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Building up to Wolfenden


“We knew we had to fight, we did indeed.  Lots of the men were politically aware, but I think only the slightly older ones, the ones who had been through the war and lived all that bloody nonsense and put up with all that because it was more or less ignored during the war because it suited the authorities and then it was all brought back again in full force in the late forties and fifties.”

“In the three years building up to the (publication of the) (Report) (1957), there was an anticipation then of homosexuality being legalised between consenting adults. He took his time over it because he was going through smoke and mirrors. I don’t think the reaction to Wolfenden was an overnight thing, I don’t think it changed people’s opinions really to a great degree and we’d lived under the shadow for such a long time that it wasn’t coming out, we didn’t come out.  We didn’t suddenly all go gay and running round the street with hula skirts on.  It was a slow process really that you had some sort of right.  I mean, cottaging was still illegal, of course, and so was cruising the heaths and the woods the way we used to.  I really feel that it was a start and then, of course, the societies were started up like the Oxford .  We started up when we were battling for ages for acceptance and then there would be - the bars in London, if you like, the Mecca of everything would get bolder and bolder with drag shows and camp shows and television got camp.  Television went through this very camp stage, it seemed that every other presenter was gay in one way or another and so it opened like a flower almost, slowly but surely.”

“To be quite honest, I don’t recall a great deal of overt reactions to it (Wolfenden) because there were the fors and againsts.  There were MPs, in fact, who stood out as being totally anti the Report but none I really would care to bring to mind.  Gerald Nabarro was a pompous old sod, I think he was an MP for Bewdley, he was totally against any let up at all on the gay scene but he was outnumbered by so many others and, of course, there were so many queens in the government anyway, and still are.  There’s a lot of that hypocrisy which I can’t abide, I can’t abide it with my best friends so I’m certainly not going to abide it with people I hardly know.”

Contributed by: Robin McGarry, 66

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