Thursday 25 July 2019


This exhibition brought back some fond memories for me. Bloolips were one of my first utterly gay experiences. And I went back for more whenever they sashayed back into town.

Bloolips were a radical drag theatre group, operating on a shoestring, and all the better for it. Their costumes were imaginative and, sometimes, hilarious. I'm thinking here of the garment I recall as the 'flip-flop frock': a shift with dozens of flip-flops sewn to it.

Sadly, though it clearly made a big impression on a younger me, I haven't been able to find a photo of that frock, though there was a 'rubber glove robe' on display in the exhibition.

Their drag was androgynous, rather than feminine. Costumes were often made from found materials (see above) and the makeup was based on whiteface clown makeup. In fact, Bette Bourne, who started the troupe after working with Hot Peaches, a New York-based gay cabaret group, would speak in rehearsal about 'finding your inner clown'. The idea was to find something fresh, rather than used tired stereotypes.

A few posters:


The exhibition ends on Friday 26th July 2019.

The Bloolips Archive:

Better Bourne has had an interesting career:

A search for 'bloolips' on YouTube will find several clips of the troupe in action. This may be a good place to start:

Wilde Plaque

On Tuesday 23rd July 2019 at 2pm, the UK's second permanent Rainbow Plaque was unveiled on platform 10 at Clapham Junction station.

It was dedicated with words from David Robson, the chair of Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum, and the Mayor of Wandsworth (Councillor Jane Cooper).

While the plaque marks a very unpleasant experience for Wilde, Robson was clear that it is important to remember both the good and the bad in our history.

Actor Russell Tovey read the passage from De Profundis which describes the abuse commemorated by the plaque:
From two o'clock until half-past two I was forced to stand on the middle platform at Clapham Junction, handcuffed and in the prisoner's garb, exposed to the gaze of the crowd. I had been taken from the prison infirmary, just as I was, without warning. Of all the outcasts, I, no doubt, was the most grotesque to look at. The people laughed when they saw me. Every train that arrived increased the curious crowd of spectators. Their mirth was boundless. This was quite natural, before they knew who I was. But when they learned it they laughed still more. There I stood for half an hour in the grey November rain, surrounded by a howling mob. For a whole year afterward I wept bitterly every day at the same hour.

The scene that showed this in the 2018 film The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett's masterful portrayal  of Wilde's declining years, spurred the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum to campaign for the plaque. Robson described the difficult negotiations the Forum had with Network Rail to realise their goal: "We want to put a plaque up", "OK."

Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum
Twitter: @LGBTQWandsworth

The first permanent Rainbow Plaque marks the moment when Anne Lister 'married' her partner Ann Walker in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York in 1834.

Thursday 24 May 2018

30 years ago today

Thirty years ago to this very day, Section (or Clause) 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 (which amended the Local Government Act 1986 by adding Section 2A) came into effect in England, Wales and Scotland.

It stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

One of the most perniciously anti-LGBT pieces of legislation in recent UK history, it was repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Scottish Parliament, and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of the UK by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003.

The law's existence caused many groups to close or limit their activities or self-censor. For example, a number of lesbian, gay and bisexual student support groups in schools and colleges across Britain were closed owing to fears by council legal staff that they could breach the act. These fears were never tested in a court of law.

The LGBT communities realised the impact this law was likely to have on LGBT people, and in particular on young LGBT people, so they began to campaign against it. One of the most memorable events took place on 23rd May 1988, the night before Section 28 came into law, when a group of lesbian activists invaded a BBC TV News studio just as it began a broadcast. This links to a BBC World Service item about that:

Anti-Section 28 demonstration 1988

Deny Clause 28 banner London 1988
Repeal action in London c1998 - Bus painted pink
Theresa May in newspaper article pre-2003 affirming support for Section 28

This link includes links to the material I used for a presentation on the history of Section 28:
Sue Sanders's ex[erience as a lesbian teacher during the Section 28 years:

Thursday 27 July 2017

A legislative landmark

Fifty years ago today the Sexual Offences Act 1967 received Royal Assent and it passed into UK law.

Despite its limitations, this was a legal landmark. While it only PARTIALLY decriminalised male-male sex, it did largely put a stop to the 'Blackmailer's Charter' that was the law up to that point. (The 1961 film, Victim, starring Dirk Bogarde, shows how that worked. It was also the first English language film to use the word 'homosexual'.)

It is important to make clear that decriminalisation was partial, because the new law imposed quite strong restrictions of sex between men. It had to take place between two consenting adults in private. That may at first sight seem logical, but most of that was different than for heterosexual sex.
  • 'Two' - and only two. Group sex for men only remained illegal in and of itself. In theory, group sex involving a mix of sexes was not a crime.
  • 'Consenting' - well, duh!
  • 'Adults' - here the bar was set high. Homosexual men were not considered capable of adulting until they reached 21, as compared to the heterosexual age of consent of 16.
  • 'In private' - section 1(2) of the Act made it clear that a homosexual act was not 'in private' if "more than two persons take part or are present". This is the provision that put a stop on gay orgies. The actual meaning of 'private' was quite tricky. For example, am I in private in my own bedroom in my own home, if a friend is staying over and using the spare room?
In addition to that, this Act only applied to England and Wales - UNLESS you were a member of the Armed Forces or were in the Merchant Navy, all of which were excluded.

