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Traditonal Values – is there such a thing?

Now I know that quoting Wikipedia is so blase, however in this case I feel the definition is worth looking at:  Wikipedia defines “Traditional Values” as “those beliefs, moral codes, and mores that are passed down from generation to generation within a culture, subculture or community.”

However on investigation, Wikipedia cannot define where those beliefs, moral codes etc come from.  There is no defining text, and what is also interesting is that this cultural phenomena is wildly held as fact, when even within family to family said ideas can be wildly different.

A colleague of mine, put his thoughts as:

Clearly this moron hasn’t heard of New Orleans – though as it is French / Irish / Italian Catholic maybe he is going to allow it to secede from the secession.
I will always respect another’s opinion, however for it to be acceptable it must be rational, and have at least a modicum of intelligent thought behind it.  Mr MacKinnon has obviously not given this a deep enough thought process,  as indeed we could say the same about his previous boss President Reagan with some of his actions and speeches.  For Mr MacKinnon to say that ‘marriage equality’ is such a threat to personal liberty that states should risk a second civil war to preserve the right to discriminate against people, only goes to show how bigoted he is and how he has failed to research and understand  that society has never stood still, it has always moved forward, and always will
Further reading:

 

Whose Values?

A right-wing author has a plan for people who aren’t happy about shifting attitudes about LGBT rights.

Source: Conservative author wants states to secede over gay rights | MSNBC

Have you any Gay Images From Northern Ireland

Gay History

northern gay and block mounted paisley ayatollah

 

Northern Ireland’s gay history is slowly coming to light in our national institutions.  Recently we spotted the Northern Gay and block mounted Paisley ayatollah  on display at the Ulster Museum.

This is only part of some of our history, but the museums and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) have more, and indeed are always looking for more material to add to their archives and develop their ability to reflect everyone’s history and in particular those of the minority groups which are often under represented.

A quick search on the PRONI websites brought up 15 distinct areas:

  • Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Advocate
  • Sexuality
    …If you think you’re gay or a lesbian, you may be worried about how people will react if you tell them…
  • Sexual orientation discrimination

…It’s against the law for an employer to discriminate against you because of your sexual orientation. You’re also protected against harassment or bullying at work…

  • Information and support for people with HIV and AIDS

…There are support services, information and advice available across Northern Ireland for people newly diagnosed or living with HIV…

  • Support services for victims
    …If you have been a victim of crime or abuse in Northern Ireland, there are organisation and groups who can give you free advice, support and practical help to help you deal with the impact of…
  • QueerSpace
  • Hate crime
    …Hate crime is a crime against a person usually because of their race, religious belief, sexual orientation, political opinion, gender identity or disability. Hate crime can take many forms…
  • Pushing the boundaries: Society & law
    …A Series of talks exploring society and the law which consider broad areas relating to the changing perception of what constitutes acceptable behaviour within society…
  • Rainbow Project
  • Human rights in the workplace

…Your human rights are protected by the law. If your employer is a public authority, they must follow the principles of the Human Rights Act…

  • Equal State Pension rights for transsexual people
    …Transsexual people can apply for equal treatment rights for social security purposes. This could mean getting the State Pension paid early, or having some National Insurance contributions…
  • Easter Rising: ‘Irish volunteers centenary project’

…PRONI was pleased to host ‘Irish Volunteers Centenary Project’, a talk by Donal McAnallen about experiences in the Easter Rising…

  • Talking to your child about sex and teenage pregnancy
    …Young people who can talk about sex with their parents tend to delay having sex and are more likely to use contraception when they do. However, you may find the idea slightly awkward, or you…
  • Religion or belief discrimination

…It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against you because of your religion or certain beliefs. Find out about your rights and what you can do if you’re worried about religion…

An important thing for all of us in the LGBT community of Northern Ireland is our history, but unfortunately a lot of it has been forgotten, or not written down, or in some cases is still hidden away in individuals homes.  We would like to develop further our access to our history, by asking everyone to dig our their history and by contacting us we will work with the museums and PRONI to develop a central resource.

Please do contact us with details of what you have and we will then arrange with the correct repository.  All information will remain confidential regarding your personal details, unless yu expressly give us permission to disclose them when lodging the items on your behalf.

