Category Archives: LGBT History 2017

LGBT+ History: Mark Rees

Mark Rees, Transman

In 1987, Mark Rees, a trans-man, brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights, stating that UK law prevented him from gaining legal status recognising him as male. The case was lost but the court noted the seriousness of the issues facing trans people.  His campaigning work eventually led to the formation of Press for Change, an organisation seeking rights and equality for all Trans* people in the UK.

You can read the full case notes here:  He did a podcast where he talks about his life here and you can read an article about him taking the case to court here although the first part gives more of an insight into his early life.

His story revolves around the church refusing him ordination as his baptism certificate stated he was female which the church disallowed ordination to.  This prompted him to launch a legal challenge as one had previously been heard by the European Court of Human Rights on the same issue.  Although the case was denied the courts admitted that their was a case to be had.  This was one of the catalysts to later lead to the implementation of the Gender Recognition Act.

LGBT+ History: Supporting the miners

1986: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) campaign is launched in support of striking workers during the miners’ strikes of 1984 and 1985.  These events were recreated in the film PRIDE (2014)

The LGSM group did not cease to have a purpose after the strike ended as to an extent is still going albeit as a Facebook group(link) and with just seven of the original members left.  It is important to not forget that the miners groups themselves were also playing a major part and with the reforming of the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valley Miners’ Support Group (1) both groups have been very close in supporting each other 30 years on.

The LGSM sister group, Lesbians Against Pit Closures, did not reform but is instead honoured as still being a part of the LGSM history according to the LGSM website.

LGBT+ History: Chris Smith

Maureen Colquhoun (left), Chris Smith (right)

In 1984 Chris Smith, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, speaks about his sexual orientation and becomes the first openly gay MP.  His announcement at a rally in Rugby was met by a standing ovation.

He was not, the first MP to out themselves as 10 years earlier Maureen Colquhoun came out as the first lesbian MP.  She was notorious for being very outspoken, and as a result of her “obsession with women’s rights” was deselected losing her seat in 1979.

LGBT+ History: events of 1982 into 1983

1982 Following laws in England, Wales and Scotland.  The Homosexual Offences Order decriminalises sex between two men over the age of 21 ‘in private’ in Northern Ireland.


Terry Higgins died of AIDS in St. Thomas’ Hospital, one of the first people to be identified as having AIDS in the UK, which had only been formerly identified as a disease the previous year.  His bereaved friends and partner set up the Terry Higgins Trust (which changed name to the Terrence Higgins Trust to sound more formal), which became the UK’s first charity focussing on AIDS, HIV and safer sex.

1983 Amid the hysteria of the AIDS crisis the CDC highlighted which groups were affected, including Men who have sex with men, amongst others, and resulted in being persecuted as fear of the disease spreads.  The following extract from a New York government report sums up the reactions of the time.

1983 By January 7, 1983, all of the major routes of transmission had been identified and reported by the CDC.1-5, 8-11 Transfusion-associated infections, and infections among children, led to heightened public concern. As the epidemic advanced, fear, ignorance, prejudice, homophobia, cultural stereotypes and racism were pervasive and stigmatized not only those who were infected
but also those who were believed to be infected, most specifically members of groups identified by the CDC as being at highest risk: homosexual men, Haitians, intravenous drug users and
hemophiliacs. Among the consequences were: social isolation; discrimination; loss of employment; prohibitions against blood donation; denial of medical care; and lack of access to services.

LGBT+ History: Scotland’s decriminalisation/ first UK AIDS case

1980 Sex between two men over the age of 21 ‘in private’ is decriminalised in Scotland.  Homosexual activities were legalised in Scotland  — on the same basis as that which was used for the 1967 Act in England and Wales — by Section 80 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 1980.

80 Homosexual offences

—(i) Subject to the provisions of this section, a homosexual act in private shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of twenty-one years.

(2)An act which would otherwise be treated for the purposes of this Act as being done in private shall not be so treated if done—

(a)when more than two persons take part or are present or

(b)in a lavatory to which the public have, or are permitted to have, access whether on payment or otherwise

1981 The first UK case of AIDS was recorded when a 49-year-old man was admitted to Brompton Hospital in London suffering from PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). He died ten days later. He had lost weight over three months and suffered three weeks’ general malaise and progressive breathlessness.

