Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Life in Britain and on the Ocean Wave 1900 - 2009

'All the nice girls love a sailor', as the old song has it, 'all the nice girls love a tar/ For there's something about a sailor/ Well, you know what sailors are.' In the popular imagination, though, it's never been entirely clear what sailors are. Routinely defined through his sexuality, drifting through the world on currents of desire, the sailor's image has developed in equal and opposite directions. For every story that swoons over the sailor as broodingly masculine, ready to give all the nice girls a jolly rogering, there is another that smirks over him as mincingly effeminate. Sometimes these stories collide. Carry on Cruising, for instance, a film redeemed only by the sight of Kenneth Williams's nostrils flaring as wide as his trousers, filters its plot about a male crew's supposedly heterosexual randiness through an impressive range of camp innuendo. But then innuendo and seamen seem to attract one another. It is as if the ambiguity in a title such as Carry on Cruising allowed its audience to think about what some sailors get up to and unthink it at the same time. Sailors could retain their place as heterosexual heartthrobs while not entirely allaying suspicions that they could be more interested in one another.

Merseyside Maritime Museum has developed an exhibition inspired by this book. First shown in 2006, it returned by popular demand in 2007 and is running until Jan 2009, contributing to the cities status of City of European Culture. It is hoped that the exhibition will tour the UK especially the cities with maritime links.

Naval Traditions
In 1818, the Black Ball Line, with a fleet of sailing ships, offered the first regular passenger service with emphasis on passenger comfort, from England to the United States. For the first time officers and sailors had to provide 'customer service'. Conditions were cramped; there was not enough space for crew and stewards so the two jobs were partially combined. The period between the end of the 19th century and World War II is considered the "golden age" of ocean liners. Driven by strong demand created by European emigration to the United States and Canada, international competition between passenger lines and a new emphasis on comfort, meant shipping companies built ever larger and faster ships. Gay seamen competed to work on these ships and they seemed naturally suited to the multi task role: firstly and foremost a sailor with a rank and duty for the safety of the ship and passengers, secondly a steward serving passengers looking after their every need, and thirdly an entertainer. Life on the ocean wave was both haven and a university for these gay men. Once the ship left the dock there was a sense of freedom for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. The crews lived by two rules - be clean, don‘t steal – and everything else was tolerated. Shipboard society was so interdependent that you couldn‘t afford to throw someone out of the group because of their sexuality. Crew on the Queen Mary dressed up. Courtesy of Oral History Unit, Southampton City Council (from Liverpool Maritime Museum site) Many straight crewmembers had the attitude

‘he may be queer but he’s our queer’..

Homophobes asked to be transferred to other ships if they couldn’t cope In the case of the Merchant Navy these suspicions are largely supported by the statistics. Estimates of the number of gay staff on cruise ships between the 1950s and 1970s hover around 30-40 per cent, while on some passenger lines (P&O seems to have been the gay-friendliest employer) the concentration may have been as high as 90 per cent. Gay women were less evident on board ship and were more discreet. There was great diversity among the men, from stokers to Captains. Some were out, camp and casual, some covert, some ‗manly‘. Some men were gay at sea and happily married ashore. It was quite common for sisters or aunts and nieces to travel together sharing a cabin it is not clear what percentage of these couples may have been lesbian.

The War Years 1939 - 1945
Many homosexuals volunteered or were called up to serve in one of the 3 armed services and they fought and died alongside their heterosexual colleagues. The Merchant Navy was the preferred service as there was an existing degree of tolerance, mainly due to the 'high life' that was enjoyed on passenger liners. These luxury liners were converted into hospital and supply ships. 30,000 British Merchant Service Men lost their lives. Some of the more extrovert gay men with a natural flare to entertain joined the Combined Services Entertainment Corps. They were regarded with considerable affection, their camp humour helped lift the men's spirits. Excerpt from A Gay Soldiers Story - PRIVATE DUDLEY CAVE. Enlisted in 1941 aged 20 "People were put in the army regardless of whether they were gay or not", according to Cave's recollections. "It didn't seem to bother the military authorities. There was none of the later homophobic uproar about gays undermining military discipline and effectiveness. With Britain seriously threatened by the Nazis, the forces weren't fussy about who they accepted". "All the gays and straights worked together as a team. We had to because our lives might have depended on it." Cave noted there was never any disciplinary action taken against the gay men in his unit. (See A Gay Soldiers Story)