Further reading:

 

LGBT History – Telling All Our Stories before they disappear!

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Heritage Initiative – US national park service

LGBT History is Important

40s-friends-Boys-History-213x300-1For a number of years it has become clear that LGBT history is disappearing as our societies members have aged and their stories (which our our stories) disappear with their deaths or the onset of illnesses.

Our History is Disappearing

For Ireland this is compounded by the fact that so many of the LGBT community have had to leave the island to find work, relationships and just to be safe.  Today these things have been reduced, but the economic crisis of the last few years, and the impending impact of Brexit may well see further departures.

The LGBT society in both parts of the island of Ireland need to start thinkingNIGRA History - Pa and Mary Robinson urgently on how we should capture and then make available our history.  This will ensure our past, and also help our future, and will provide a wonderful resource for teachers and other groups/individuals.

A mechanism that might be considered is working with the museums in Ireland who have depositories to see if we can get access combined into a timeline – obviously this will take time and resources, but I believe that a small group could achieve a lot in this regard.

If you feel that you are interested then please get in contact and we can see if we can form that working group.

 

The American National Park Service has produced a wonderful book in two parts about LGBT History in the USA – the publication LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History  is available for download in PDF format – this is just another example of what can be done with the right active group and money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Telling All Americans’ Stories (U.S. National Park Service)

Roger Casement: Butterflies and Bones review: blood and thunder

Secrets Of The Black Diaries...Picture Shows: Image order No HK6737 Irish Patriot and British Consular Official Sir Roger Casement (1864 - 1916) is escorted to the gallows of Pentonville Prison, London. TX: BBC FOUR Friday, March 15 2002 Getty Images/Hulton Archives Roger Casement, former British Consul to the Congo, was hanged for treason for his role in Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising. His conviction rested on a set of diaries that suggested he had pursued a highly promiscuous homosexual life. Under the social mores of the day, such a revelation deprived him of all hope of clemency. But were the diaries faked? BBC Four investigates the 85-year-old mystery. WARNING: This Getty Image copyright image may be used only to publicise 'Secrets Of The Black Diaries'. Any other use whatsoever without specific prior approval from 'Getty Images' may result in legal action.

Secrets Of The Black Diaries…Picture Shows: Image order No HK6737 Irish Patriot and British Consular Official Sir Roger Casement (1864 – 1916) is escorted to the gallows of Pentonville Prison, London.
TX: BBC FOUR Friday, March 15 2002
Getty Images/Hulton Archives
Roger Casement, former British Consul to the Congo, was hanged for treason for his role in Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising. His conviction rested on a set of diaries that suggested he had pursued a highly promiscuous homosexual life. Under the social mores of the day, such a revelation deprived him of all hope of clemency. But were the diaries faked? BBC Four investigates the 85-year-old mystery.
WARNING: This Getty Image copyright image may be used only to publicise ‘Secrets Of The Black Diaries’. Any other use whatsoever without specific prior approval from ‘Getty Images’ may result in legal action.

If you’ve never heard of Roger Casement, who was executed by the British for treason 100 years ago today, the reason is as simple as it is sad, he was homosexual. For that reason he was ignored when he was not being written out of our revolutionary history.

Jeffrey Dudgeon, MBE has written two wonderful insightful books into Casement,

and

Aidan Lonergan has written that there are ten things we don’t know about Casement:

  1. His Antrim father fought in Afghanistan
  2. His Anglican mother secretly baptised him as a Catholic
  3. He was looked after by the people of Antrim after his parents died
  4. He exposed one of the bloodiest colonial regimes ever
  5. What he saw changed him
  6. He sought German backing for an Irish rebellion during WWI
  7. Some see him as a gay icon
  8. Arthur Conan Doyle campaigned against his sentence
  9. He converted to Catholicism on the day of his execution
  10. A hundred years on from the Easter Rising, it’s important to remember Casement

However, as with all history, it is open to interpretation, and I know that different camps will have different feelings towards Casement, his impact on Irish history, and on Gay History.

The musical about him was one such attempt, and I hope that if it comes to a theatre near you, you will make an effort to see it and view it through the eyes of someone who is probably far older than he was, and also who has the benefit of a society that is beginning to be accepting of LGBT people.

