A Timeline of events from the 1930s to 1967

 

It is estimated that over 50,000 men were sent  to the concentration camps because they were gay.  To read more about gays and lesbians in Nazi Germany, click on the Pink Triangle

In 1954 the Conservative government asked Sir John Wolfenden to head a committee which would examine the laws which related to prostitution and homosexuality.  At that time the number of prosecutions for homosexual acts was rising rapidly, partly due to witch hunts by some police who had their own personal agendas and partly due the public outrage at the gay Cambridge spies (Burgess and Maclean) who sold state secrets to Russia.

 

Some of the prosecutions began to arouse public sympathy, particularly in the case of the Lord Montagu and Peter Wildeblood trials (For more information, click HERE). When Sir John Gielgud was taken to court having been arrested for cottaging, his next appearance on stage was greeted with a round of applause.

 

Some of the Wolfenden Committee became embarrassed by the constant references to prostitutes and homosexuals, so they decided to refer to homosexuals as "Huntleys" and prostitutes as "Palmers".

 

The Committee delivered its report in 1957, but the government shied away from acting on it.

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In the 1950, not only was homosexuality  a crime, it was also viewed as an illness to be cured.

 

The "cures" included lobotomy, electro aversion therapy, hormone injections and chemical castration.  One significant victim of this notion and these procedures was Alan Turing. To read about Alan Turing, click HERE.

Nazi Germany

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Gay prisoners were forced to wear a pink triangle and lesbians a black triangle.

 

After the war, the pink triangle became a symbol of defiance and freedom amongst German gay groups. In the 1970s it began to be used by the wider LGBT community.

During the Second World War most people in the UK had more important things to worry about that people's sexual orientation and for many gays and lesbians things became a little easier.  This was soon to change when the war ended.

The Cure huntleypalmers wolfenden

The fact that lesbians and lesbian sex weren't recognised by the law could be advantageous as well as marginalising.

 

In 1963 some women took advantage of the law's neglect and published Arena Three, the first British lesbian magazine.

 

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Allan Horsfall

 

To hear Allan speak on YouTube, click HERE

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In 1967 the Sexual Offences Act was passed. It decriminalised sex between men as long as they were "Consenting male adults in private" ....... BUT

  •  

  • Adult meant 21, while it was 16 for everyone else (including lesbians - who didn't exist)

  • A locked hotel room wasn't private, nor was your own bedroom if a friend was staying in the west wing

  • The law did not apply to Scotland or Northern Island - they had to wait until the 1980s

 

To read some of the related correspondence from Nottingham Evening Post, click HERE

After eight years of dithering and after a change of government, some MPs decided it was time to put Wolfenden's recommendations into law.  

 

Wolfenden's committee had concluded that, though one's sexual orientation was established at an early age, "the Country" would not tolerate an age of consent below the age of "majority"- which was 21 at that time.

 

Many politicians felt that there would be a great negative reaction from "the working classes". In 1966, Allan Horsfall organised a well publicised meeting in his own area, which was a mining town and proved them wrong

 

In 1962  the Sunday Mirror published an article entitled "How to spot a homo".

 

Some of the features to look for included:

 

They wear sports jackets

They smoke

They wear suede shoes

They like the company of ladies with large bosoms

 

On reading the list, someone remarked "that sounds like Kenneth Clarke"

 

 

 

With apologies, Ken, but

You're a dead ringer

kenclarke