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Male homosexuality in Britain from Wolfenden to Gay Liberation

Odd Men Out is a social, cultural and political history of gay men living in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s. It covers the period from the circumstances leading up to the appointment of the Wolfenden Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in 1954 to the emergence of the British Gay Liberation Front in the early 1970s. It looks at contemporary public, political and legal attitudes towards male homosexuality and gay men. It also focuses on the emergence of gay identities, the opening up and limitations of social spaces and contacts, the operation of the law, and the legal reform process up to and beyond the partial decriminalisation of adult male homosexuality in 1967. The book draws on a wealth of source material from archives, newspapers, magazines, memoirs, diaries, oral histories, interviews, television broadcasts, radio programmes, films and plays. It also includes interviews with social and political commentators, writers, directors, actors and others about their recollections and experiences during the period.

How the personal got political
Author:

This book demonstrates how the personal became political in post-war Britain, and argues that attention to gay activism can help us to rethink fundamentally the nature of post-war politics. While the Left were fighting among themselves and the reformists were struggling with the limits of law reform, gay men started organising for themselves, first individually within existing organisations and later rejecting formal political structures altogether. Gay activists intersected with Trotskyism, Stalinism, the New Left, feminism and youth movements. As the slogan of the Gay Liberation Front proclaimed, ‘Come out, come together and change the world’. Culture, performance and identity took over from economics and class struggle, as gay men worked to change the world through the politics of sexuality. Throughout the post-war years, the new cult of the teenager in the 1950s, CND and the counter-culture of the 1960s, gay liberation, feminism, the Punk movement and the miners' strike of 1984 all helped to build a politics of identity. When AIDS and Thatcherism impacted on gay men's lives in the 1980s, gay politics came into its own. There is an assumption among many of today's politicians that young people are apathetic and disengaged. This book argues that these politicians are looking in the wrong place. People now feel that they can impact the world through the way in which they live, shop, have sex and organise their private lives. The book shows that gay men and their politics have been central to this change in the post-war world.

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Lucy Robinson

against the successes and failures of the previous ones. The Deviant’s Mick Farren acknowledged, ‘[j]ust as the punks slagged off us old hippies in the late 70s, so ten years earlier we set about our CND elders’.11 Each new activist group distanced themselves from some elements of the past whilst representing themselves as the true heir to others. For example, in the 1990s Outrage! presented itself as the inheritor of the Gay Liberation Front’s torch, whilst at the same time distancing itself from the Front’s attempt at alliances with sections of the Trotskyite Left

in Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain
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The making of a queer marketplace in pre-decriminalisation Britain
Justin Bengry

adopted in Britain with the organisation of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970. 49 Among queer men and others in the know, however, it was used to reference homosexuality even in the UK for at least the previous two decades. 50 Films and Filming editors and readers appear to have known and exploited the word’s ambiguities. A still from the 1958 film Bachelor of Hearts showing Hardy Kruger on the ground appearing to peer up the shorts of a fellow rugby player is suggestively captioned ‘Gay Time’. And among many others to use the term, ‘2 gay bachelors, early 20s

in British queer history
Sarah Browne

activism.9 These groups provided an important context to the emerging WLM, creating a radical political milieu in which protest methods and ideas were exchanged, and action was taken in solidarity. Central to these discussions was a focus on the personal aspects of politics, such as sexuality. For example the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) emerged in Britain in the early 1970s. It challenged existing reformist organisations by demanding that society should change its understanding and treatment of homosexuals, rather than homosexuals changing their lifestyles to fit in with

in The women’s liberation movement in Scotland
Praxis, protest and performance
Lucy Robinson

harassment, sparked off by the emotions surrounding Judy Garland’s funeral. Images of resisters in drag can-canning in front of the police caught the imagination of the time on both sides of the Atlantic; the riots became a rallying point from which to organise a progressive lesbian and gay movement. The New York Gay Liberation Front was formed in direct response to the riots and the Christopher Street Liberation Day, held on the first anniversary of the riots, later developed into the Gay Pride marches in New York and San Francisco that grew to mass levels during the 1970s

in Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain
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From Gay Left Collective to Greater London Council, paedophile identity and the state of the Left
Lucy Robinson

with gay politics was with a group that saw the politics of class as inseparable from those of sexuality. This was consolidated in his early career in local politics. When the Gay Liberation Front opened up their centre in Brixton, he became its GLC councillor. He had defended residents who were unfairly dismissed from local authority jobs over their sexuality, made speeches in defence of Gay News and stated publicly that he believed human nature to be naturally bisexual.162 As head of the GLC Ken Livingstone pledged to fight anti-gay discrimination; turning his

in Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain
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Rebecca Jennings

interpretation as a precursor to Gay Liberation movement politics. Evidence of encounters between members of the earlier lesbian communities, such as the Gateways night-club, and Gay Liberation Front activists, in 1971, indicate that the two political cultures were profoundly antithetical. Nevertheless, this evidence reconfigures our understanding of post-war sexual cultures as apolitical, demonstrating that issues of sexual deviance were hotly debated by lesbians and homosexual men in the post-war decades, against the backdrop of a vibrant social scene. These debates were not

in Tomboys and bachelor girls
Tommy Dickinson

5 Liberation, 1957–1974 Many members of the GLF [Gay Liberation Front] can testify to the ineffectiveness of aversion therapy in reorientation of their sexual desires and to the totally destructive effect [this] has had on their personality and adjustment. Our plan, therefore, is for homosexuals seeking advice from you to be given reassurances from you that they are fully capable of living a full, worthwhile and happy life and that many other men and women are doing just that. This positive attitude substituted for attempts to provide treatment and cure will

in ‘Curing queers’
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Rebecca Jennings

Liberation movement, No Bath But Plenty of Bubbles, and Sarah Green’s analysis of lesbian feminist collectives in London in the 1980s.19 Developments in gay politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s – centring around the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in the US, and the subsequent formation of the Gay Liberation Front – produced a new brand of lesbian and gay politics dependent on the principle of gay visibility as both a tool and a gauge of the success of its cause. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has discussed the importance of the ‘closet’ and its opposite ‘coming out’ as a paradigm

in Tomboys and bachelor girls