The other parts of the UK took varying lengths of time to catch up - Scotland 1980, Northern Ireland 1982, Guernsey 1983, Jersey 1990, the Isle of Man 1992. Some overseas territories didn't catch up until 2001!

So, let's celebrate this landmark in UK LGBT history but remember also that it was an incomplete victory in 1967.


Previous posts:
Looks at the start of criminalisation -

"Not many badgers in the House of Lords."

This link is to an article from 2013 in The Warrington Guardian. It gives the response of then 81 year old James Daniels to the vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill - "I never thought I would see it in my lifetime." Then, perhaps more interestingly, he goes on to talk about his experience over 60 years ago as a young gay man who was arrested for being  homosexual.

In these posts there are links to slides and notes for my LGBT in Justice presentation which traces the main LGBT-related UK legislation:

And finally, from one of the poster sets I put together to help Merton LGBT+ Forum celebrate LGBT History Month this year:

Sunday 23 July 2017

More on Polari

Yesterday (22nd July 2017), I gave a 20 minute presentation on Polari - a favourite topic - at the A Step Forward? event held by the National Archives to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.
Me in full flow

Speakers included:
  • Sammy Sturgess on the lives of gay men in the 1950s-60s;
  • Dr Caroline Derry on the invisible women of Wolfenden - gay women are barely mentioned in the Wolfenden Report but there's lots of evidence that they were consulted by the Committee in the National Archives;
  • Mark Dunstan on the impact of the Act;
  • Me (Chris Park) on Polari as a form of social camouflage;
  • Dan Glass on Queer Tours of London and modern activism; and last but definitely not least
  • Jeffrey Weeks on the legacy of the 1967 Act.
The feedback from the attendees was gratifying positive. :o)

Here are the slides and my speaking notes for my part:
We also got our friends at the National Archives to print out a few copies of my 'pocket dictionary of Polari', so here's that file too:

Feel free to share, if you know someone who would be interested.

Thursday 13 July 2017

A History of UK LGBT Law

On Tuesday 11th July, I gave a presentation for South London Gays.

"LGBT in Justice" is a short talk, tracing the main changes to UK law, starting with Henry VIII in 1533 to the present day, that affect LGBT+ people. The main target has tended to be male-male same sex behaviour, but there are a few other interesting items along the way. For instance, did Queen Victoria really not believe in Lesbians? To be honest, I have no idea, However, look for the item from 1921...

If you're interested in reading a bit more, you can download my speaking notes from OneDrive here:!AmNn5dfpgGQng4d7EikjeYvoYkjMZg

This talk is based on a PowerPoint presentation. You can download the original slides here:!AmNn5dfpgGQng4d89u1RA37R2rmxGQ
The 1921 item is on on slide 7 and 8. 

I should also make a disclaimer at this point: The presentation does not pretend to include every possible law that affects LGBT+ people. It does try, however, to hit the lowlights and the highlights.

Monday 27 February 2017

Worldwide Law

This post gives a (very!) brief overview of the present state of law world-wide with respect to LGBT people. To explore in more detail, see the links at the foot of the post.

Same sex acts are LEGAL in 121 States - that is, in 63% of UN States.

However, that sometimes needs a caveat. For example, there are no legal provisions in

Egypt that outlaw same-sex sexual activity. However, this is really just a technical distinction because such activity, and related expression, is outlawed under other laws. Also, there is a morality or ‘public decency’ law in place in Bahrain that could be interpreted to include LGB and trans persons: it states,
Every person who entices a male or a female to commit acts of immorality or prostitution or assists in such acts in any manner whatsoever shall be liable for a prison sentence.

On the other hand, in September 2015, a new Constitution of Nepal came into force that comprehensively includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Same sex acts are ILLEGAL in 72 States - 37% of UN States. In about half of these States, the law applies equally to women.

Although Iraq’s Penal Code does not specify same-sex behaviour, Iraq is included here because the rule of law is in disarray and non-State actors (militias and local Sharia judges) target those known/perceived to be LGBT+ with extreme penalties.

Same sex relations have been considered by the Courts of India several times recently. In 2009, the Delhi High Court found that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which deals with same sex relations) violated an individual's fundamental rights to equality before the law. However in 2013, the Indian Supreme Court overturned the ruling. In 2015 and 2016, two private member's bills for decriminalisation were soundly rejected. In 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider its 2013 judgment; it said it would refer petitions to abolish Section 377 to a five-member constitutional bench, which would conduct a comprehensive hearing of the issue.

In Qatar, Sharia Law runs parallel with the Penal Code and its anti-LGBT provisions are applied.

The DEATH PENALTY is used or available in 13 States or parts thereof; 6% of UN States. It is invariably codified under Sharia.

  • It is available but not known to be implemented for same-sex behaviour specifically in Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
  • It is implemented country wide in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.
  • It is implemented provincially in 12 northern states in Nigeria and the southern parts of Somalia.
  • It is implemented by local courts/vigilantes/ non-State actors in Asia: Iraq and Daesh/ISIS-held territories in northern Iraq and northern Syria.

Thanks to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA):
Carroll, A., State Sponsored Homophobia 2016: A world survey of sexual orientation laws: criminalisation, protection and recognition (Geneva; ILGA, May 2016).

ILGA also provides a set of downloadable maps showing this information at

See also