Life on Land
Women rallied to the call. Many worked in dangerous munitions factories; others farmed the land (The Land Army). Thousands of women signed up to one of the armed services working in command centres, communications, intelligence and ground support. Women did much more than just ―Make Do and Mend‖: they built and serviced tanks, aircraft and warships. The close working and living arrangements allowed close friendships to develop and so did lesbian relationships. Some men returned from the war to find their wife settled down and happy with the woman next door!

These gay men and women needed places to go. There had always been café's, tearooms and pubs, which were popular with homosexuals, but the war years saw a dramatic increase in venues that specifically catered for these people. Here in Plymouth, as in other port towns and cities, there were a handful of bars providing a choice. Some were lavishly decorated in 'camp' style with resident drag queens, cross dressers and an 'up market' clientele whilst others were rough and ready, providing a dim raunchy atmosphere. These venues provided a space where the diverse mix of gay people could be themselves. There was always fear of arrest but in the main the Police and the public turned a blind eye, tolerating these vibrant venues and their clients. Plymouth Hoe has a renowned history as a 'cruising area' that probably dates back before Drakes time. The later Victorian landscaping, with a series of pathways and terraces, put the Hoe on the map as one of the country‘s most popular areas where gay and bi men including those serving in the armed services could discreetly meet one another. Incidentally, the word gay was not used to refer to homosexuals at this time. The accepted words were Queer and Lesbian. As with many words in the English language, it is the context in how a word is used which determines whether it is offensive or not. The impact that the war made on the world is clear to see all around us today. In just five years, the whole course of human history changed. Gender roles began to shift. Social codes and conventions altered. Sex had different rules. Male homosexuality was illegal in Britain before the conflict began and remained so for over twenty years after. No one could have imagined that the freedoms homosexuals began to enjoy during the war were nothing more than a short reprieve from the choking restrictions to gay life.

It is important that we remember that our armed service personnel and merchant seaman that fought for the freedom of this country and the many lives lost in that fight were not all heterosexual.

The Holocaust
As the facts about the true atrocity of the holocaust were emerging, it became apparent that over six million Jews were slaughtered, along with six million non Jews across occupied Europe. The Nazi campaign against homosexuality targeted the more than one million German men who, the state asserted, carried a "degeneracy" that threatened the "disciplined masculinity" of Germany.

"We must exterminate these people (homosexuals) root and branch…We can’t permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated".
With these chilling words, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, set out the Nazi master plan for the sexual cleansing of the Aryan race.

Prisoner 20150
Born Feb 16th, 1918 in Breslau (Wroclaw) Interned in Auschwitz on Aug 28th, 1941 Died on Feb 28th, 1942,

aged 24 years

He was someone's son, someone's friend, a human being just like you

Over 50,000 gay men received severe jail sentences in brutal conditions. Most homosexuals were not sent to concentration camps but were instead exposed to inhumane treatment in police prisons. There they could be subjected to hard labour and torture, or be executed or experimented upon. The Nazis dehumanised the inmates in their camps and prisons by giving them a symbol, which coded them according to the reason for their detention, and assigned them a number to replace their name. Some 10-15,000 people were deported to concentration camps for being Gay. Many, but not all, were assigned pink triangles. Most died in the camps, many were castrated and some subjected to other gruesome medical experiments (without anaesthetic). Collective murder actions were undertaken against Gay detainees, exterminating hundreds at a time. Some people belonged to more than one targeted group. For example, there were Jewish Gays who wore a yellow triangle and a pink triangle together.

‗pink triangle‘ prisoners being led to the gas chamber

The few surviving ‘pink triangle’ prisoners liberated from the camps by the allied forces were handed over to the German authorities as criminals, to face further gruesome horrific torture and almost certain death. The sheer scale of the holocaust is difficult to comprehend. The suffering of homosexuals could quite easily be forgotten, many of those that died in the prisons had no record of death, no marked graves, NO HISTORY.

Post War Years 1945 – 1967
As our country was being rebuilt, the NHS was launched, and the nation wallowed in the joy of victory in Europe and Japan: the new Britain was GREAT! The liberated women returned to the home, monthly and weekly women's magazines (published by men) were full of tips and recipes for the modern housewife. Our factories stopped making bombs and started churning out domestic appliances, cookers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, fridges, hair driers. If there was a job to be done there was probably a machine to do it, and for the first time, credit to buy it! But behind all this propaganda and feel good freedom there was something very sinister brewing for our homosexuals, particularly men. Homosexuals did not fit the mould of the new 'model family'. It was inconceivable that history was repeating itself so soon after the atrocities of WW2, but it was, and right here in Great Britain. The Conservatives won the 1951 election and Prime Minister Churchill appointed David Maxwell Fyfe as Home Secretary. This was mainly as he felt it would be unwise to appoint him Minister of Labour due to controversy Maxwell Fyfe had caused when in a radio interview he let slip that the Party might legislate to curb the power of trade unions. Home Secretary Maxwell Fyfe promised 'a new drive against male vice' that would 'rid England of this plague'. (Compare this with what Himmler had said 20 years earlier…) The police started to harass 'gay venues', both those that existed before the war and those which opened or converted during. They would arrest a handful of clients, rough them up a bit whilst in Police custody, charge them with trumped up offences and prosecution was swift with harsh sentences. These prosecutions made headlines that sold papers and the media interest grew, with the gutter press turning something as simple as a kiss between two men into a front-page teaser with the 'full story inside'. The public were fascinated. During the war the media had been under the control of the war office and therefore had very little freedom, but now Freedom of Speech, editorial and artistic licence allowed the press to print what the reader wanted to read rather than the true facts (which would have been quite boring). The truth may have encouraged a swifter change in public opinion on how the law was being enforced. Sadly, for gay and bisexual men, life in this country became worse than it was before the war.

The Gay Witch Hunt
The freedom and lifestyle that many homosexuals had started to enjoy was now being stripped away. Here in Plymouth, police intimidation and the fear of arrest was enough to scare the majority of clients away from the established venues. As more and more gay men were imprisoned, many young gay men conformed to what society seemed to want, like marriage, 2.4 children and a dog. Others married lesbians, or unmarried pregnant or single mothers. The whole gay scene was forced 'underground'. There was a sharp increase in the number of men that used public toilets and spaces to meet other men for sex. It wasn't long before the Police cottoned on to this and started to use undercover officers to 'trap' them. Extraordinary police resource was put into tracking and monitoring the movements of gay men. Married men living a double life would often take the dog for a walk across the heath with the intention of meeting other men for sex. Not only did they now risk arrest after being trapped by the police, they also risked being ―queer bashed‖, where gangs of men would often go out with the sole intention of beating up the queers. The victims could not report such incidents to the police, and often the police would witness these attacks and do nothing. The despair, isolation and guilt these men had to endure is inconceivable today. In the larger cities, where the gay scene had once thrived, there are reports and accounts of the Police raiding gay bars, severely beating the customers with truncheons, and ‗giving the queers a good kicking‘. Gay men had become nothing more than 'fair game' to the police. Many of the injured men would seek treatment from fellow gays – doctors and nurses that served in the war. They feared going to hospital as the risk of being identified as queer was too great. Those that needed hospital treatment were often further ridiculed and sometimes even refused treatment. Lesbians were not persecuted in the same way, yet they were helpless: if they tried to intervene, they would be arrested for obstructing the law. Lesbians were often arrested for the offence 'behaviour likely to cause breach of the peace' and this would result in a fine and almost certain dismissal from work. Bosses would sack people they suspected of being gay, and those that associated with gays. The story of the infamous Gateways club on the Kings Road Chelsea (London) and its predominately lesbian clientele is portrayed in the book From the Closet to the Screen - Women at the Gateways Club, 1945-85 by Jill Gardiner. The club was featured in the 1968 film The Killing of Sister George. Many of the extras were real clients. ‗Smithy‘ the co manager was ex American Air force.
Beryl Reid in the Gateways Club The Killing of Sister George (1968)

