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LGBTQUA+ history: sources at the MRC

Photograph of two people carrying a banner with the caption 'Lesbian and Gay Pride '83'

The Modern Records Centre's collections include documents which highlight experiences and changing perceptions relating to sexuality during the 20th century. The majority of the sources within our collections focus on the 'LG' part of LGBTQUA+ and the experiences of bi, trans or asexual individuals are currently only occasionally represented in our archives (some of these limited sources are identified below). Older (pre-1970s) material in our collections tends to be written from an outside perspective and for a non-LGBTQUA+ audience. Views from within the communities begin to be represented more after the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act (and partial legalisation of same-sex acts between men), reflecting the growth in open activism through the Gay Liberation movement and its successors.

This guide is not a comprehensive list of all potentially relevant sources that we hold but highlights some of the more substantial or frequently used sources in our collections. The majority of the documents are undigitised (most are still in copyright) but the originals can be seen at the Modern Records Centre - follow the links to our catalogue to find the document references that will help you to order up the items. More sources can be identified by searching our online catalogue for key words or phrases.


Free Press Defence Committee, [1899?]

Leaflet regarding prosecution of George Bedborough, Secretary of the Legitimation League, for selling 'Sexual Inversion' by Havelock Ellis, the first English medical text book on homosexuality (the leaflet inaccurately states that the prosecution was for the sale of 'The Psychology of Sex'). This item has been digitised.

'Medical World', 1934-1960

'Medical World' was the journal of the Medical Practitioners' Union, a British trade union for doctors. It included occasional articles on homosexuality (usually male) and in May 1954 included an article on 'Sexual chaos' by Kenneth Walker, which covered the case of Roberta Cowell, the first known British trans woman to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and other "cases of the intersexual variety".

'The homosexual in society', 1944

Article by Robert Duncan, American poet, in which he referred openly to his own homosexuality and compared discrimination against homosexuals to anti-Semitism and racism.

Press reviews of 'Society and the homosexual' 1952

'Society and the homosexual' was written by Michael Schofield under the alias Gordon Westwood, and was published by Gollancz Ltd. The book was unusual for the time as it included information about the contemporary gay scene (reflecting the experiences of the author) and took a sociological rather than medical or legal view of homosexuality. The Gollancz archives include copies of reviews, a dust jacket and information about the publication contract, but not a copy of the book itself.

Howard League for Penal Reform

The Howard League is an organisation which campaigns for improved prison conditions and rehabilitation of offenders. Its archive includes copies of articles from the 1950s which look at male homosexuality as a criminal or psychological 'problem'.

'Prison and after: the experience of a former homosexual' 1955

'Homosexuality' by David Stafford-Clerk, 1957

'Psychotherapeutic aspects of male homosexuality' by L.H. Rubenstein, 1958

Summary of recommendations of the Wolfenden Report, 1957

The report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Wolfenden Report) was published in 1957 and recommended the decriminalisation of male homosexuality.

The Homosexual Law Reform Society

The Homosexual Law Reform Society was formed in 1958 as a pressure group to campaign for the implementation of the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report. The Society's members were predominantly heterosexual.

Subject file from the archives of Victor Gollancz, Executive Committee member, including progress report no.2 and correspondence, 1958-1966

Progress report, no.3, information sheets, and covering letter to enquirer, 1959-1960

Letter from the Homosexual Law Reform Society, September 1958

Replies to request to write foreword for proposed book by Rev. Andrew Hallidie Smith, first Secretary of the HLRS, 1962

Liberation, 1970s-1980s

'Anarchy', 1971

The February 1971 edition of the anarchist journal included articles on same sex relationships, bisexuality and women's liberation.

Newspapers and magazines linked with the Gay Liberation movement:

'Gay News': 18 editions between 1974-1978

'Birmingham Gay Liberation Front Newsheet', 1973

'Gay Left', nos. 1-7: "a socialist journal produced by gay people", 1975-1979

'Case Con', no.18: "Gay issue" of journal of radical social workers, 1975

'Gladrag': 2 editions of journal produced by Birmingham Gay Liberation Front, 1976

'Graft': edition of journal produced by Bradford Gay Liberation Front, 1976

'Sappho', vol.4, no.12, 1976

Gay Noise newsletter: 3 editions of journal produced by the Gay Noise Collective, 1980-1981

Pamphlets linked with the Gay Liberation movement:

'Faggots and the revolution', discussion documents from Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire, 1972Link opens in a new window

'Psychiatry and the homosexual: A brief analysis of oppression', Gay Liberation pamphlet no.1, 1973

'The politics of homosexuality' by Don Milligan, 1973

'Who screws who? Church + State v Sexuality: Press treatment of homosexuals' by Frank Pearce and Andy Roberts, undated [1970s]

'With downcast gays: Aspects of homosexual self-oppression' by Andrew Hodges and David Hutter, undated [post 1973]

'Gay Liberation Today', 1977

'Blasphemy in Britain: The practice and punishment of blasphemy, and the trial of Gay News' by Nicholas Walter, 1977

London Gay Activist Alliance: An Anti-Fascist Handbook, 1979

'The Word is Gay: Socialists and the Fight Against Gay Oppression', Socialist Workers Party Gay Group, 1979

'Breaking the chains: The struggle for gay liberation and socialism' by Susan Tyburn, [1979?]

