Monday, 18 November 2013

10 years without Section 28!

Today is the 10th anniversary of the repeal of the invidious Section 28.

On 24 May 1988, after a lot of deeply unpleasant rhetoric by the right-wing press and many politicians (who were largely of a Tory persuasion), the Thatcher government brought into law Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which added Section 2A to the Local Government Act 1986 (affecting England, Wales and Scotland, but not, interestingly, Northern Ireland). The amendment said 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".

It was repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland as one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Scottish Parliament, but the rest of Great Britain had to wait until 18 November 2003, when it was repealed by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003.

One of our recent posts provides links to material discussing the history and legacy of this detestable piece of legislation:

There is currently a great deal of comment online about the lasting legacy of Section 28:
Tom Hayes, editor-in-chief of beyondpositive, an online magazine for people living with HIV in the UK, gives a personal perspective:

After a poll by Mumsnet found that 99% of gay teens have heard homophobic language and a report by Bernardo's Cymru that 58% of Welsh schoolchildren have witnessed homophobic bullying, Stonewall has launched a new campaign to give schools, teachers and young people the tools they need to challenge homophobic language:

The need for this is made clearer by the report today that an inquest has found that 14-year-old Ayden Keenan-Olson took his own life. He left two suicide notes saying how he could no longer cope with the homophobic and racist bullying he experienced at school.

There is some goods news too, however. OFSTED school inspectors are now investigating whether schools they visit are fighting anti-gay bullying and teaching about same-sex families:
now investigating whether schools they visit are fighting anti-gay bullying and teaching about same-sex families. - See more at:
now investigating whether schools they visit are fighting anti-gay bullying and teaching about same-sex families. - See more at:
now investigating whether schools they visit are fighting anti-gay bullying and teaching about same-sex families. - See more at:
Sexual orientation and gender identity (well, 'gender reassignment') are referred to throughout the current OFSTED school inspection handbook:

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The UpStairs Lounge Fire

On Sunday 24th June 1973, 28 people died in a fire in a bar in New Orleans, with four more people dying from their burns in the following days. It was quickly established that this was a case of arson.

The Advocate has posted an article about what it calls the 'worst mass killing of LGBT people in US history':
Patrons of the UpStairs Lounge

There are a number of upsetting aspects to this story:
  • Because this happened in a 'queer bar', some of the contemporary reporting was quite hateful - and there was the 'joke' told by a local radio jockey: “What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars.”
  • Some of the victims had children who waited decades before learning how and why one of their parents died.
  • Four bodies were never identified, no one ever came forward to claim them. They were buried in a pauper's grave.
  • It seems highly likely that the arsonist was a hustler who had been thrown out of the bar shortly before the fire started for aggressive and drunken behaviour. He may or may not have been gay himself, but was well known to the patrons of the bar.
  • Unlike with other, similar events of the time, the local authorities made no attempt to mark the tragedy.
While this may not be very surprising, - we are, after all, talking about the early 1970s at the very beginnings of  the gay rights movement, even in the US - it has taken almost 40 years for the story to become more widely known and acknowledged.

This link is to an online exhibit which "weaves artifacts from the time into a vivid historical account of this tragedy and memorializes those who perished":

Monday, 11 November 2013

Polari... again!

I recently tried to link to the online version of the Polari Bible, once hosted by the Manchester chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and the link I had failed. :o(

I'm pleased to say that today I found out that the 5th edition of the Polari Bible is now available online here:
Back online
again when I checked on 21 January 2016.


UPDATED: 21 January 2016
If you can't get the previous link to work, you can probably still download the whole Polari Bible (5th edition) as a 10Mb pdf from:

According to the history set out in the preface to this edition:

Work on the original King James Bible began early in the 17th century, and it has become a watchword for the majesty and power of its language. Vulgarising it by translating it in to Polari would be an act of cultural vandalism akin to translation in to Scots. But good taste has never yet fettered the Sisters' activities, so we did it anyway.

Besides a phrase like Rom 6:23 -
For the parkering ninty of kertever is carking it* - has a beauty and majesty all of its very own.

* For those of you who are less than fluent in Polari: 'For the wages of sin is death.'

Progress was regularly interrupted by such mundane things as the Polari Mission's project members having to earn a living. However, it is now available for your perusal once more.

Note also that Bona Eek! – The Polari Mission exhibition is on until February 2014 (free!) at the John Ryland’s Library in Manchester (150 Deansgate, M3 3EH).

Other links: - The Abbey of St Joan in Seattle - London - Edinburgh - Sydney

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Shadow of Section 28

Today I gave my presentation, The Shadow of Section 28, for Sutton LGBT Forum.

The presentation explored the reasons for the enactment of section 28, its effects on LGBT and non-LGBT people and its continuing legacy, despite its repeal in November 2003.