The Underground Scene
In response to this new era of fear and bigotry, gay pubs and clubs became more circumspect: they installed buzzer entry systems, some had a secret code, and all male dances were organised and publicised though the underground network. The Lord Chamberlain's office censored books and plays, with the slightest hint of homosexuality leading to the publication being banned. Lesbians travelled to France and Holland to buy these banned books (printed in English) to smuggle them into Britain as they were less likely to be searched than men. The books were covered in brown paper and mainly circulated around the 'non scene' gay community, some being so well read that they required frequent repairs. Despite the repression, gay venues fought back. Drag Queens and Drag acts were very popular and some of the best were ex ENSA entertainers that put on shows for the boys during the war. Drag was also very popular cabaret on cruise liners. These drag shows would provide escapism from the mundane life and repression outside. Gay people have always enjoyed a reputation of being trendsetters, both in fashion and music. This probably came about as such a high percentage of gays were travelling either as a merchant seaman, airline stewards or indeed passengers. They would buy the latest magazines (including pornography), posters, music and clothes particularly on trips to the USA. The underground scene was an international one, forming the roots of the gay global village we know today. The flamboyant wellconnected network also had a dark side – drugs brought into the scene helped further fuel the escapism from the repressive culture.

Icons and Symbolism
Judy Garland was possibly the first truly international gay icon. Gay men would have posters and pictures of her in their bedrooms. Her iconic status allowed men to secretly express their sexuality: gay Royal Navy Sailors would have a poster or picture of her in their cabin or under their pillow. It was the same for the gay guys in the Army and RAF. Other secret signals included wearing a ring on the right pinky finger, and the hanky or bandanna code was formed which entailed showing a coloured handkerchief from a back pocket. This not only allowed a man to identify as gay, but the colours would indicate his sexual preference and depending which side he wore it, would indicate whether he was more active or passive. This reduced the need to talk about such things and therefore the risk of being overheard and reported. This code was the same in all the port cities and towns across the globe: quite amazing considering there was no internet or central reference point. Keys, key chains, watches and watch straps all added to this secret form of communication that became known as 'flagging'.

There was another not so secret language, 'Polari', widely used by the British gay community from the 1900s to the 1970s. It was based on slang words deriving from a variety of different sources, including Romany, rhyming slang, and backslang (spelling words backwards). Its origins stem from the pubs surrounding London Docks in the 18th centaury. The language was soon picked up by merchant seafarers who brought it back on ship and it soon spread through the gay community. "Vada the dolly dish, shame about his bijou lallies" Look at the attractive man, shame about his short legs The police tried to infiltrate this underground scene with 'pretty officers' but the natural guard and defence mechanisms in place often thwarted these attempts. Drag queens, bar tenders and customers all knew the secret code alerting each other to the fact that there was a 'cuckoo in the nest'. The sense of 'family' and the protection that existed in this exile world was enormous, and for some it remains so today. When we talk about the 'gay scene' we think of pubs, clubs, pumping music, dancing and various other stereotypical images. However the scene is and was so much more, there are many other 'gay' businesses and services that contribute to the scenes vibrant diversity. During this period, over one thousand civilian gay or bisexual men were imprisoned a year. In prisons, these men were often the victims of brutal attacks and rapes that were sometimes orchestrated by the prison staff, or at least the guards would stand by and do nothing. Many of these would leave prison a 'broken man', unable to maintain a relationship or hold down a job. It is hardly surprising many became alcoholics, addicts and dependant on benefits. For gay men in the armed services it was far worse, there were regular searches of personal belongings, private letters were intercepted and read, and any indication of homosexuality would lead to brutal interrogation. If evidence were found, a swift court martial would be held. The sentences passed and life in military prison was much harsher: coupled with dishonourable discharge and total loss of pension, these men also became dependent on state benefits. In addition to those sent to prison many others were fined or 'opted' for alternatives such as hormonal or aversion therapy, including electric shock treatment. The police always seemed to tip off the media when they were about to arrest a queer. The arrest of ordinary men would usually be accompanied by a photographer from the local paper. In the case of married men, the police would make the arrest at the family home, ensuring that the wife and any children were at home. This was solely to maximise the humiliation and suffering. In some areas the wife would have to move away for fear of reprisals.

