Reporting change: law reform, homosexual identity and the role of counter-culture

Lucy Robinson

in Gay Men and the Left in Post-war Britain

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780719074349
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701591 | DOI:
Reporting change: law reform, homosexual identity and the role of counter-culture

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When the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 partially decriminalised homosexuality, it also exposed the limits of reform. Of all Labour Party's reforms, the decriminalisation of homosexuality was most clearly not a simple party issue. This chapter focuses on the choices made by homosexual men as new arenas of political and cultural activism instead. It looks through the eyes of a variety of key participants, some of whom experienced at first hand the limits of traditional law reform and party politics: Anthony Grey, Allan Horsfall, George Melly, Colin MacInnes and Ray Gosling. In different ways, all these characters had a lasting impact on gay politics and each is emblematic of the different strands that fed into the gay liberation movement. Through these men's experiences, we can see the pull of single issue identity politics in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the emergence of a counter-culture around events such as the Wholly Communion in 1965 and the Dialectics of Liberation conference in 1967. The counter-culture offered a place for gay men to move away from reformism's apologies and the Left's silences.

Keywords: gay men; Labour Party; law reform; Sexual Offences Act of 1967; counter-culture; homosexuality; decriminalisation; Left; identity politics; gay liberation movement

Chapter.  15053 words. 

Subjects: UK Politics

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