'Out, Proud and Fighting: Gay Liberation and the Struggle for Socialism' by Noel Halifax, Socialist Workers Party, 1988

Leaflets and ephemera linked with the Gay Liberation movement:

Coventry Gay Activists' Alliance: information broadsheet, undated [1970s]

Gay Labour Group: information sheet, 1975

Birmingham Gay Liberation Front: broadsheet, [1976]

Birmingham Gay Liberation Front: 'Half a million died!!', [1976]

London Gay Socialists: 'Blacks and Gays: Ours is the same oppression! Ours is the same fight!', [1976]

Gay Liberation (South London): broadsheet against racism and fascism, [1976]

Gay Workers' Group: broadsheet, 1976

Lancaster University Gay Society leaflet, 1977

'Outrage!', undated [1983?]: fund raising leaflet for Outrage! magazine, including adverts for supporting organisations

"10% of men are gay!", postcard, mid-1980s

'The Other Love', [1974]

Draft of article on same sex relationships and discrimination by David Widgery, a member of the International Socialists (later the Socialist Workers Party).

'Homosexuality: time to tell the truth to young people, their families and friends', 1975-1979

'Homosexuality: time to tell the truth' was written by Leonard Barnett and was published by Gollancz Ltd. The Gollancz archive includes copies of reviews and references to the publication in catalogues of new books and books for schools, but not a copy of the book itself.

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) was formed in 1964 as the north west regional branch of the Homosexual Law Reform Society. It became a separate organisation in 1969, when it was renamed Campaign for Homosexual Equality, and was the largest lesbian and gay rights group in Britain during the 1970s.

'Everything you wanted to know about... lesbians', leaflet, undated [1970s?]

Correspondence and papers, 1978

CHE trade union campaign leaflet, 1978

Submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, 1979

'Gays and discrimination', pamphlet, 1983

Gay Youth Workers Group, 1976-1980

File included in the archives of the Community and Youth Service Association. Unite, the successor to the CYSA, require all researchers to get permission from the union before access can been given to unpublished material in their archives.

'From political gay to publicly bisexual to personally celibate', 1984

Article by Ben Stout published in the first edition of the journal 'Against Patriarchy'. Includes references to hostility towards bisexuality from members of gay rights groups.

'It isn't against the law but...: some myths about lesbianism', 1984

Illustrated article published in 'Battle-Axe', a feminist magazine published by a Coventry-based collective.

'Challenging Heterosexism and Homophobia', undated

Memorandum produced by Coventry Workshop, an independent research, education and advice centre set up as a charity in 1975 to work with local trade union and community organisations.

National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts

NCROPA was formed in 1976 to oppose 'sexual censorship' and provide a counterpoint to Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. The organisation's archives include correspondence with and publicity material for LGBTQUA+ organisations between 1978-1994.

The Terrence Higgins Trust

The Terrence Higgins Trust was formed in 1982 as a charity to raise funds and awareness of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), an illness which was originally referred to as 'Gay-Related Immune Deficiency' (GRID), reflecting the initial perception and longer running stereotype that it was limited to members of the gay community. The charity was named in memory of Terry Higgins, one of the first people in the UK to die of an AIDS related illness, and was founded by his partner and friends.

'AIDS Medical Briefing', 'AIDS: The Facts', 'AIDS: More Facts for Gay Men' and 'HTLV III Antibody: To test or not to test?', Terrence Higgins Trust pamphlet and leaflets included in a file of medical papers, briefings and papers re testing in the British Association of Social Workers archive, 1985-1986

'Facts about AIDS', 'AIDS: An Issue for Everyone' and Terrence Higgins Trust Social Services Information Pack on AIDS and HTLV III, included in a file relating to AIDS in the British Association of Social Workers archive, 1985-1987

Programme for Terrence Higgins Trust Study Day on AIDS Counselling, Caring and Social Work, 1986, included in a file on AIDS and training in the British Association of Social Workers archive, 1986-1988

Terrence Higgins Trust Social Services Information Pack on AIDS and HTLV III and Guidelines for the Provision of Social and Welfare Services for People with AIDS and HLTV III Infection, included in a file relating to AIDS and HIV in the British Association of Social Workers archive, 1985-1987.

International Socialist Group Lesbian and Gay Fraction, 1988-1991

Minutes, agendas and circulated papers included in the archives of Dani Ahrens.