High Profile Cases: 1952 - Alan Turing
The number of ‗ordinary‘ men being prosecuted and imprisoned was masked by a few high profile cases, such as the worldwide publicity that accompanied the arrest of Alan Turing in 1952, after the police learned of his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. He made no serious denial or defence, instead telling everyone that he saw no wrong with his actions. He was particularly concerned to be open about his sexuality even in the hard and unsympathetic atmosphere of Manchester engineering. Turing was sentenced to a year of hormonal treatments, which reportedly caused impotence and breast development, and became the target of British government scrutiny as a potential "subversive." He killed himself two years later, at the age of 41. We will never know what this genius may have achieved if he was free to live his life without persecution. Alan Turing was the founder of computer science, a mathematician, philosopher, code breaker, strange visionary and a gay man before his time.

High Profile Cases: 1954 - The Montagu Trial
It was Hampshire's trial of the century and it ended with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, then aged 28 and the youngest peer in the House of Lords, being jailed for a year - convicted of homosexual offences at Winchester Assizes in 1954. He was convicted, along with Daily Mail journalist Peter Wildeblood and Dorset landowner Michael PittRivers (who both received 18 months), in a sensational case that made headlines around the world and scandalised high society. While giving evidence during the eight-day trial, Wildeblood dramatically admitted that he was gay, becoming one of the first British men to make such a public declaration during a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence carrying a maximum life jail sentence. There were many contributing factors behind the shift in public attitudes to homosexuality and the law, and it was a hot topic for many university-debating societies. This case struck at the heart of the London gentleman's clubs and social scene, something not seen since the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde some 59 years earlier. Ironically the Daily Mail helped drive this shift (now that one of their own had been caught), they changed their tone from sensational hatred to using wording like 'Youthful Indiscretion', 'Consensual sex between adults' and so on. In the same year the Metropolitan police was suffering serious understaffing problems, with the force consisting of only 16,000 and needing an estimated 4,000 more men, mainly Police Constables.

Other Police forces across the country were facing similar problems, yet most had resource to hound and target men suspected of committing or intending to commit 'homosexual offences'. In 2007 (40 years after the partial legalisation of homosexuality) Lord Montagu admitted in interview with a national newspaper: "I am bisexual. To describe it any other way would be dishonest. I remember feeling that I didn't have to apologise to anybody. I am what I am." The outcome of this trial was a shift in public attitudes and the beginning of the long journey to establish equality for gay men. The first stage was the setting up of the Wolfenden Committee.

1954: The Wolfenden Committee
Set up to report on homosexual offences and prostitution, the committee first met on 15 September 1954 and met on 62 subsequent days, 32 of which were used for interviewing witnesses. Wolfenden suggested at an early stage that for the sake of the ladies in the room, they use the terms Huntley & Palmers after the biscuit manufacturers - Huntley's for homosexuals and Palmers for prostitutes. Evidence was heard from police and probation officers, psychiatrists, religious leaders, and gay men whose lives had been affected by the law. The report was published three years later in 1957. Disregarding the conventional ideas of the day, the committee recommended that: "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence". All but James Adair were in favour of this and, contrary to some medical and psychiatric witnesses' evidence at that time, found that "homosexuality cannot legitimately be regarded as a disease, because in many cases it is the only symptom and is compatible with full mental health in other respects." The report added "The law's function is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others ... It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour." The recommended age of consent was 21 (the age of majority in the UK then). The report also discussed the rise in street prostitution at the time, which it associated with "community instability" and "weakening of the family". As a result, there was a police crackdown on street prostitution following the report. Despite these recommendations, it took another decade before the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed, which in part decriminalised male homosexuality. The harassment, beatings, arrest and prosecutions of gay men continued through this time.

