My Funny Valentine
This month we mark LGBT History Month with a look at some of the Hub collections which shed light on the history of lesbian and gay communities in the UK.
The study of lesbian and gay history has been developed dramatically over the past 30 years, with great strides being made in the past decade. However, searching for material relating to lesbian and gay history can be time consuming and frustrating as catalogues and indexes can give few clues to the rich content of many collections and searching for 'gay', 'homosexuality' or 'lesbian' can often produce few results and often the reader needs to think laterally to track down appropriate sources.
For information prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act a rich resource can be the records of the courts and authorities anxious to suppress same-sex relationships. So the Bishop's Transcripts of parish records held in the Borthwick Institute provide evidence of the marriage between Ann Steel and John Brown at Bolton Piercy in 1756. The marriage was later crossed out of the transcript as John Brown was "afterwards discovered to be a woman dressed in man's apparel" whose real name was Barbara Hill.
From the late 19th century onwards another fertile area for research are the records of individuals writing about 'gay' life - while authors such as Walt Whitman (1819-1891), Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986), or Violet Martin (1862-1915) predominate, material also comes from other sources including Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), whose writings on political and social policy were highly influential in the early years of the 20th century, and Rachel Pinney (1909-1995), the child therapist.
The growing political activism of the 20th century leading up to and following on from the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act can be traced through a wide range of political archives. Although the pre-war Communist Party had followed the Soviet line that homosexuality was a sign of 'bourgeois decadence' in the post war period the party was amongst the first to seriously discuss the issues of gay rights. The campaign is documented in the papers of the Albany Trust and North Western Homosexual Reform Committee both held in the Hall-Carpenter Archives and both Barbara Castle and Richard Crossman cover the debates of the 1960s in their diaries. Since 1967 the numbers of gay organisations and campaigns has grown ranging from Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners to the Women and Socialism conferences of the early 1970s documenting links and differences between the gay and women's movements.
Finally the National Lesbian and Gay Survey, this Mass-Observation-inspired collection of first person accounts includes stories about coming out, gays and the law and the impact of HIV/AIDS. The Survey continues to collection material to continue the documentation of gay life into the 21st century.
- Sue Donnelly, archivist at the London School of Economics, home to the Hall-Carpenter Archives of lesbian and gay activism.
- Noël Coward (1899-1973): playwright, actor, composer, and film and television director
- W.H. Auden (1907-1973): poet, playwright, librettist, critic, editor, and translator
- Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996): archaeologist and writer; an original member of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, founded in 1958
- Fred Urquhart (1912-1995): writer and editor
- Denton Welch (1915-1948): novelist and artist
- Edward Thompson (1917-2001): publisher
- James Kirkup (born 1918): travel writer, poet, novelist, playwright, translator, and broadcaster; Kirkup's poem about a gay centurion at the crucifixion led to the prosecution of Gay News by 'morality watchdog' the National Viewers and Listeners Association.
- John Schlesinger (1926-2003): openly gay actor, film producer, director and scriptwriter
- Joe Orton (1933-1967): playwright, whose works included Entertaining Mr Sloane, 1964
- David Rees (1936-1993): lecturer, author, and publisher
- Peter Tatchell (born 1952): gay and H.I.V./AIDS activist, social worker, journalist and author
- The Lesbian Archive: Glasgow Women's Library at The Mitchell Library. With items dating back to the early 20th century.
Dyke Wedding, London, March 1992.
Original photo Steve Mayes.
© 1992 OutRage!
- LGBT History Month: celebrating the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain and Northern Ireland [website requires frames]
- Hall-Carpenter Archives: founded in 1982 and the largest source for the study of gay activism in Britain (London School of Economics)
- H.C.A. Oral History Project: major collection of interviews relating to gay and lesbian experience in Britain (National Sound Archive, British Library, London)
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered History: finding some of this hidden history particularly within the records held at the Borthwick (Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York)
- Source Guide for the History of Manchester’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community (Manchester City Council, Archves and Local Studies)
- Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive: collection of 200,000 press cuttings covering all aspects of lesbian and gay life from the 1930s to the present (Middlesex University) [website opens in new browser window]
- Lesbian Archive: significant collection of materials about lesbian lives, activism and achievement (Glasgow Women's Library)
- Gay and Lesbian History: gay and lesbian history at The National Archives: research guide (The National Archives)
- Amnesty International UK: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network
- London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (March 29 - April 12, 2006) (British Fim Institute)
- Big Gay Read: finding the UK's favourites lesbian or gay novel
- Knitting Circle: resources on lesbian and gay issues with special emphasis on higher education (London South Bank University)
- Out There: Gay and Lesbian Archive Links Online: new portal aimed at helping researchers to identify archive resources for the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history (The National Archives)
[ Archives Hub Blog:Map of the human heart?.
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