I offered to provide some resources on this topic. They include:
These files are all in pdf format. If you would like the PowerPoint version of the slides or the Word versions of the notes and background material, please contact me at

NOTE: All links will open in another window or tab.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Bi Visibilty Day - 23 September 2013

To celebrate Bi Visibility Day, as part of my contribution to reducing bi erasure....

There are a variety of lists of noted people who identify as bisexual:

Here, the Bisexual Index talks about why lists are probably best read with a little caution:

For Bi Visibility Day 2010, website After Ellen posted photographs of 'some of their favourite women who date both men and women':

The Bi Visibility Day web site:- - a Facebook page
and see also

Getting Bi in a Gay/Straight World
(A bisexual resource book on Flickr as a series of images.)

If you wonder why we need to celebrate bisexuality in its own right, perhaps you should read this:

Happy Bi Visibility Day
 to all Bi, Poly and Pan identified people
and to those who are attracted to more than one gender.


Bi the way:
The LGBT History Project is currently working on the 2014 edition of its annual magazine, Past2Present. As you may know, the theme for LGBT History Month 2014 is 'Music'. Any suggestions to help make sure we cover the 'B' properly will be gratefully received.

The 2013 edition of Past2Present can be downloaded from here:


Bi the way 2:
A report produced in 2012 by research group BiUK and published by the Open University, The Bisexual Report: Bisexual Inclusion in LGBT Equality and Diversity, offers an in-depth analysis of the present situation, along with useful suggestions for implementing improvements. These include: making specific reference to bisexuals in policy and decision-making, and recognising that using "gay" as shorthand for LGB in a sexual orientation strategy can give bisexual staff the impression that the policy or procedure isn't applicable to them.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Food Chain

On Saturday 21st September, The Food Chain marks 25 years of delivering meals to people living with HIV with its Silver Apple Walk.

The first meal was delivered on Christmas day 1988; meals have been delivered every week since.

The Food Chain was established by friends of people living with HIV and inspired by similar American organisations. Set up in a time before effective medication was available, physical wasting was common, and good nutrition helped support the immune system and maintain a healthy body mass.

Today, The Food Chain offers a range of nutrition services tailored to provide appropriate support to anyone living with HIV in London. Its services are made possible by the dedication and support of many people who have been volunteers, donors, staff and trustees over the years.

For more detail on The Food Chain's history:-

There's a (very) brief article about The Food Chain on Wikipedia:

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Polari Game for Sutton LGBT Forum on 8 August 2013

The following are available for download (PDF format):-
      Pocket Dictionary of Polari (2009 edition) -
      The Glossy of Matilda - Chap 2, with translation -
      GCSE specimen paper – ANSWERS -
      Polari – Background material -
      The Bona Booklet of Julian & Sandy -

And, in case you want to pass it on:
The booklet I gave out at the presentation.

Wikipedia on Polari:

Friday, 26 July 2013

April Ashley Exhibition

The Museum of Liverpool will host a new major exhibition this September looking at the history of transgendered people in Britain over the past 70 years, focusing on the experiences of April Ashley. 

From 27 September 2013 - 21 September 2014, April Ashley: Portrait of a lady will - for the first time - explore the story of April Ashley MBE, one of the first people in the world to undergo pioneering gender reassignment surgery and whose divorce case in 1970 (Corbett v Corbett) had profound effects on the trans community in the UK. 

For more detail about the exhibition:

A previous post about this project:

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Ruth Ellis - born this day in 1899

Ruth Ellis (1899-2000), US Activist

Ruth Ellis was born in Springfield, Illinois, the youngest of 4 children. Her 3 brothers were Wellington, who played drums, Harry, a doctor who played the piano and clarinet, and Charles Jr, a second lieutenant in World War I who played the violin. Ellis said she played the mandolin and the piano by ear.

Ellis learned about homosexuality by reading books like Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness. "Then, I found a psychology book. It had different things in it about different types of people. That's how I learned. Nobody told me anything."

Ellis had her first real girlfriend when she was 37. Cicilene "Babe" Franklin was 10 years her junior. Ellis said she had a penchant for drinking liquor, gambling and going out. In addition, Franklin was a restaurant cook and always wore dresses. The couple were together 30 years.

One highlight in their life was when they bought a home on Oakland Avenue in Detroit. Ellis ran a small print shop named the "Ellis and Franklin Printing Company." A man in her neighbourhood in Springfield had taught Ellis how to set type and operate his presses. So in Detroit, she did walk-in printing jobs for churches and other organisations that often
involved printing coin envelopes and raffle tickets. With Franklin's job as a cook and the printing company, Ellis said they managed to survive.

During the late 1930s and the 1940s, she held social gatherings in her home at a time when there were few places for Black LGBT people to gather. Later, however, the city tore down the house as part of an urban renewal effort.

In the 1960s, Franklin, who had a car, decided to move closer to her job. Ellis moved into a senior citizens' centre in central Detroit, but kept a key to Franklin's home. When Franklin died in 1973, Ellis remained single: "I do very well the way I am."