1966 / 67 Sexual Offences Bill
Labour MPs Leo Abse and Lord Arran put forward proposals to humanise the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men by means of the Sexual Offences Bill. This attempt at liberalisation in the laws relating to male homosexuality can be placed in the context of rising prosecutions against homosexual men for essentially victimless crimes, i.e., involving consenting adults. The potential for these prosecutions to bring existing sexual offences legislation into disrepute was seen as acute. The Labour Government of the time showed support for Aaran's mode of liberal thought. It was widely viewed that criminal law should not further penalise homosexual men for their fixed disposition, already the object of ridicule and derision. The comments of Roy Jenkins, Home Secretary at the time, captured the government's attitude: "those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives" (quoted during parliamentary debate by The Times on 4 July 1967). In essence, the bill allowed two men over the age of 21 to engage in consensual homosexual sex in private. (The age of consent for heterosexual sex was 16, there was no age of consent for lesbian sex.) Although Abse and Arran had the very best intentions of fully decriminalising male homosexuality, clauses added to the bill gave the police further power to continue the witch-hunt. The unequal age of consent meant that those gay men under 21 continued to live in fear of the Law and many were prosecuted. The emphasis on private meant ―behind locked doors‖ and the police would raid known gay households. Where, for instance, a gay couple over 21 may have a lodger (also over 21) the police would raid the property to check that the couple‘s bedroom door was locked (or at least a lock existed). If it wasn't, the law was being broken. It sounds ridiculous, but the police would use any opportunity to continue to hound gay men. The law also made it more difficult for gay men to meet each other. Lord Arran, in an attempt to minimise criticisms that the legislation would lead to further public debate and visibility of issues relating to homosexual civil rights, made the following qualification to this 'historic' milestone: "I ask those homosexuals to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behaviour now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… And make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done" (quoted during Royal Assent of the bill by The Times newspaper on 28 July 1967). The interpretation of this led to an increase in raids on gay venues, which were considered 'public spaces'. A kiss or any physical contact between men in a gay pub was still illegal. Holding hands in public was illegal, the number of arrests actually increased as did the number of fines, and as a result more gay and bi men were criminalised. These raids and harassment continued right up to 1988 (19 years after the Stonewall Riots in New York), when the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was raided in what became known internationally as the police poppers raid (see later).

Late 60’s: How gay panic gripped 1960s Royal Navy

Hello sailors: Not what the top brass wanted to see The Royal Navy was so gripped by a security panic over gay servicemen in the late 1960s, Admirals believed at least half of the entire fleet had "sinned homosexuality". Documents released by the Public Record office reveal commanders buried a series of scandals, including homosexual affairs on an aircraft carrier (HMS Eagle), transsexual prostitutes in the Far East and hundreds of men using a "male brothel" in Bermuda. One admiral concluded that homosexual activity was "rife" and a special inquiry called for more moral education to prevent the defences being undermined. Recommendation form the chief Royal Navy Lawyer 1968:"There have been military forces who have accepted homosexuality but who nonetheless have been renowned both for bravery and discipline. It is not necessary to carry out a witch hunt for the more discreet offenders ... that it goes on discreetly and hidden away need not cause us too much dismay." However, this recommendation appeared to be rejected. By the middle of 1969, a new education programme was in place. All new recruits would be lectured on the evils of homosexuality - and commanders were instructed to watch out for further crises that could play into the hands of a blackmailing enemy. Gay men serving in the Navy and other armed services were forced to further hide their sexuality and an even more secretive unhealthy culture developed. The ban on gays serving in the armed forces remained in place for another 31 years.

