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social sciences

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Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

     
London  
 
page: 1  2  3  

The latter years of the twentieth-century saw increased visibility and politicization of gay men and lesbians in London. The gay and lesbian rights groups formed in the 1960s flourished in the 1970s. New venues for gay men and lesbians were established as areas of the city became more welcoming. The nightclub Heaven opened its doors in 1979, and soon became the largest gay disco in Europe.

The election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and the introduction of her decidedly anti-gay measures only added to the political context that gay and lesbian Londoners would organize around in the 1980s. The infamous Clause 28, adopted by Thatcher's government in 1988, was a direct response to the success of gay and lesbian activism in the city. It prohibited the promotion of homosexuality or teaching in state schools the acceptability of homosexuality as a "pretended family relationship."

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If Clause 28 was a conservative reaction to the gay-positive actions of the London city authorities, it in turn sparked an ever increasing activism on the part of gay and lesbian Londoners. The measure may be said to have made gay activists out of people who might never have come out, such as, for example, the actor Ian McKellen, who revealed his homosexuality in a BBC radio interview in response to the legislation, and then joined with other prominent gay men and lesbians to form the Stonewall Group, Britain's first major lesbian and gay rights lobbying organization. Other organizations, including the group OutRage!, agitated for the repeal of Clause 28, which was finally repealed in 2003.

Thatcher's radical free-market and individualist politics in many ways contributed to the rise of the Soho, London's gay ghetto. The 1980s and early 1990s saw a renewed and increased vigor in gay politics. Responding to the new voracious commercial consumerism, the AIDS crisis, and a conservative government's repressive and reactionary measures, London's gay men and lesbians sought to create a visible niche for themselves.

Soho, featuring London's former red-light district and Old Compton Street, became the place that reflected the new political agenda as well as restored self-confidence in urban, public space. During the 1990s, London's gay scene expanded immensely, as politically upfront visibility merged with free-market commercialism.

Soho and Old Compton Street occupy the ideal space for a new gay community. In the heart of London, the area is positioned between some of London's busiest areas, sitting only blocks from such popular destinations (and old, familiar cruising grounds) as Covent Garden, Chinatown, and Piccadilly.

The new queer visibility in the heart of England's capital did, however, make gay men and lesbians targets. Following similar racially motivated attacks in London, a crude nail bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan bar in Old Compton Street on April 30, 1999, killing two and injuring more than eighty.

Money was poured into the Soho neighborhood as investors saw gay men and lesbians as a huge, untapped commercial resource, and gay men and lesbians continued to see a need for physical boundaries to define their community as an expression of new urban freedom.

However, the glbtq community in London is by no means limited to the Soho. Gay men and lesbians live throughout the city, including areas such as Earls Court, Islington, and central and inner-city London. With recent political successes on both the national and municipal levels, London's gay men and lesbians have become an increasingly visible and significant part of London life.

Brock Thompson

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social sciences >> Clap, Margaret

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    Bibliography
   

Bray, Alan. Homosexuality in Renaissance England. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Cook, Matt. London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Norton, Rictor. Mother Clap's Molly House, The Gay Subculture in England: 1700-1830. London: GMP Publishers, 1992.

Turner, Mark. Backward Glances: Cruising the Queer Streets of London and New York. London: Reaktion, 2003.

Woods, Chris. State of the Queer Nation: A Critique of Gay and Lesbian Politics in 1990s Britain. London: Cassell, 1995.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Thompson, Brock  
    Entry Title: London  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 14, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/london.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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