not support trans people. It actively encourages schools to breach anti-discrimination laws. We can stop it. Please, if you can, take the time to read and respond here.

Helpfully, LGBT+ charities and organisations, such as Stonewall, have published their responses, which can be used for yours. I used this commentary to help complete mine, from a legal perspective.

Charlie is one of the volunteers with LGBT+ Lit Fest. Her passions are reading feminist discourse and LGBT+ literature, and drinking tea.

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