She was the oldest known out lesbian, active to the end in LGBT and senior citizen's movements. Ellis had been in attendance at the annual NBLGLF conference. At age 97 she conducted an informal workshop at the National Women's Music Festival.

Less than a month before her death on 5th October 2000, she helped dedicate the Ruth Ellis Centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth in Detroit. The city of Detroit recognises her contributions by celebrating Ruth Ellis Day each February during Black History Month.

Her life was celebrated in Yvonne Welbon's 1999 documentary film Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100

This article first appeared in Past2Present 2009, which you can download here:

Other sources of information about Ruth Ellis: - (archived version of Ruth Ellis's website, not complete) - (archived piece for Curve)

Monday, 1 July 2013

A Plaque for Fanny & Stella

The Marchmont Association has announced that a plaque will be unveiled on Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 2pm to commemorate Ernest Boulton & Frederick Park, aka 'Stella & Fanny', the Victorian cross-dressers who lodged at 13 Wakefield Street (now United Reformed Church House) from 1868 to 1870.

The unveiling will take place at United Reformed Church House in Wakefield Street, London, WC1, followed by an informal reception for invited guests. The plaque will be unveiled by Bette Bourne - actor, drag queen and activist.

More detail here:

Fanny & Stella have appeared twice before on the blog:

Here is Bette Bourne's wiki entry:

Friday, 17 May 2013

Today is IDAHO

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the problems caused by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. It is not a centralised campaign but a movement that enables anyone take action that is appropriate to local conditions.

The date of 17th May was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
IDAHO is now celebrated in more than 100 countries, in all world regions and in places as diverse as Australia, Iran, Cameroon or Albania. It has received official recognition from several States and such international institutions as the European Parliament, and by countless local authorities. Most United Nations agencies also mark the Day with specific events.
LGBTI organisations, governments, cities, human rights organisations, corporations and celebrities have all taken action on 17th May to:
  • Draw media attention to the issues of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
  • Organise events which mobilise public opinion
  • Demand attention from policymakers and engage in lobbying activities
  • Network with like-minded organisations and develop new partnerships, at home or beyond
  • Mobilise existing constituencies and address new audiences
Why is there an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia?

In 75 countries around the world, loving someone of the same sex is still considered illegal, at times involving lifetime imprisonment and, in eight countries, it is punishable by death.

And in many more countries still,  citizens are denied their right to live according to their preferred gender identity.

As well as legal discrimination, social homophobia and transphobia serve to daily deny millions of people across the world their basic human dignity.

For more information:-,_Biphobia_and_Transphobia

The UK page for IDAHO is here:

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has just released the results of a survey of LGBT people’s experiences of discrimination, violence and harassment:

ILGA-Europe (the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) has just released their Rainbow Europe Map for 2013:
There are 'score sheets' for each country in the union:

Friday, 26 April 2013

A little history of our own...

The LGBT History Project has its roots in work we did for the Rainbow Network, the corporate support network for LGBT staff at the then Department for Constitutional Affairs (aka the DCA, which later became part of the Ministry of Justice when it was created in 2007).

The Rainbow Network used LGBT History Month as a way to inform staff about LGBT issues generally, presenting events in different parts of England and Wales (in the departmental offices). Over the years we gave presentations on the lasting impact of Section 28, international laws on homosexuality, the development of thinking on homosexuality from the late 19th century and lots more. My personal favourite has always been the 2 hour seminar on Polari, in which I got participants to sit a mock GCSE paper.

In 2007, when the DCA provided generous funding for its diversity networks, the Rainbow Network worked with a gay-run graphic design company, Smart Arts, to produce the very first edition of Past2Present.

That first edition was only produced in a limited print run (of about 1,000 copies, if I remember correctly) and there are very few now available. I have about 3 copies, the rest are spread about the UK. We sent them to all our members and to local offices - magistrates' courts, county courts, crown courts.

We were never entirely sure how that was received - although we do know that someone in the Magistrates' Court at Leamington Spa shredded the copies we sent there. A Rainbow Network member, who was not out at the time, reported that back to us. We contacted the regional manager, without giving away the location (to avoid outing our member). I'm pleased to say that he worked with us to provide a full day's training on LGBT workplace issues to all the managers in that region.

Recently, I got in contact with one of the people who worked with me on the Rainbow Network. It turned out that he had a relatively complete draft of that original Past2Present in pdf format. With a little bit of work, I have managed to re-create it almost in its pristine glory - the design is not quite perfect, but then Smart Arts had far more professional software (and skill) than I have.

Here's the link:-
Past2Present 2007 -

The other editions can be downloaded here:-
(There was no 2008 edition.)
Past2Present 2009 -

Past2Present 2010 -
Past2Present 2011 -
Past2Present 2012 -
Past2Present 2013 -