L.G.B.T. London 1950-2000

In 1954 Sir John Wolfenden was appointed head of a parliamentary committee to review the existing legislation relating to homosexuality. The 1957 Wolfenden Report recommended that 'homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence'. The recommended age of consent was 21 years.

The report's recommendations eventually led to the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which decriminalised sex in private between two consenting men aged 21 and over.

Thereafter, L.B.G.T. (Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay and Transgender) Londoners became increasingly visible, influenced by the activism of gay politics in the United States. The Gay Liberation Front was established in London in 1970. London's first Gay Day march took place in Hyde Park in 1971. The following year, 2,000 lesbians and gay men took part in London's first Gay Pride march and carnival.

Gay News, Britain's first national gay newspaper, and Sappho, London's first lesbian magazine, were both launched in 1972. The South London Gay Community Centre opened in a Brixton squat in 1974, the same year that the London Gay (later Lesbian and Gay) Switchboard was founded.

The 1980s brought a new era of gay clubbing and hedonism. Bang, a New York-style gay disco, opened in London in 1977. Another disco, Heaven opened in Charing Cross in 1980. Two years later, London's Club Kali opened in Tufnell Park as the world's largest Asian lesbian and gay club.

The 1980s also brought the threat of AIDS. In July 1982, 37-year-old Londoner Terry Higgins was one of the first Britons to die of the condition. Established in 1983, the Terrence Higgins Trust (T.H.T) was set up in response. The T.H.T. and the gay press led the way in educating the public about AIDS.

Despite these changing attitudes, gay Londoners in the public eye continued to attract controversy. In a 1983 by-election in Bermondsey, the Labour Party candidate, Peter Tatchell, was defeated following a vicious anti-gay campaign. The following year, Chris Smith, the Labour M.P. for Islington South & Finsbury, became the first M.P. in office to 'come out' in public as gay.

Gay politics in the late 1980s centred on the infamous 'Section 28' of the Local Government Act that banned the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. The campaign against Section 28 gave the lesbian and gay community its highest public profile yet. Stonewall, founded in 1989, campaigned for its repeal.

By the 1990s, the campaigning focus turned to civil rights and workplace discrimination. 1991 saw the formation of both the Lesbian and Gay Police Association (L.G.P.A) and Rank Outsiders, dealing with discrimination in the armed forces. In 1998 the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement launched the Rainbow Ribbon to be worn in solidarity for a more inclusive church.

Despite civil advances, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Londonersremained targets of prejudice and violence. In April 1999, a nail bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Soho, killing three people. One of the survivors, David Morley, was later murdered in another shocking case of 'gay-bashing'.

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