 

Roger Casement is (again) centre stage, but this time it’s the dance world that’s exploring the many facets of his life

Source: Butterflies and Bones review: blood and thunder

Park service releases LGBT history study

LGBT History

History to everyone is important, but for those who have not been able to have their full identity because of family or societal pressures, or laws which punished their very existence, history can become a poison chalice.  It is extremely comforting to know, that one country, which even though it still has its share of bigots and organisations which seek to continue this persecution, is moving forward and recognising the LGBT community and taking note of its history –  in this case it is the National Park Service of America.LGBT History

Positively, I have just heard that the Scottish Government is seeking to pardon all those LGBT people who have a criminal record due to draconian laws which punished you for being gay!

Unfortunately, due to government filibustering, England and Wales will have to wait for some time for Westminster to bring forward a possible legal instrument for doing the same job.

And for Northern Ireland, the political posturing of both the main parties, means that it is highly unlikely that any law will see the statue books within the next 5 years.

The laws were unjust within the UK, and because of them so much of our history has been lost, as people rightly seeked to protect themselves and their families; I hope that sometime soon we can stat to put together our own history and to have it incorporated into the mainstream history – it is jsut as valid, and when you consider people like Alan Turing and how he and others in other professions helped to win our freedoms, then we must strive to get equal.

 

Breaking news & opinion from the B.A.R.

Source: The Bay Area Reporter Online | Park service releases LGBT history study

Recruitment Drive

NIGRA is on a recruitment drive for you!

The law in Northern Ireland on gay relationships was changed through the actions of NIGRA and Jeff Dudgeon’s legal case which went through the legal system in the United Kingdom and then to the Europen Courts of Human Rights. NIGRA and Jeff did not do this on their own, it was through the efforts of many fundraiser throughout the UK and Ireland that this was managed. The case was won, but the fight still needs to go on to achieve full equality. If you have time and want to help then contact us through our website (http://nigra.org.uk/) – we have room for everyone!

So this is a recruitment plea asking you to give  us some time and help us develop the various projects which we have in mind:

  • An ‘Online’ LGBT Archive so that we can record our history, both the past and the current as it unfolds.  Recruitment - LGBT ArchiveWe need to interview the players in out history before they leave us, we also need to develop photographic evidence of artifacts before we arrange for them to be deposited in the Ulster Museum with whom we have now agreed a facility for depositing items like placards, photographs, home videos of historical moments, paintings etc.  Documentation can be deposited with the PRONI (Public Records Office Northern Ireland), and we have already done this for items from Jeff’s case and also from PA’s archives
  • Monitoring of Stormont and Westminster, particularly now we are through the Brexit vote.  We need to ensure that we know what is said and what is planned, and where necessary activate the community as required when we need to pressure our politicians.

These are only two of our projects, there are others, and off course we would welcome suggestions from you.

Please contact us and volunteer.

 

 

Pushing the Boundaries; Decriminalising Homosexuality 1974-1982: The Role of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association by Jeffrey Dudgeon & Richard Kennedy

FLETCHER CHRISTIAN CONFESSES – The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid

FLETCHER CHRISTIAN CONFESSES

Fletcher Christian - The Grave TattooThe Grave Tattoo

ISBN 978-0-00-782552-3

Val McDermid

The conceit in this thriller is that William Wordsworth encountered a fugitive Fletcher Christian (hero / villain of the the mutiny against Captain William Bligh of HMS Bounty. Bligh, while captain of the ship was, confusingly, a Lieutenant by actual rank). Fletcher, a Cumbrian, wants to get his side of the events recorded. The account given here of his adventures on Pitcairn Island, and in places as far-flung as Valparaiso, the Carolinas, and the Isle of Man from where he trades as a smuggler to the gentry of Cumbria; (something of an anachronism), ‘Cumbria’ was invented in 1972. Prior to that it had been the ancient counties of Cumberland and (landlocked) Westmoreland, a large bit of Lancashire (the Furness peninsula) and a small bit of Yorkshire).

