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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.

When 15-year-old Louis McPhail from the Isle of Lewis could not get his hands on his favourite newspaper cartoons in early September 1957, he did not at first understand why. ‘All of a sudden the blooming Daily Record s were going on top of the larder, right at the top’, he recalled. ‘When my mother was out I stood on an enamel bread bin and I reached the very top and I took down the Daily Record . It was all about homosexuality. It was the Wolfenden Report, and it was my first contact with the word “homosexual

in Odd men out
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approved the policy – in part to ‘dispose of any risk of political criticism likely to arise from a rejection of the recommendation’. 9 During the Commons debate on the Wolfenden Report in November 1958, Ben Parkin, the Labour MP for Paddington North, asked if homosexuals in prison might be allowed ‘the little relief which modern drugs and hormones might give’. In response, Home Office minister David Renton announced: ‘I am glad to say that the Wolfenden recommendation on such treatment is being implemented

in Odd men out
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Rebecca Jennings

British lesbian communities of this period point to a different interpretation, indicating that they incorporated a distinct political ideology which focused its claim to citizenship on the right to privacy or freedom of personal expression in the private sphere. In a similar argument to that made by Peter Wildeblood in his 1955 account of homosexuality, and by the Wolfenden Report’s proposed legal reforms, these communities represented lesbians as ‘ordinary’ people with a right to express their emotional orientation in private.2 However, this political message resists

in Tomboys and bachelor girls
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Source: Wolfenden Report * Defined as sexual intercourse ‘per anum’ between a man and a man, woman or beast † Courts sitting at intervals in each county of England and Wales to administer civil and criminal law. In 1972 the civil jurisdiction of assizes was transferred to the High Court and

in Odd men out
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Homosexuality is nowadays so fashionable a topic of conversation that many people must wonder just where it thrives in such remarkable profusion. Anthony Rowley, Axle Spokes , 4, 1963 In the summer of 1960 the outlook for homosexual law reform looked bleak. On 29 June the House of Commons voted decisively against adopting the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report. Out of 312 MPs, only 99 (32%) wanted the

in Odd men out
Louise A. Jackson

sooner men would grasp the fact that it was they who must learn to control themselves. Meanwhile the Inspector trained her women in a scrupulous fairness in their dealings with all street walkers, while waging vigilant warfare for the protection of young 178 women, sexuality and the law people and the frustration of pimps, procurers and all other parasites who exploit frailties of human kind.46 The sketch aimed to outline the beat policing of the 1940s, although it was, significantly, published just after the Wolfenden Report.47 Peto was clearly contrasting the

in Women police
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Law reform, homosexual identity and the role of counter-culture
Lucy Robinson

a similar relationship between personal politics’ success and economic failure in later cases, such as the way in which women’s and lesbian and gay activists’ roles in the 1984 miners’ strike has been salvaged as a point of celebration out of the desolation of the strike’s failure. The Wolfenden Report and the Labour male Of all Labour’s reforms, the decriminalisation of homosexuality was most clearly not a simple party issue, and in fact Labour as a whole was very uncomfortable associating itself with what it continued to interpret as a bourgeois and dangerous

in Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain
The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor
John Potvin

and publicity of the domestic sphere: the Labouchere Amendment (1885) and the Wolfenden Report (1957). What the book recounts therefore, if only in part, is what I call the Labouchere generation, the bastard children – or bachelors – that British courts felt needed to be regulated as much in their homes as in public. The interiors these men designed and/or appropriated were not escapist in the sense of removing oneself from the world, but rather were interventions in the everyday expressions of what it meant to be queer in a hostile and ever-changing, modern world

in Bachelors of a different sort
The revolutionary left and gay politics
Graham Willett

Winston Churchill to establish a Home Office inquiry into prostitution and homosexuality. The committee, named for its chairman, John Wolfenden, reported in 1957, recommending, among other things, the decriminalisation of homosexual acts. While the government and parliament declined to adopt such a policy, the issue was now well and truly a public political issue. 2 Among those who welcomed the recommendation were some of the most influential Labour Party thinkers. In 1959 Roy Jenkins listed homosexual law reform as one of the important outstanding issues that needed to

in Against the grain