Rainbow Trail

Rainbow Trail

Welcome to the Rainbow Trail, which explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture.

This trail was designed by Natalie McGrath and Dr Jana Funke (University of Exeter) together with young LGBTQIA+ people from the X-Plore Youth Group and Exeter College’s LGBTQ+ Society.

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RAMM trail Map

Mother goddess figurine

Mother goddess figurine

Mother goddess figurine
(Object 1 of 9)

Can you spot the ceramic figurine of a headless person nursing two children? It shows a fertility goddess, the Dea Nutrix.

What does this figurine represent?
What purpose did it serve?

Such figures have been interpreted as remnants of pre-Greek and pre-Roman matriarchal societies that were focused on women and that were erased by later patriarchal societies structured around men.
Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), a British classicist and feminist who had several relationships with other women, developed this argument.

What would history look like if it were written from the perspective of cisgender and transgender women? Or non-binary people?

Formal gown

Formal gown

Formal gown
(Object 2 of 9)

Look for an elaborate formal gown made of hand-painted Chinese silk.

In Ryan Murphy's television show Pose (2018), a group of friends steal royal costumes from a museum to use in their drag acts. The show depicts the New York ball scene of the 1980s, a flourishing subculture created by Black and Latino trans and queer people. Legendary black queens like Pepper LaBeija (1948-2003) or Venus Xtravaganza (1965-1988) were famous for their grand costumes and often drew inspiration from history to craft
their own performances.

Which objects from the museum would you use in your own drag show?

Longcase clocks

Longcase clocks

Longcase clocks
(Object 3 of 9)

Time along with same-sex desire, art and beauty are key themes in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), a novel by Irish author Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Dorian does not age and enjoys seemingly eternal youth.

How have age and ageing
affected your identity?

In 1895, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency with men, leading to two years of hard labour, which sadly destroyed his health. His work lives on and has inspired
generations of writers, theatre, film and TV makers.

Do you know when male homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK?

Second World War Anderson shelter

Second World War Anderson shelter

Second World War Anderson shelter
(Object 4 of 9)

Stop at the air raid shelter.

The Second World War and the Blitz are central to The Night Watch (2006), a historical novel by English author Sarah Waters (born in 1966). Set in the 1940s,
it charts the lives of three lesbian characters, Kay, Helen and Julia. During the night watch, liaisons are made and love is forged amidst the sounds of bombs falling.

An earlier novel, The Well of Loneliness (1928), by English writer Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943), similarly describes how queer people find love at the front during the First World War.

Why do many lesbian novelists write historical fiction?

Tailfin of an incendiary bomb

Tailfin of an incendiary bomb

Tailfin of an incendiary bomb
(Object 5 of 9)

Explore other objects related to The Second World War.

Mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) played a key role in developing the Enigma machine during The Second World War. His work was pivotal in cracking the German's codes, thus enabling the Allies to win the war. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for
homosexual acts and underwent chemical castration, which led to his premature death. He was awarded a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

Do you think it is enough for Turing to be “pardoned”?

How would our understanding of history change if we knew more about the contributions of LGBTQIA+ people?

Blue morpho butterfly

Blue morpho butterfly

Blue morpho butterfly
(Object 6 of 9)

Have a look at the beautiful display of butterflies.

Why are butterflies often used as a symbol by the LGBTQIA+ community?

In 1915, German-born American biologist Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958) coined the term intersex. He had discovered that moths (Lymantria dispar) could be bred to combine typically male and female physical characteristics.

Nowadays, the term intersex is used to refer to people who are born with sex characteristics (such as chromosomes or hormonal structures) that cannot strictly be classified as male or female. Such variations of sex characteristics occur naturally and, in most cases, do not require medical intervention.

Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose
(Object 7 of 9)

Find the Egyptian goose.

The protagonist of Orlando (1928), a novel by English author Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), is assigned male at birth in the 16th century. Aged about 30, they magically transition physically and live as a woman for several centuries.
Orlando repeatedly chases after a mysterious goose without capturing it.

What can Orlando teach us about gender?

The book is a playful biography of Woolf 's lover, the writer Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962). Sackville-West was bisexual
and identified as masculine and feminine. After reading Orlando, Sackville-West wondered: “What does the goose stand for? Fame? Love? Death? Marriage?“

What is Orlando chasing?

Effigy bottle

Effigy bottle

Effigy bottle
(Object 8 of 9)

Look for an object shaped like a badger with a lizard on its back.

A Zuni artist made this vessel. The Zuni people have lived in the American Southwest for thousands of years.

We'wha (1849-1896) was a famous Zuni artist whose pottery was celebrated across America. We'wha was Lhamana, the Zuni term for individuals who are assigned male at birth and identify (at least partly) as female. Lhamana individuals are respected in Zuni society.

Nowadays, the term Two-Spirit is used to describe gender diverse identities specific to some Native American communities.

Can you find other objects by Zuni artists nearby?

Shiva and Parvati Maharashtra

Shiva and Parvati Maharashtra

Shiva and Parvati Maharashtra
(Object 9 of 9)

Look for the figurine of Shiva and Parvati in the display case opposite the green robe

Shiva and Parvati are two married Hindu deities. They are sometimes depicted as a single god, Ardhanari, who is half-male and half-female.

Ardhanari has special significance for Indian Hijra communities.

Hijras are individuals who identify as female and who were assigned male at birth or born intersex. Hijra communities were criminalised under British colonial rule.

How does colonialism affect gender and sexually diverse people across the globe?

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My Rainbow Trail Notes

Rainbow Trail

Rainbow Trail

Welcome to the Rainbow Trail, which explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture.

This trail was designed by Natalie McGrath and Dr Jana Funke (University of Exeter) together with young LGBTQIA+ people from the X-Plore Youth Group and Exeter College’s LGBTQ+ Society.

Welcome to the Rainbow Trail, which explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture.

This trail was designed by Natalie McGrath and Dr Jana Funke (University of Exeter) together with young LGBTQIA+ people from the X-Plore Youth Group and Exeter College’s LGBTQ+ Society.

  1. Introduction
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