This epic poem and letters about it are alleged to have been given on the death (of the now entirely non-revolutionary Wordsworth) to the care of his maidservant Dorcas Mason (also known as ‘Mayson’ – claimed here, to be because of ignorance on the part of clerks, even clergy, but English spelling didn’t settle-down until work on the Oxford English Dictionary began. And the notional introduction of universal education in Great Britain in the early 1870s. It only became genuinely universal at the turn of the 19th / 20th century. Jane Gresham, a native of the English Lakelands and a Wordsworth scholar, lives in a south London sink estate, has to serve in a [booze-]bar in the evenings to make ends meet. She is a part-time Lecturer, simultaneously attempting to do heavy-duty research on Our William, while keeping an eye on the single-parented wild-child Tenille. She doesn’t like school, but does like reading in general and poetry in particular.

Jane Gresham travels to her home territory in search of the, possibly non-existent, Wordsworth documents. As this is a (quite thrilling) thriller a villain is also on the case. And on her trail. In fact the tranquil Lake District is crowded with villains. Some of them are false friends. One of the falsest being a Gay man with whom Jane went to the local primary school. Her jealous, sulky, elder brother is headmaster of said school. He turns out not be be a jealous as Jane thinks (it’s that sort of book). That is not a sneer, this is an absorbing tale, but possibly too complex (or, more than conceivably, one is too thick to keep up… (you are allowed to disagree with this judgement)).

My one (slightly treasonable) problem with the narrative was that it must have struck somebody in the course of two centuries that making a transcript of the Great Man’s work would have been a good idea. The reasoning will have to be withheld as the sting in the tail of the tale will be wasted. After all, a ‘Pencil Museum’ is mentioned in the course of this narrative, quills were definitely available, the metal nib and the typewriter were invented relatively shortly after Wordsworth turned his toes up.

This is an interesting and pleasurable read (lots of elderly corpses, though) and should while away some hours of the (currently grisly) weather, or that beach-wait, before the cute Latinos / Latinas happen along.

Seán McGouran

Britain’s concentration camps for gay men

 

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Historian and author Simon Webb writes about the gay men who were kept in concentration camps in the UK.

We are most of us aware that gay men were routinely sent to the concentration camps of the Third Reich for no other reason than that their sexuality was unacceptable to the Nazis.

A special section of the Gestapo, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1936, with the avowed intention of rooting out homosexuality wherever it was to be found in Germany.

In Britain during the 1930s and 1940s, gay men were certainly imprisoned for what was then classified as criminal behaviour, but few people know that there were also concentration camps operating in this country between 1940 and 1946, to which one special category of gay men were sent.

In 1940, following the fall of France, an estimated 30,000 Polish soldiers arrived in Britain; men who had fought alongside the French army in an effort to stave off the invading Germans.

They were led by a former Prime Minister of Poland, General Wladyslaw Sikorski. Fearing that this country was itself about to be invaded, these troops were rushed to Scotland to defend the east coast against possible landings of German troops launched from Norway.

Britain was thus indebted to the new Polish government-in-exile, which was led by Sikorski. Without the Polish troops, Scotland would have been all but undefended against German attack.

General Sikorski was not universally popular with his fellow countrymen and opposition groups emerged which threatened his position as leader of the Polish government and commanding officer of the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers.

The solution, at least as far as Sikorski was concerned, was simple. These enemies would have to be neutralised.

General Sikorski – the man responsible for the concentration camps in Scotland
On 18 July 1940, General Sikorski told the Polish National Council in London: “There is no Polish judiciary. Those who conspire will be sent to a concentration camp.”

Since he and the others were likely to be in Britain for the foreseeable future, it was plain that the concentration camp of which he talked, would be set up in this country.

General Marian Kukiel, appointed Commander of Camps and Army Units in Scotland by Sikorski, received a secret order relating to what were described as, ‘an unallocated grouping of officers’, who were to be held in a special camp.

Not only did Sikorski wish to see senior officers and political rivals who might challenge his authority tucked out of the way, he also wished to purge the Polish army of what he termed, ‘Person of improper moral level.’

General Sikorski was an austere and autocratic leader and had very strong ideas on what constituted acceptable behaviour.

He loathed drunks, gamblers, the sexually promiscuous and especially homosexuals.

