News: Activist Pioneers Kick Off LSE LGBT+ History Month Events - The Beaver

This article was first published in The Beaver.

OUTing The Past is a campaign started in 2005 by LGBT+ charity Schools OUT UK to raise awareness and interest in the origins and history of LGBT+ and Human Rights Campaigns in recent decades. To kick off LGBT+ History Month 2019, the LSE welcomed three Activist Founders of the movement.

Author Stuart Feather was a founding member of the pivotal Gay Liberation Front. He spoke to a packed Wolfson Theatre about the legacy of Mary McIntosh, known as “Britain’s leading feminist”, who was instrumental in the Homosexual Law Reform Society campaign to abolish the 1865 Offences Against The Persons Act.

In Feather’s retelling, McIntosh was initially dismayed by the lack of female representation in the early days of what was then known as the Gay & Lesbian Movement. “As soon as the lesbians came out, we were told we were a bourgeois deviation and we would disappear under socialism,” she once said. Before she passed away in 2013, McIntosh was a pioneer of the gay-feminist activism movement, culminating in her co-founding of the Women’s Gay Liberation Front.

The second speaker was Dr Clifford Williams, a member of the London Gay Teenage Group in the 1970s and ’80s. Using material from the extensive Hall-Carpenter Archives housed at the LSE, he narrated a fascinating account of the birth of what eventually became the Gay Youth Movement of the 1980s, which in turn sprung several groups across the UK.

Before this time, groups and opportunities for young gay people were few and far between. Roger Juer, a campaigner who attended the event and was also involved in the early days of the Gay Youth Movement, told The Beaver that some of their initial meetings were held on the LSE campus, in what is now the Garrick café.

In his talk, Williams told the audience of the activist pioneers’ dismay at the lack of existing social infrastructure and their delight when they discovered so-called GAY Groups which were, bizarrely, run by the Church — until they discovered that “GAY” stood for “Guild of Abstaining Youths”.

Lisa Power, the third and final speaker of the evening, co-founded Stonewall in 1989. In the year of the charity’s 30th anniversary, she told the audience how the movement evolved from an organisation consisting almost exclusively of white gay men into one that is racially diverse and proudly progressive.

Introducing herself as “a dyke who’s been around for donkey’s years”, Power told the audience how Stonewall was initially stonewalled by other left-wing institutions such as the Labour party and even the gay press. She proudly recounted how they pressed on undeterred, proclaiming that “history is made to be interfered with”.

Maria Bell, who organised the event on behalf of the LSE Library, told The Beaver that she was thrilled by the success of the evening. “The Library was delighted to be selected as one of the national hubs for OUTing the Past Festival of LGBT History during this year’s LGBT+ History Month,” she said. “The Library welcomed Stuart Feather, Dr Clifford Williams and Lisa Power for our final event of the day to talk of the people behind some of the first activist groups for LGBT+ rights.”

She also referenced the Hall-Carpenter Archives, which contain a large collection of primary source material relating to the LGBT+ movement from the late 1950s through to the ’90s. “Our programme offered a wealth of perspectives of early activists and highlighted material in the unique Hall-Carpenter Archives,” she said.

“LSE Library has been home to the Hall-Carpenter Archives since 1988. It’s an extensive collection of archives, ephemera and printed material documenting the development of gay activism in the UK since the 1950s. Our collections enable us to learn of the struggles of the campaigners for rights for future generations.”

OUTing The Past is a campaign started in 2005 by LGBT+ charity Schools OUT UK to raise awareness of and interest in the origins and history of LGBT+ and Human Rights Campaigns in recent decades. To kick off LGBT+ History Month 2019, the LSE welcomed three Activist Founders of the movement.

Author Stuart Feather was a founding member of the pivotal Gay Liberation Front. He spoke to a packed Wolfson Theatre about the legacy of Mary McIntosh, known as “Britain’s leading feminist”, who was instrumental in the Homosexual Law Reform Society campaign to abolish the 1865 Offences Against The Persons Act.

In Feather’s retelling, McIntosh was initially dismayed by the lack of female representation in the early days of what was then known as the Gay & Lesbian Movement. “As soon as the lesbians came out, we were told we were a bourgeois deviation and we would disappear under socialism,” she once said. Before she passed away in 2013, McIntosh was a pioneer of the gay-feminist activism movement, culminating in her co-founding of the Women’s Gay Liberation Front.

The second speaker was Dr Clifford Williams, who was a member of the London Gay Teenage Group in the 1970s and ’80s. Using material from the extensive Hall-Carpenter Archives housed at the LSE, he narrated a fascinating account of the birth of what eventually became the Gay Youth Movement of the 1980s, which in turn sprung several groups across the UK.

Before this time, groups and opportunities for young gay people were few and far between. Roger Juer, a campaigner who attended the event and was also involved in the early days of the Gay Youth Movement, told The Beaver that some of their initial meetings were held on the LSE campus, in what is now the Garrick café.

In his talk, Williams told the audience of the activist pioneers’ dismay at the lack of existing social infrastructure and their delight when they discovered so-called GAY Groups which were, bizarrely, run by the Church — until they discovered that “GAY” stood for “Guild of Abstaining Youths”.

Lisa Power, the third and final speaker of the evening, co-founded Stonewall in 1989. In the year of the charity’s 30th anniversary, she told the audience how the movement evolved from an organisation consisting almost exclusively of white gay men into one that is racially diverse and proudly progressive.

Introducing herself as “a dyke who’s been around for donkey’s years”, Power told the audience how Stonewall was initially stonewalled by other left-wing institutions such as the Labour party and even the gay press. She proudly recounted how they pressed on undeterred, proclaiming that “history is made to be interfered with”.

Maria Bell, who organised the event on behalf of the LSE Library, told The Beaver that she was thrilled by the success of the evening. “The Library was delighted to be selected as one of the national hubs for OUTing the Past Festival of LGBT History during this year’s LGBT+ History Month,” she said. “The Library welcomed Stuart Feather, Dr Clifford Williams and Lisa Power for our final event of the day to talk of the people behind some of the first activist groups for LGBT+ rights.”

She also referenced the Hall-Carpenter Archives, which contain a large collection of primary source material relating to the LGBT+ movement from the late 1950s through to the ’90s. “Our programme offered a wealth of perspectives of early activists and highlighted material in the unique Hall-Carpenter Archives,” she said.

“LSE Library has been home to the Hall-Carpenter Archives since 1988. It’s an extensive collection of archives, ephemera and printed material documenting the development of gay activism in the UK since the 1950s. Our collections enable us to learn of the struggles of the campaigners for rights for future generations.”