'Community Care', 1982-1993

Magazine which acted as "the independent voice of social work". Contains some articles on sexuality including:

"I was a transsexual now I'm a woman", article by Wendy Michelle Keady, 3 Feb 1983

Section 28:

Section or clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 made it illegal for local authorities to "intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". It was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and in England and Wales in 2003. Opposition to Section 28 was a key part of LGBTQUA+ rights campaigning during the 25 years the legislation was on the statute books. The items identified below relate specifically to Section 28, but it is also likely that coverage of the campaigns (particularly during the late 1980s) will be included in publications from beyond the LGBTQUA+ communities, for example in the Warwick Boar (digitised up to the mid 1990s) and the newspapers 'Militant', 'Socialist Worker' and 'Socialist Action'

National Union of Teachers circular on Clause 28, 1988

London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard Annual Report and circular re Section 28, 1989

Organisation for Lesbian and Gay Action circular and National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts correspondence relating to Clause 28, 1988

Labour Party Young Socialists leaflets, including on Clause 28, 1980s

Trades Union Congress Lesbian and Gay Committee, 1998-1999: file including correspondence relating to Section 28

University of Warwick student newspapers

Student newspapers such as 'The Boar' included articles and reports about Warwick Pride and its predecessors Warwick University Gay Liberation Front and GaySoc from the 1970s onwards. The newspapers have been digitised and are keyword-searchable up to the mid-1990s. Some examples of articles are linked to below:

'Gay Liberation Front' (proposed formation of branch at Warwick), 30 Oct 1971

'Gay Liberation Front', April 1972

Letter on the formation of a non-militant "homophile" society at Warwick, 10 Nov 1972

'Gay Liberation' (report of Sociology Society meeting), 24 Nov 1972

'No pity' (Warwick University GLF report on 2nd NUS Gay Rights Conference), 7 Nov 1974

'Gay Conference' (report on 3rd NUS Gay Rights Conference), 27 Oct 1975

'How dare you presume I am a heterosexual?' (including information about GaySoc), 5 Feb 1976

'Coming out today' (about GaySoc), 10 May 1984

'GaySoc President assaulted in Coventry', 24 Oct 1984

Outline of new Lesbian Soc, 31 Oct 1984

'Defining the norm' ("university is the place to come out"), 6 Mar 1985

'Coming out today', 30 Oct 1985

'Lesbian Society - all welcome? If you're a woman!', 1987

'Homophobia', 3 Dec 1987

'Clause 28: A question of rights', 27 Jan 1988

'Coventry views on Clause 28', 10 Feb 1988

'A curtailment of rights', 17 Feb 1988

'Promotion of ignorance: The fight against homophobia goes on', 10 Mar 1988

'Thou shalt not love' ("Christianity and homosexuality"), 5 Oct 1993

Pride, 1990s onwards

Amnesty International, 1993-2011

Press releases and other publications relating to persecution of and discrimination against LGBT+ people in various countries.

Queering the Quarantine project

Queering the Quarantine was a project run by queer/disrupt, a research collective of students and early career researchers based at the University of Warwick who describe themselves as "a queer community based in the UK, giving space and voice to members of the LGBTQ+ family and marginalised groups both locally and worldwide." In 2020 Queering the Quarantine brought together a collection of creative responses to the experience of Covid-19 quarantine. The submissions were international in scope and include images, text, audio and audio visual pieces.

National Union of Teachers

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is the main British trade union for primary and secondary school teachers. Its archives include publications from 1988-2004Link opens in a new window which gave guidance to teachers on LGBTQUA+ representation in schools and reported on NUT conferences, as well as reports on the Trade Union Congress Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Conferences between 2001-2003.

Trades Union Congress

The TUC was formed in 1868 as a voluntary centralised association of trade unions and is the UK's largest pressure group. The Trades Union Congress archives include files relating to the TUC's Lesbian and Gay Conferences and Committee, as well as publications advocating protection for lesbian and gay workers, 1995-2000.

Civil Service trade unions:

Council of Civil Service Unions: press cuttings and circulars on lesbian and gay rights, 1989-1995

Council of Civil Service Unions: Research officer's correspondence and papers on lesbian and gay rights, 1992-1994

National Union of Civil and Public Servants: Lesbian and gay group newsletter, 1991-1993

Miscellaneous publications:

'Lesbian and gay liberation: A Trotskyist strategy', pamphlet, 1991

Countdown on Spanner: handbill re SM Pride '94, [Aug 1994]

'Out, proud and militant: The fight for lesbian and gay rights and the fight for socialism': pamphlet from Militant Labour's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Group, 1994

'Liberation generation: Lesbian, gay, bisexual equality beyond 2000. What's socialism got to do with it?' by Helen Redwood, Socialist Party pamphlet, 1999

Stand With Us: handbill re gay Palestinians and Israel, 2002