So it was that along with all the men he feared might interfere with his leadership of the Polish government-in-exile, generals and senior politicians from pre-war Poland, Sikorski made the decision to lock up many other men of whose conduct he happened to disapprove.

The site chosen for this, the first concentration camp to be established in Britain, was the Isle of Bute.

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, before the Second World War. The first Polish concentration camp was established here in 1940

The inmates of the new camp were at first housed in tents. Not all were military men.

Among the first to be imprisoned there were men such as Michael GrazynskI, President of the Polish Scouting Association. Another important prisoner was Marian Zyndram-Kosciakowlski; who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1935-1939.

The atmosphere in the camp on the Isle of Bute was toxic.

The senior officers, no fewer than twenty generals were held captive there at various times, refused to have anything to do with what were known as the ‘pathological cases’; I.e. the drunks and homosexuals.

This led to the development of a sub-culture of gay prisoners, who tended to stick together; a situation which represented something of a scandal to those running the camp and it was decided that the ‘pathological’ types should be separated from the political prisoners.

A new and harsher camp was set up on the Scottish mainland at Tighnabruich and the gay prisoners transferred there.

This village, voted in 2002 ‘the prettiest village in Argyll, Lomand and Stirlingshire’, is on the coast, facing the Isle of Bute. The commandant of the new camp was Colonel Wladyslaw Spalek.

How was it possible that the Polish government-in-exile was allowed to operate concentration camps in this way, without any objections from the British government?

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British needed all the help they could get to defend their country against a German invasion.

The Allied Forces Act was accordingly passed that same year.

This gave the governments-in-exile of Poland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and Czechoslovakia the legal right to raise their own independent forces from among citizens of their countries resident in Britain.

Their army camps and military bases were to be regarded as the sovereign territory of the various countries concerned and, as such, immune from interference by the British police or any other authorities.

How this worked in practice was that if General Sikorski took a dislike to any Polish person living in this country, he was able to draft that person into his army and then have him arrested by the military police and taken off into captivity as either a deserter or mutineer.

This neat little trick meant that any Polish man whose behaviour, sexual or otherwise, did not meet with Sikorski’s approval was apt to find himself being shipped off to Scotland and held behind barbed wire.

In another grim echo of the situation in Nazi Germany, not only were gay men marked down for imprisonment in the camps; communists and Jews were also likely to fall foul of the Polish government in London.

One of the most famous prisoners on the Isle of Bute was the writer, journalist and biographer of Stalin; Isaac Deutscher.

Although born in Poland, Deutscher, a Jew, had emigrated to Britain where he made a life for himself before the outbreak of war in 1939.

In 1940, following Dunkirk and the Fall of France, he travelled to Scotland to volunteer for the Polish army which was now based there.

No sooner had he joined up, than Deutscher found himself arrested and sent to the camp at Rothesay.

Being both a Jew and also a communist, he was regarded as a dangerous subversive by senior figures in General Sikorski’s administration.

Rumours began to circulate among MPs in London that something unsavoury was going on in Scotland.

Names began to emerge of Polish citizens being held for no apparent reason in secret installations.

In all cases, the men being detained seemed to be Jews.

On February 19 1941, for example, Samuel Silverman, MP for Nelson and Colne, raised the question in the House of Commons of two Jewish brothers called Benjamin and Jack Ajzenberg. These men had been picked up by Polish soldiers in London and taken to a camp in Scotland.

The following year, Adam McKinley, MP for Dumbartonshire in Scotland, asked in the House what was happening on the Isle of Bute.

The government, which had no wish to upset a valuable ally, refused to provide any information.

Under the terms of the Allied Forces Act, the British had in any case no legal right to interfere in what was happening at camps and army bases being operated by the Polish Government in Exile.

Having found that they were apparently able to operate concentration camps on British soil with complete impunity, the Polish leadership opened new facilities for holding political prisoners and others at Kingledoors, Auchetarder and Inverkeithing.

The last named of these was located just eight miles from Edinburgh.

These were dreadful places which looked like the traditional idea of a concentration camp; barbed wire fences, primitive accommodation and watch towers containing armed guards.

Those living nearby heard rumours of maltreatment, starvation, beatings and even the death of inmates.

