Charleston has an incredible history as a place of self-expression, and the lives and loves of the Bloomsbury Group continue to inspire us today. They were fearless in their thinking about gender and sexuality, and radically accepting in their approach to others. We will continue in this tradition and are taking steps to make Charleston a safe space for everyone.
As an organisation, we define a safe space as a place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed; a place people can occupy without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of their race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability.
At this point in time, we have a particular focus on making Charleston a safe space for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities or expressions. Taking our Orlando at the present time exhibition as the start of a learning journey, we will try new things, learn from one another, and ask for feedback from our museum and gallery visitors. We will undoubtedly make mistakes, but continue to be open to change.
As part of this journey, we are updating our email signatures, toilet signs, the language we use as we greet visitors, as well as the text throughout our website. These are small changes, but they are the start of a larger process.
‘The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark’ (Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse)
As an organisation, as a society, and as individuals, we all have a long way to go in learning about ourselves and about one another. This task will always be ongoing – there will never be a moment of perfect understanding – and we invite anyone who cares about Charleston, or these issues more generally, to join us on this journey. Let us continue creating and embracing opportunities for personal truth and self-expression.
More about Charleston:
Some staff have updated our email signatures, so that people know what pronouns to use when referring to us. We hope that this will help create a welcoming environment. We want to feel comfortable being open about our identities, and for other people to feel comfortable being open with us if they would like to.
Maybe you think that this is unnecessary, as you never have to tell people what pronouns you use. If so, please be mindful that everyone has different experiences and that many people get misgendered – that is, people make incorrect assumptions about their gender or the pronouns they use. These assumptions can be very upsetting.
We would like to raise awareness that the way you perceive someone’s gender might not be correct. You cannot know someone’s gender or what pronouns they use from their name or appearance.
You define your own gender and no one else’s.
For that reason, we are also encouraging staff and visitors not to assume or guess what pronouns a person might use, and to bear in mind that some people use gender neutral pronouns. Asking people what their pronouns are and consistently using them correctly is a basic way to show respect for them and their identities.
‘They’ is a commonly used gender-neutral pronoun. Some people dislike the use of a singular ‘they’; however, it has been around for hundreds of years and has appeared in the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf herself. We think anything good enough for her to use is good enough for us too.
‘The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity. Their faces remained, as their portraits prove, practically the same’ (Virginia Woolf, Orlando).
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would love to hear from you.
Contact Mark Richardson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources for staff and visitors:
Read Charleston’s Equality and Diversity Policy
A one-day conference exploring how historic house museums present and interpret interior spaces.
Come and discover Charleston through this free creative workshop open to all school staff.
Learn the art of block printing with Molly Mahon, with a palette inspired by the colours of the Bloomsbury group.