LGBT Heroes #2
February is LGBTQ+ History Month:
This is the second in a series of articles about LGBTQIA+ heroes – individuals whose lives have been inspirational in the struggle for recognition of the right for every individual to enjoy and celebrate their chosen identity.
Graphics by Abena Akuffo-Kelly – Teacher and Councillor.
Words kindly contributed by Dean Fudge – Educator.
Rose Robertson (28 Oct 1916 – 10 Aug 2011)
Growing up in working class Deptford during the 1920s, Rose Robertson had it hard. Her father was often away at sea and her mother held an unjustifiable, life-long disdain for Rose that made things particularly bleak. Twice Robertson ran away from home in an attempt to join groups of itinerant entertainers.
During the war Robertson was a Special Operations Executive, parachuted into Nazi occupied France to spy on German operations. She was also a courier and liaised between the French Resistance and the Allied Army. Her pre-operation training was psychologically intense and caused severe distress, she rarely spoke about her wartime experiences.
Whilst an SOE, Robertson witnessed two men embracing! Upon questioning the men, Robertson heard tales of family rejection and prejudices.
She heard similar tales when she took in gay lodgers during the 1960s. Robertson found affiliation with the community and decided to take action.
In 1965 Robertson set up Parent Enquiry, a helpline supporting parents of LGBT+ children. Many parents were angry, ashamed and confused; some were hostile or violent towards their children; occasionally they were violent towards Robertson herself. As a heterosexual, middle-aged woman, Robertson found success in mediating between homophobic parents and their LGBT+ offspring.
Robertson refused payment for her work, instead funding her charity through her salary and, later, her pension.
She too faced prejudice; abusive phone calls peppered the legitimate ones; arson attacks, hate mail and excrement delivered through the post or smeared on her doorstep.
She continued to work with marginalised people throughout her life, dying peacefully in her sleep aged 94.
Her legacy lives on through the work of FFLAG, an organisation dedicated to supporting “A world free from ignorance and prejudice about sexuality and gender identity in which LGBT+ people are valued and respected.“