Saturday, 28 July 2012

45th Anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967

28 July 2012 marks the 45th anniversary of the granting of Royal Assent to the Sexual Offences Act 1967. See Tim Bennett-Goodman's article on the impact on the gay community in England and Wales of this landmark piece of legislation:

About Leo Abse's role in decriminalisation (4th para of the section):

Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran (1910-1983), was a Conservative whip in the House of Lords. He was the sponsor in the House of Lords of Leo Abse's bill, he also sponsored a bill for the protection of badgers. He was once asked why the badger bill had not received enough support to pass whereas decriminalising homosexuality had. "Not many badgers in the House of Lords," he replied.

If you're interested, you can see the original text  of the Act here:

Friday, 27 July 2012

The April Ashley Project

An Evening with April Ashley at the Southbank Centre - 18 February 2009
Arts festival Homotopia is preparing to launch a two year heritage project to research, explore and document the experiences of transgender people in Britain over the past 70 years, focussing on the life of trans model and actress April Ashley MBE.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, there will be a number of ‘reminiscence’ workshops and opportunities for members of the transgender community to share their own experiences.

One of the outcomes of the project activities will be a 12 month exhibition in collaboration with the Museum of Liverpool.

More on this at:

Lawless Entertainment has been appointed worldwide agent for The April Ashley Project, which will bring audiences the life story of April Ashley, one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Ashley started life as George Jameson during World War II and went on to become a model. She will receive an MBE this autumn.

For more information about April:

A video of interviews (6mins 29secs) with April is here:

The Museum of Liverpool:

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Lords bill may pardon Alan Turing

Gay Star News today reported that, frustrated by the lack of progress in giving Turing a posthumous pardon, Lord Sharkey, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, has drafted his own bill to get his record wiped clean. However, it may take a while to get it debated.

Previous LGBT HIstory Project blog posts about Alan Turing:
6 February 2012: - reported a previous refusal by the Government to grant a pardon

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, has died

Sally Ride, in 1983 communicating with ground control
Sally Ride was a physicist who became the first American woman to go into space on 18 June 1983 on Space shuttle Challenger. She made two space flights, totalling some 343 hours in space.

She died on 23 July 2012, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Ride married fellow NASA astronaut, Steve Hawley, in 1982, but they divorced in 1987.

The  obituary released through her company, Sally Ride Science, revealed that she is survived by her female partner, Dr Tam E O'Shaughnessy, something never previously acknowledged publicly, although they had been partners since 1985. O'Shaughnessy was a childhood friend; they met when they were young, aspiring tennis players.

She founded Sally Ride Science in 2001 to create entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls.

Commenting on the obituary's apparent revelation, Ride's sister, Bear Ride, said, "We consider Tam a member of the family." Saying that her sister was a very private person, Bear Ride also said, "People did not know she had pancreatic cancer, that's going to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew - and everyone does now. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer. The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same."

Bear, who identifies as gay, added: "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."
Following her death, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has - to say the least - a poor record on LGBT issues, sent out a tweet of condolence. ("Sally Ride ranks among the greatest of pioneers. I count myself among the millions of Americans she inspired with her travels to space.") Sarah Palinm that bastion of tolerance, did something similar. It prompeted a flurry of outraged responses from various sources: - has a slide show giving a selection of the most intersting replies.

A piece by Michaelangelo Signorile on The Huffington Post about why Sally Ride's sexual orientation should not be glossed over.
Also: 'Sally Ride and questions of how to memorialize semi-closeted public figures':

UPDATE 26/7/12: Amazingly, it appears that Ride was recruited to the astronaut programme by another icon. It was Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura from the Star Ship Enterprise) who recruited her to NASA.
More information:

NB: The first woman in space was the Russian Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (Валентина Владимировна Терешкова) on 16 June 1963.

Photo courtesy of US National Archives & Records Administration, via Wikipedia

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The world’s first LGBT activist?

A fascinating - and quite detailed - piece on Karl Heinrich Ulrichs appears on Gay Star News's website today. Referring to him as the world's first LGBT activist, the article describes his work for understanding and acceptance of what he referred to as 'urnings' (see link below for a definition) in the mid-19th century.

The full article is here:

More information on Ulrichs:

More information on 'urnings':

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Mahatma Gandhi

(Photo courtesy of WIkipedia)
It may be that Mahatma Gandhi, revered as the Father of modern India, had at least an emotional connection with another man, Hermann Kallenbach, a German-Jewish architect. In “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India” released last year, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Joseph Lelyveld seems to have implied that Gandhi and Kallenbach may have been more than friends after originally meeting in South Africa. (There's a review of the book from The Wall Street Journal Online here:

The Indian government has just paid $1.28 million (about £835,000) to purchase over 1,000  letters, documents and telegrams between Gandhi and Kallenbach, according to blog India Real Time (

The Wikipedia entry for Gandhi is here:

A (very slightly) related item:
The words English owes to India -

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

10th anniversary of Goodwin & I vs UK

(Slightly paraphrased from Christine Burns's blog 'Just Plain Sense'.)

Today sees the tenth anniversary of a key ruling from the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.

On 11 July 2002, 17 judges unanimously ruled that the United Kingdom violated the Article 8 and 12 rights of transsexual people, through the continued denial of any legal mechanism to correct the gender registered for them at birth, and through maintaining their inability to marry according to their acquired gender.

The cases of Goodwin & I vs UK were a watershed, requiring specific action by the Labour government of the day, after previous administrations had dragged their heels on the issue for 32 years.

Christine goes on to talk about letters placed in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph following the ruling. Each letter is signed by eight psychiatrists (apparently 2 different groups of 8), few, if any of whom, were known to have any expertise in the area of gender identity. It is also interesting (well, I think is is, anyway) that the letters are almost word for word identical.

See the complete article at:

Christine Burns is a political activist, best known for her work with Press For Change.

The rulling in Goodwin & I vs UK led evenutally to the enactment of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. - for the actual legislation
You can download a copy of the Act from:
GIRES have put a summary of the Act ontheir website:

Minor Planet 40463 named Frankkameny after US gay rights activist

Franklin Edward (Frank) Kameny (21 May 1925 – 11 October 2011) was "one of the most significant figures" in the American gay rights movement. In 1957, he was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the US Army Map Service in Washington, DC because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin "a Herculean struggle with the American establishment" that would "spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s".
Frank Kameny standing in front of signs once used during protests - 2009
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

More information at: