The great Harvey Milk spoke of the dangers of homosexuals remaining invisible in society and I think that applies to the past as much as the present. (Indeed, I think many people are unaware or have forgotten just how pivotal a role Milk himself played in global gay and lesbian history).

For me, being part of the LGBT community isn’t just about identifying with the ‘here and now’. It’s also about feeling a connection with our history – whether that’s the men with the pink triangles in the Nazi death camps or the lesbians who abseiled from the gallery in Britain’s Parliament to protest Section 28.

Poster for the 1983 Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration in San Francisco

It’s about major events and others that may, on the face of it, seem small and insignificant. But they all add up and they all played their part in bringing us to where we are now.

In recognition of that my posts will be a mix of observations, personal experiences and opinions. Hopefully it will be pretty clear which is which but, either way, it will all be a bit one-sided!

That being the case, I very much welcome input from others. Your opinion or your experience – it all helps add to the picture I’m trying to paint.

You can see from the side bar what kinds of things I’ll be posting on. But please don’t see that list as set in concrete, I’m sure other areas will be added as they come to my attention.

I’m also hoping to add a more interactive function as the site develops. So watch this space! In the meantime, I hope you like what you find here and will feel happy to put in your own comments.

You can also email me by clicking here

Thank you,

Colin Clews




A Pivotal Era in LGBT History? — 35 Comments

  1. I am doing a project about homosexuals and the way they have been stigmatised, alongside the way they were treated for example through medicalisation. Some of the things I have read are quite disturbing and It actually makes me feel sick.

  2. I’m confident that someday, gays will run free through the world. Hopefully soon, I think this generation is just starting to realize it.

    • RUN!!!!! and yes we did that,from police and gay bashers)so we decided to speak in Polari, the gay language so no one could work out what the hell we were saying. More to this Polari was used in a radio show called round the horne and it was on the BBC, ” Hell if they knew what was actually being said the corp would undoubtedly took it off air for good and saying banned( i’m so pleased they did not go to local gay club, Now that would have caused a outrage,to find that most gay guys spoke it,)LMAO

      I still laugh at Jules and Sand,older guys will know this xx

    • Your confidence has deemed itself true; it’s 2021 and although discrimination against the LGBT community is still present in many Eastern/Central countries, the Western world o a whole, has grown more accepting. Gay marriage has been legalized, social media has formed a community for everyone to be themselves, and in truth, we… you… can run free.

      They are free, and although there could always be more improvements, they are free!

  3. OH MY GOODNESS! JACKPOT! I am writing a research paper on ALMOST exactly this and seeing as how I was not alive in the 80s this is like gold! Thank you so much!

  4. Thank you very much fo sharing all the experiences in the blog… It is really valuable for all us that were not there… I was a child in the 80s, and while I maybe slightly perceived a little bit of what was going on (specially AIDS) I couldn’t see how many important things we have now were fought at that time.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Leu. Obviously, I do think our history is important so it’s nice to receive feedback like yours that reinforce that view,

  5. I love your site, it made me nostalgic for the 80s, even though it was a tough time for LGBT rights, it still held so much hope. Thank you for collecting all this wonderful history.

    • Thanks for your feedback Sherrie,
      It’s always nice to hear that people find Gay in the 80s of interest and value,

  6. I have been reading your history as part of my MA assignment in professional foundation of youth work and just want to say Thanks for sharing! #inspiration!

  7. Thanks for this place to share and link up with our history in the eighties and mine working for lesbians and gays in South London. Any one out there remember GLGC in Woolwich on the Bowater Industrial Estate, I worked there from 1984 to 1991. Lots of memories of a momentous period for us all

  8. Just stopping by to thank you about this whole web. I just discovered for a project, but i’m going to be checking it out for personal reasons. So yeah, thank you

  9. I’m doing a project on the first National March on Washington DC in 1979. It is the largest recorded march for LGBTQ rights in the US, and I was wondering if you think any of these events in the 80’s was inspired by this event.

    • I don’t think ‘inspired’ is probably the right word;in my view, the events of the 80s were part of a developing social/political movement that had been running since at least the early 20th century. The 1979 March on Washington was a milestone in that development; as you say, it was the first and the biggest national LGBT rights march in the USA. One reason it happened was because activists across the country had realised the importance of building the various local initiatives into a national movement during the 70s. The National Gay Task force was formed in 1973 as part of this. They had mooted the idea of a national march even then but political and organisational difficulties meant that progress was slow – but it finally happened in 1979 (Perfect timing for the arrival of Ronald Reagan in 1980!)

      So I don’t think the National March inspired subsequent events but, more accurately, was just one manifestation (albeit a huge one!) of the LGBT movement’s increasingly strategic approach towards getting our rights.

      I guess it could be argued that the National March did influence some subsequent events because, simply as a demonstration of increasing LGBT organisation, it probably scared our enemies and spurred them into intensifying their own efforts to counter the ‘threat’ we posed. It was ‘the gay agenda’ made real – and right at the heart of America’s democracy.

      • Thank you so very much! This has helped a lot! Thank you for your time and help on this matter. Have a wonderful day!

  10. Hi Colin~ I look forward to digging through your collection of info here. I am writing a play that takes place in 1984 involving a man who is leaving his wife for another man. Though I was a teenager in the 80s, I was not exposed to anything having to do with LGBTQ folks at that point. And I am the B in LGBTQ!

  11. Colin,

    You may be interested in a five-part 15-minute drama series on BBC Radio 4 this week, part of the longer series “Writing the Century”: stories behind the National Lesbian and Gay Survey. Available at www. bbc. co. uk/ programmes/ b07btsvn

    (It’s based on 1993 rather than the 1980s, but interesting nonetheless).

  12. Thanks for doing this. I’m a gay teen who’s obsessed with the 80’s and I wanted to know if I lived in those times, would it have been possible to be happy as a gay male or not. Mark my words someones gonna make a machine and I’ll finish my days in the 80’s haha

    • Thanks Brandon,
      In answer to your question, it was most certainly possible to be happy as a gay male. We’re a resilient bunch and adapt to our circumstances pretty well really! I guess one of the problems with trying to get a feel for a certain period from a bunch of blog posts is that you only get part of the picture. There’s lots of stuff I don’t write about simply because they were non-events – for example, just going out to a club one night, or a screening of a move like ‘Prick Up Your Ears’ or the Dance Party at Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras. Even in the middle of the AIDS crisis, when it seemed like people were dying all around us, we didn’t know if we were going to be next and there were no treatments at all, it was still possible to have fun. It’s my view that those difficult times did make us stronger.

      And once you do get your hands on a time machine, head for Sydney in the early 80s. The Mardi Gras Parties were just amazing!


  13. I fought for gay rights in the late eighties was on all the marches, witnessed AIDS first hand that discimated our community. I fought for our human rights and with the most amazing people and my friends and my partner work colleagues. I watched them die from the toxic drugs tuning into ghosts.
    I survived miraculously maybe beacause I was younger or just lucky it doesn’t always feel like it.
    I believe now is as important as then for human rights they are being eroded by government and media promoting fear and lies while a few private companies profit survivors like me suffer from cancers disabling bone disease nerve damage blindness from the high doses of toxic drugs and the existing HIV medication taken over 20 years.
    Don’t take things for granted I was part of a few people who relaunched ‘Pride’ when it went bankrupt I saw it commercialised it’s not about the bars and advertisers using us as billboards,
    it is about solidarity, support and fighting for what is right for evryone and anyone who can’t fight themselves that is why the governments changed laws and opinion is changing we could become a civil society where we can all find happiness and not live in fear. And we could live in a real democracy ? well one day.

    • Thank you for all you’ve done, and tho you likely won’t hear that expressed, it’s deeply so. We too often don’t think of being gay lgbtq+, as part of a community, when the alienation is part of the growing experience as one. I’m also thankful for those who worked in AIDS activism, and that too made a world far less nightmarish than it had been. Holly Near’s song, the standard really, tells us of that perspective, and how it led to a better place, standing on the shouldes of much braver folks who came before us. “We are gay and straight together, and we’re singing for our lives.”

  14. Is there a parenting section? Lesbian mothers were so badly treated. In 89 in Devon, UK, i had a court order banning me from taking my children into the company of lesbians or allowing lesbians in my home. It was awful, we were so badly treated.

  15. Just purchased your book as I’m currently filming an LGBTQ+ feature called ‘Once A Year On Blackpool Sands’, directed by Karlton Parris; it’s mostly set in the fifties, but my particular role is in the eighties, and I think reading your account will be invaluable. Can’t wait to start reading!

  16. Sorry, but there was no LGBTQALPHABETSOUP in the 80s. It was the GL and nothing else. I’m gay and I find the LGBTQALPHABETSOUP full of insane people and I have nothing in common with anything after the B. I prefer to stay away from a lobbying group that became the symbol of insanity. This is not what I fought for.

  17. I live in NYC and I turned 30 during this period so speak from past experience residing in a more “liberal oriented location. Those were the days before cell phones, computers and forget about social media. Surprisingly, many “gay” folks actually supported Reagan which I found disgusting although Nancy actually ran the show (and her astrologer directed her) and she was much more liberal (had a gay designer who shared a bed in the White House with his partner when working with her). Rock Hudson was a personal friend!! After the pressure put on him by Elizabeth Taylor among others he finally mentioned AIDS in a speech in 1987 as “lukewarm” as it was. It was a “gay” disease (other words were used) and no one cared. The infection rate varied where on lived with Manhattan the worst area and Long Island not so much. Perhaps it was the easier access to sexual partners in the city proper whereas meeting spots, clubs etc.were more spread out as one traveled east. Regardless, it was basically a “death sentence”. no effective treatment was available even if one could get a doctor to treat him.
    Employers would fire you just for being “gay” and tell you to your face the reason (hence being in the closet) or just force you out. NYC did not enact a law until 1987 banning discrimination against us. Forget about the rest of the state!
    So we created our own “underground” and the Disco was a main avenue of escape (as well as various bars) where we could be ourselves, make friends or meet someone, dance and show affection to a partner. Most were located “off the beaten track” as gay bashing was common.
    As the 80’s evolved, programs as “Dynasty” introduced a gay character and even The Golden Girls brought home the gay lifestyle well as tackling AIDS among other issues of the day. Slowly, we became more accepted or tolerated. Lucky the music of the decade was awesome, the fitness craze took hold and designer cloths were the norm for many. Shopping became a major activity (no internet then). Much has been debated about the “Reagan” years and in my opinion we would have been much better off without him at the helm. You could ‘ditto” that for what we though of his good friend Margaret Thatcher.

    • Thanks Paul. – And ‘Yes’ and’Yes’ regarding your comments on Reagan and Thatcher. But, just like with Reagan in the States, gay people voted for Thatcher too. Very, very sad 🙁

  18. I think it’s important to say that Ronald Reagan stood up for gay rights before he became president..he publicly opposed the 1978 California Proposition 6 which was to ban gay teachers from working in California schools.
    ‘The timing of Reagan’s opposition is significant because he was then preparing to run for president, a race in which he would need the support of conservatives and those moderates who were very uncomfortable with homosexual teachers. At that very moment, he was actively courting leaders from the religious right, including Jerry Falwell, who would go on to form the Moral Majority to fight out such culture war issues the following year.[14] As Reagan biographer Lou Cannon puts it, Reagan was “well aware that there were those who wanted him to duck the issue” but nevertheless “chose to state his convictions.”[15] Cannon reports that Reagan was “repelled by the aggressive public crusades against homosexual life styles which became a staple of right wing politics in the late 1970s.”

    Extensive excerpts from his informal statement were reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle of September 24, 1978.[citation needed] Reagan’s November 1 editorial stated, in part, “Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.”[12]

    While polls initially had showed support for the initiative leading by a large margin, it was defeated heavily following opposition by the gay community and prominent conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike.[16][17]

  19. Just like to point out that ABC Australia has been screening The Newsreader about a TV newsroom set in the mid to late 1980s. The main character Dale Jennings is an ambitious journalist who wants to be the 6 o’clock newsreader. He is bi-sexual and tempted by a gay cameraman. Just as he is offered the post of main newsreader a gossip columnist threatens to out him. Dale knows this would spell the end of his budding career. He negotiates with the columnist to pull the story. S. 3 broadcasts in late 2024. Well worth watching (on ABCIVIEW)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>