1969 The Stonewall Rebellion
Judy Garland died on June 22nd 1969, many gay men were grief stricken particularly the drag queens that impersonated her and in some ways mimicked her life. Five days later the New York Police raided the Stonewall Inn on St Christopher St. As in the UK police harassment of gay venues was rife in parts of the USA. The grieving crowd inside turned against the police the late Miss Sylvia Rivera a transgender rights activist and founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, is credited by many as the first to actually strike back at the police and, in doing so, spark the rebellion. Internationally the media was reporting on the ‗gays‘ that fought back it was the beginning of the international ‗gay rights‘ campaign. (See the Pride Time Line)

1988: The Police Poppers Raid
Lilly Savage was on stage at the time and recalled to Time Out: ‘People thought I had shares in the place,’ remembers Lily’s creator, Paul O’Grady. ‘I didn’t. I was just the head saloon girl.’ And he does mean saloon. ‘I used to have a fight in there at least once a week,’ he explains. ‘It was a cross between the village hall and south London’s own Wild West saloon. Fabulous! Then there was that night the police came in wearing rubber gloves. The famous police poppers raid. I remember being on stage and shouting at the crowd to riot. The police carted me off in a paddy wagon.’ Once again the police had gone too far, raiding a known and historic gay venue whilst wearing rubber gloves apparently to protect them from AIDS. The tabloid press tried to pass this off as a justified drugs raid that required coach loads of police officers descending on this small venue. The public wasn't having any of it. The Metropolitan Police had serious egg on their face, the rubber gloves serving to highlight their fear and ignorance. Londoners questioned the cost of the operation (Poll Tax was about to be introduced) the police couldn't justify the cost or scale of the raid, particularly when they tried to prosecute some people for possession of Amyl Nitrate (poppers) which have never been illegal in this country. The Police Poppers raid was the last of its sort, but harassment of gay venues and business continued.

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern London In the same year the Conservative Government amended the local government act introducing section 28: Prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material (1) A local authority shall not— (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality; (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

Section 28 denied yet another generation of a complete and inclusive education schools and teachers were confused as to what they could teach. Most played the ultra safe card and refused to discuss or include homosexuality in any lesions. Teachers found themselves powerless to deal with the increasing homophobic bullying. Young Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or questioning people could not get the support they needed. Local authorities had stopped funding, help lines and support groups that existed before this piece of hateful knee jerk legislation. Art galleries and museums were threatened with cuts in funding if they put on any exhibition referring to homosexuality. This law was not enforced by the police but the media any funding of any LGBT support groups became headline news. Young LGBT people were growing up with increased fear and insecurity. Teenage suicide rates soured in this country some can be directly linked to homophobic bullying. Many others had an underlying suspicion that confused feelings about sexuality or gender contributed to the unhappiness. When a Teenager leaves a note ―Mum Dad I can‘t do it any more‖ there are few hard facts for the coroner to go on. If bullying was involved the bullies are very good at keeping quiet and covering up their actions.


At 6.37 pm on Friday 30th. April, a bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton Street, Soho, London. This attack was the third of a series of bombs targeted at minorities by a lone bigoted extremist David Copeland. Three people and an unborn child were killed as a result of the bomb 79 others were seriously injured including burns and loss of limbs.

One of those seriously injured was the bar manager David Morley who used his own body in an attempt to shield customers from the blast, despite his injuries he continued to help others. Public and media outrage that followed fuelled the campaign for acceptance and equality. Copeland was sentenced to 6 Life sentences to run concurrently. David Morley was murdered five years later in an unprovoked attack on the South Bank London. Three young men were sentenced to 12 Years each and a 16 year old Girl was sentenced to 8 years for manslaughter.

The ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces was finally lifted in January 2000, after a long protracted human rights battle. The Royal Navy was the first of the UK armed forces to sign up to a Stonewall scheme to promote fair treatment of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the workplace. As yet, none have made it into the top 100 of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, but considering that right up to the year 2000 these employers were arresting, imprisoning and dismissing their lesbian, gay and bisexual employees, they have come a long way. As the stories of those that suffered are still being collated and archived, there are some very positive stories and personal accounts that are now filtering through to the media and archivists that will form an important part of future LGBT history.

2007 - 2008 In 2007, soldiers were banned from wearing anything identifying their military link, a ban they challenged on the day by wearing red T-shirts with the Army logo embroidered on them. The MOD decided that it was not in their interest to take disciplinary action against them. In 2008, The Ministry of Defence announced that the Army had joined the Royal Navy and RAF in allowing personnel to take part in Pride celebrations in uniform.