The first concerns were raised in the US as described in the following extract from a CDC report;

A review of requests for pentamidine had documented that PCP in the United States was almost exclusively limited to patients with cancer or other conditions or treatments known to be associated with severe immunosuppression (3). Recent requests for this drug from physicians in New York and California to treat PCP in patients with no known cause of immunodeficiency had sparked the attention of Division staff.

An article from 1981 speculates about the causes of what would become the AIDS epidemic.

“Dr Jaffe,[said] the epidemic may be due to a new and previously unrecognised strain of an infectious agent – possibly comparable with Legionnaires’ disease. This agent may or may not be a virus. He added: “We have no evidence at the moment that it is transmitted from person to person, but this is something we are concerned about.” In recent months, British specialists have become increasingly interested in US developments, and current speculation in medical circles is about when, rather than whether, further PCP and the first KS cases will turn up here. “We have to be careful not to be alarmist,” a London doctor closely involved said last week. “The numbers we are talking about are very small. But I think this problem is going to become a large one.”

LGBT+ History: The Gay Christian Movement

The Gay Christian Movement was founded in April 1976 at a public meeting at the Sir John Cass School in the City of London, and later changed its name to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

In 1976 the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement was founded at St Botolph’s and through the 1980s and 1990s St Botolph’s was a safe space for those who had been excluded from other churches because of their sexuality. Fortunately in the last decade other churches have become much more welcoming to LGBT people. The church continues to be a place where LGBT are welcomed as an integral part of our community. (source)

Needing a new home they moved to Oxford house, a Settlement project in Bethnal Green. After staying there for 25 years, they decided to leave London and relocated to a new home in Nottinghamshire.

Now the Movement includes LGBT+ and allies amongst its members, and also welcomes those of different faiths, or none, to work towards shared goals.

LGBT+ History: London Switchboard

1974  London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, a London-based information and support helpline, is established in March.

Originally setup to support men coming out after the partial decriminalisation of male Homosexuality and signpost to the newly formed ‘gay scene’.  In the 1980’s the organisation extended its remit to try and educate people on the AIDs epidemic, which led to some of the volunteers going on to setup other organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust and The National Aids Manual.

In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of congratulations on their 40th anniversary, the first time that the British Monarchy has acknowledged and supported the LGBT+ community so publicly.

Switchboard rebranded to its current name and logo in 2015, to recognise that its services are not limited to London, and to include people from all sexual orientations and gender identities.

LGBT+ History: First British Gay Rights Conference

1973 The Campaign for Homosexual Equality held the first British Gay Rights conference in Morecambe, Lancashire.  Its second annual conference, held in 1974 in Malvern, “signalled a formal coalescence between the separate strands represented by GLF (Gay Liberation Front) and CHE (Campaign for Homosexual Equality), and CHE’s formal commitment to a policy of militant reformism.

Friend was set up in London in 1971 as a CHE taskforce intended to become CHE’s counselling arm, by the end of the year Friend had become a national befriending and counselling organisation.  As the London based organisation began to spread, the whole network was known as National Friend, with branches in most major cities in the UK.

Derbyshire LGBT+ originally started as Derby Friend back in 1983, as part of the National Friend network.

LGBT+ History: First London PRIDE

1972 The first Pride is held in London, attracting approximately 2,000 participants.  Peter Tatchell was one of the organisers and he released a video showing the history of Pride on Youtube(below) several months ago.  The video had commentaries from several people involved at the time, and describes the challenges faced and how they had to be overcome to start what is now a popular annual event with people of all sexualities.

London’s 2015 Gay Pride Parade through the streets of London attracted 1 million people making it the 7th largest gay event in the world and the largest Gay Pride Parade and Gay event ever held in the UK.

LGBT+ History: The GLF

Bob Mellors, c1969 LSE\Student File\Mellors

Bob Mellors c1969

1970 In the UK, the GLF (Gay Liberation Front)  had its first meeting in the basement of the London School of Economics on 13 October 1970. Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter had seen the effect of the GLF in the United States and created a parallel movement based on revolutionary politics.

“… if we are to succeed in transforming our society we must persuade others of the merits of our ideas, and there is no way we can achieve this if we cannot even persuade those most affected by our oppression to join us in fighting for justice.  We do not intend to ask for anything. We intend to stand firm and assert our basic rights. If this involves violence, it will not be we who initiate this, but those who attempt to stand in our way to freedom.”