This book demonstrates a fruitful cross-fertilisation of ideas between British queer history and art history. It engages with self-identified lesbians and with another highly important source for queer history: oral history. The book highlights the international dimension of what to date has been told as a classic British tale of homosexual law reform and also illuminates the choices made and constraints imposed at the national level. It embarks on a queer critical history, arguing for the centrality, in John Everett Millais's life-writing, of the strange-to-us category of unconventionality. The book aims to expose the queer implications of celebrity gossip writing. It offers a historical analysis of the link between homosexual men and gossip by examining the origins of the gossip column in the British tabloid press in the three decades after 1910. The book provides an overview of the emergence and consolidation of a number of new discourses of homosexuality as a social practice in postwar Britain. It explores a British variant on homophile internationalism before and immediately after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act by mapping Grey's cross-border connections while noting strain against transnational solidarity. The book focuses on evidence collected by the 1977 Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship to illustrate how gay men conceptualised the place of pornography in their lives and its role in the broader struggle for the freedom.
-ageist, antiablist, anti-sizeist, pro-feminist and sex-positive orientation. 7
This collection of essays starts from the premise that, in spite of its problems and limitations, queer is indeed a useful category of analysis for students of modern British history and sexuality, both as a big-tent term and because it builds on a body of recent scholarship that differs in significant ways from the pioneering gay and lesbian history of the 1970s. But, like the 2010 conference on ‘BritishQueerHistory’ at McGill University from which it arises, it avoids prescription, imposes
positioning, I want to explore what the critical history she envisages might look like. Thinking queer represents my attempt to work through the implications of ‘queerness-as-method’ – initially as historiographical critique, and then through a more speculative reading of two life-stories as a way of rethinking interwar British society. 2
My focus is thus twofold. First, thinking queer provides a point of engagement with that burgeoning historiography (including my own work) on male same-sex relations that Chris Waters terms the ‘New BritishQueerHistory’. This
in this volume. The chapter grew out of a symposium I co-organised with Joanne Meyerowitz at Yale University in 2008, ‘Social Science and the Construction of Modern Sexuality’, and I am grateful to Joanne and the other symposium participants for helping me frame these ideas. Earlier versions of this chapter were presented in 2010 at a symposium on homosexuality in postwar Europe at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University; at the Simpson Center, University of Washington; and at the conference ‘BritishQueerHistory’ at McGill University. I would like to
The homophile internationalism of Britain’s Homosexual Law Reform Society
comparative frameworks therefore remain important – not least in attempting to test Grey’s policy claims – but Britishqueerhistory still has much to gain from the transnational turn. In the case of HLRS we could certainly move beyond the social and political pulls of the COC, ONE and Kameny to consider cross-border flows of capital (although Grey apparently met little success tapping US foundations), social contact (with hundreds of ordinary men and women across the world corresponding with Grey, though without being put in touch with each other), information (the
This chapter describes the particular developments associated with the publication of Him Exclusive, Him International and Him Monthly and highlights the cultural work that pornography did for gay men in the 1970s. It focuses on both the prosecution of gay-oriented book sellers and publishers by legal officials in the mid-970s and critiques of pornography that were generated by members of the gay left. The chapter explores how various agents of the state, charged with enforcing British censorship laws, sought to police not only the boundaries of propriety but also the expression of queer political sensibilities and subjectivities. It also focuses on evidence collected by the 1977 Williams Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship to illustrate how gay men conceptualised the place of pornography in their lives and its role in the broader struggle for the freedom.
Society gossip, homosexuality and the logic of revelation in the interwar popular press
This chapter aims to expose the queer implications of celebrity gossip writing. Celebrity gossip writing began as an Edwardian dandy's occupation. The British popular press gossip was a mass-media version of the arch dandy circulating in aristocratic and bohemian circles, a standard figure in British society since the days of Beau Brummell. Some of the gossip writers who would later look for work on Fleet Street sharpened their teeth writing for the Oxford aesthete journal Isis. Gossip writers, like candid photographers whose skill at capturing embarrassing behaviour on camera was called upon extensively in the early and mid-1930s, provided testimonial evidence of the less than savoury aspects of celebrity life. Godfrey Winn faced the discrimination from some of the more bigoted newspapermen that most homosexual journalists in Britain faced, but that seemed to have no negative effect on his success as a gossip writer.
The making of a queer marketplace in pre-decriminalisation Britain
In 1966, David McGillivray contacted the Films and Filming editor Peter Baker asking for the opportunity to write for the magazine. Long before homosexual activity between consenting men was partially decriminalised in Britain in 1967, Films and Filming included articles and images, erotically charged commercial advertisements and same-sex contact ads that established its queer leanings. In response to Philip Dosse's financial straits, editorial decisions were consciously based in part on accessing a potential homosexual market. Dosse recognised that a nascent market of culturally literate and cosmopolitan queer men with disposable incomes was appearing in Britain and abroad. The sociologist and historian Jeffrey Weeks has written, in fact, that 'gay' was only widely adopted in Britain with the organisation of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970. Films and Filming editors and readers appear to have known and exploited the word's ambiguities.
This chapter describes the genealogy of the heterosexual in relation to its counterpart by looking closely at two distinctive but interconnected systems: sexology and marital advice literature. As a great classificatory project, sexology turns an undifferentiated sexual nature into multiple essences we now term sexual identities. Practising the scientific method of 'close and careful observation', Stella Browne believes her cases 'are absolutely distinguishable from affectionate friendship' and 'episodical homosexuality'. In the closing months of the First World War, sex reformers and sex educators actively developed and disseminated a scientific knowledge of sex by drawing on the work of Havelock Ellis and others. Using the sexological framework to impose order and substance on the messiness of human sexuality, Browne uses the case study method to produce a knowable sexual subject against its nameable opposite.
The end of the twentieth century research on postwar British lesbian life and culture has commonly focused on themes such as socialising and the creation of networks, especially the lesbian bar scene and lesbian social organisations. This chapter aims to open a small window on to the obscured area of postwar lesbian domesticity. It draws a distinction between what can usefully be termed hetero-domesticity and homo-domesticity. Analysis of case studies from across the range of experience reveals the impact of available models of hetero-domesticity on the ways in which narrators envisioned and created domestic spaces to foster and live out lesbian relationships. Penelope and Nina speak evocatively about the restrictiveness they imagined would come with hetero-domesticity. In both Laura's and Mira's cases former hetero-domesticity poses a threat to the continuity of their narrative trajectories and their presentation of themselves as out and 'composed' lesbian women.