Picture: For the first time, members of all three armed forces march in uniform for the 2008 London Pride Celebrations.

The following Police forces have proven to be an inclusive employer by entering the top 100 of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

2 4 8 10 16 22 24 28 28 32 33 35 48 50 54 55 68 73 73 77 77 84 89 92

Hampshire Constabulary Kent Police Merseyside Police Home Office HM Prison Service West Yorkshire Police Staffordshire Police Cheshire Constabulary West Midlands Police Lothian & Borders Police Greater Manchester Police Metropolitan Police Service Essex Police North Wales Police Hertfordshire Constabulary Ministry of Justice British Transport Police Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency West Mercia Constabulary Lancashire Constabulary Leicestershire Constabulary Suffolk Constabulary Gwent Police Sussex Police

 Hampshire was the top of the police forces achieving 2nd place in the index. Not only have they improved their own house for LGB employees they have helped the military police and are supporters of the Proud2Serve network.

Today it is the homophobes that a being sent to prison and it is important that all hate crime is reported.

Recent Literature:
Hello Sailor! The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea: Jo Stanley and Paul Baker. (see introduction)

Even though this book focuses on the 1950's 60's historians and researchers are now gathering and putting together evidence that proves gay culture has been part of life at sea throughout the ages.

A Gay History of Britain The authors are professors of history and English at Birbeck and Kings Colleges in London and Baruch College in New York. In chapters focusing on six British eras from the Middle Ages to the present, they examine through literature and other primary documents how intimate emotional and/or sexual relationships between men were understood and defined by those involved and their societies. Among other things, they demonstrate that it was not until the 1700s that the notion of a "gay" identifying minority of men existed and separated them from the rest. The final chapter catalogues gay reform in Britain and its modern legacy.

From the Closet to the Screen - Women at the Gateways Club, 1945-85 by Jill Gardiner. The story of the infamous club and it clients which included Diana Doors and Dusty Springfield.

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash: Anthony Blackmore Sir Winston Churchill once reportedly said that the only naval traditions were "rum, sodomy and the lash". Author Anthony Blackmore has used this as title for a book detailing a Devon Lad's Life in Nelson's Navy. It tells the true story of Samuel Blackmore, not a famous admiral, but a lower deck sailor in Nelson's Navy from 1793 to 1802.

"HMS La Minerve, off Toulon" by Commander Geoff Hunt R.N. (This picture is reproduced in colour in the book) By kind permission of the artist. "Beautifully told by Anthony Blackmore, the story of this young seaman will captivate the legions of enthusiasts...because, remarkably, it portrays the life of the sailors serving below decks. The author's researches have resulted in a wealth of accurate detail about naval engagements and practices...Accounts of the engagements in which Samuel would have fought are exciting and instructive...This book, with its splendid illustrations, describes a rather warmer and rewarding life than the title suggests.‖

Links, Citations and Sources:

(1) Nelson‘s Navy: http://uk.geocities.com/nelsonsnavy/navypage.htm (2) Oscar Wilde Trial 1895: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Wilde (3) Women at War - http://caber.open.ac.uk/schools/stanway/index.html (4) Holocaust Memorial Day Web Site: http://www.hmd.org.uk/genocides/victims-ofnazi-hatred/ (5) ―Paragraph 175” (Warning: contains a graphic account from one of the few gay Holocaust survivors) http://www.petertatchell.net/history/survivors.htm (6) Gateways Club: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateways_club (7) Alan Turing: http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/ (8) Met Police history: http://www.met.police.uk/history/timeline1950-1969.htm (9) Fyne Time on the Wolfenden Report: http://www.fyne.co.uk/index.php?item=445 (10)How gay panic gripped 1960s Royal Navy: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2378811.stm (11) Lily Savage talks to Time Out: http://www.timeout.com/london/gay/features/2433/2.html (12) London Pride: http://www.pridelondon.org.uk (13) The road to equal rights in the military http://www.proud2serve.net/lifestyle/theroadtoequality.htm (14) Merseyside Maritime Museum: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/exhibitions/gaylife/ (15) A comprehensive list of the more famous gay people http://www.famousandgay.com/