Pride Month!  Another time for me to do a bit of research and educate myself further.  I have learned some heart-breaking facts.  It’s been hard to read.  But very enlightening.

July 1967: The Sexual Offences Act legalised homosexual acts in England and Wales, on condition that they were: a) consensual b) in private, and c) both men were over 21.  This law was extended to Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982.  This was after the government set up a committee led by John Wolfenden to consider the laws on homosexuality.  The Wolfenden Report was released in 1957 (yes, a decade earlier than the first legalisation).  However, Harold Macmillan and his government didn’t act on it for fear of public backlash.  So in 1965, several politicians sponsored a Sexual Offences Bill, drawing on the findings from the Wolfenden Report.  This was a private members bill by Humphrey Berkeley, Leo Abse and Lord Arran.


A 1965 opinion poll by the Daily Mail showed that 63% thought it shouldn’t be a crime.  36% said it should.  But 93% agreed that homosexual men were “in need of medical or psychiatric treatment.”

Homosexuality was so little spoken about, you could well be into late adolescence before you ever heard about it.  Gay men were growing up confused and alone, feeling different and distressed.  How devastating to think of.  However, once they discovered their sexuality and found their tribe, there was a great sense of family and support in the secret community.


By 1967 Harold Wilson’s government showed the bill some support.  The decriminalisation of homosexuality was one of the liberal reforms of the era; which also involved the legislation of abortion the same year.  However, the bill’s act did NOT apply to the Merchant Navy, the Armed Forces, or to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The set age of 21 was also five years higher than that for heterosexual activity.  It did also did not delete the offences of buggery and gross indecency.  In the decade after the bill was passed, prosecutions for gross indecency trebled.

Most police were still anti-gay.  There was still a horrible aura of criminality around it.  People were fearful, and felt solitary, frustrated, apprehensive, unsupported and outcast.  For instance, if you were a gay couple and you had to call the police in the night, for a burglary or something, the first thing you’d do is make up a spare bed.  Otherwise, if the police suspected homosexuality, they’d likely ignore the original crime and concentrate on that, instead.


Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and Enigma codebreaker, reported a break-in but was instead arrested for gross indecency.  He lost his security clearance.  He escaped prison, but was forced to undergo hormone therapy (chemical castration) which meant taking oestrogen pills.  They made him impotent and he grew breasts.  He became depressed.  He later took his own life by eating an apple laced with cyanide, at 41 years old.

The Stonewall Riots in New York happened in 1969.  The first ever Gay March in London was in 1971, ending with a rally at Trafalgar Square.  The first openly gay MP, Chris Smith, came out in 1984 while in office.  The Age of Consent for homosexuality was reduced to 18 in 1994, and finally equalised to 16 in the UK in 2000.

We’ve come a long way.  But the struggle was and is even longer.  Let’s keep on striving for equality, enlightenment, and love.


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