In a number of cases, the reports of deaths by shooting turned out to be quite true. On 29 October 1940, for instance, a Jewish prisoner called Edward Jakubowsky was shot dead in the camp in Kingledoors, for allegedly insulting a guard.

The Polish camps were to operate for another six years.

Increasing unease on the part of British MPs and others, led to questions being asked in the House about what precisely was going on in Scotland.

Matters came to a head on 14 June 1945. Robert McIntyre, the Member for the Scottish constituency of Motherwell, stood up in the House and asked the following question:

“Will the government make provision for the inspection, at any time, by representatives of the various districts of Scotland of any penal settlements, concentration camps, detention barracks, prisons, etc. within their area, whether these institutions are under the control of the British, American, French or Polish governments or any other authority; and for the issuing of a public report by those representatives?”

This caused something of a sensation; the suggestion that there were concentration camps in Scotland.

That same day, Moscow Radion made the same accusation, citing the detention of a Jewish academic called Dr Jan Jagodzinski in a camp at Inverkeithing.

This provoked widespread interest and the world’s press began to ask what was happening in these Polish camps.

Cutting from the Brisbane Courier and News, 15 June, 1945

In an attempt to defuse the anger being felt, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to allow journalists to visit the camp at Inverkeithing.

This action did little to reassure anybody. The first prisoner to whom reporters spoke turned out to be yet another Jew, by the name of Josef Dobosiewicz.

He alleged that a prisoner had recently been shot dead in the camp. The commandant conceded that this was true, but claimed that the dead man had been trying to escape.

Once again, the local police had been powerless to act, under the terms of the Allied Forces Act.

A year after the Second World war had come to an end, the camps were still in existence and still seemingly holding Jews.

On 16 April 1946, the MP for Fife West, William Gallacher, asked the Secretary of State for War to look into the case of two more Jews being held in a camp in Scotland; David Glicenstein and Shimon Getreudhendler.

It is impossible at this late stage to know precisely what was happening in these camps.

That they were in fact concentration camps is undeniable; that after all is what general Sikorski had announced that he would be setting up.

We have no idea at all how many gay men were sent to the camps, nor how long they were held there.

The same is true for the statistics relating to communists and Jews.

What is beyond dispute is that from 1940 onwards, men in this country were being arrested and taken to concentration camps for no other reason than that they were gay.

Simon Webb is the author of ‘British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900 – 1975′.

Stephen Bourne looks at the relationship between the police and the gay community

We’ve delved into the GT vault this festive season, to give you some holiday reading.


30th December 2015

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Boys in blue.

 

The relationship between the police and the gay community has always been a difficult one. It’s taken tragic incidents, like the 1999 bombing of The Admiral Duncan pub in London’s Soho, to encourage the police to work more closely with us in ways that would’ve been unthinkable before that event happened.

For example, the Gay London Police Monitoring Group, the Gay Police Association and the Metropolitan Police’s LGBT Advisory Group must take some of the credit for helping to build bridges. But enough recognition is given to individual community advisers who’ve worked, voluntarily, up and down the country, on the front line of our communities.

For the last two decades, I’ve been active in the London Borough of Southwark as a voluntary independent adviser or ‘critical friend’ to the police. In the 90s, I realised it was easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise the police without doing anything constructive to change the relationship. So, in 1995, I put my head above the parapet – and into the lion’s cage – and set up one of the first locally-based forums to bring together members of the LGBT community and the police to specifically address homophobic hate crime. I focussed on building trust and confidence with local officers and, gradually, I found willingness on their part to talk about the issues that needed to be addressed.

Meanwhile, in 1990, a group of gay police officers met in secret at the home of an officer based at Battersea Police Station in South West London. They had to meet in secret because, even as recent as 1990, they risked persecution and being thrown out of the force if they were found out to be gay. The meeting marked the beginning of the Lesbian and Gay Police Association, which later changed its name to the Gay Police Association. This group committed itself to offering advice and support to fellow officers. Three years later, in 1993, Marc Burke, a former police officer, wrote his landmark book Coming Out of the Blue, which exposed the homophobia that lesbian and gay officers faced on a daily basis. However, with the exception of PC Harry Daley’s autobiography, This Small Cloud, published posthumously in 1987, hardly any documentation exists that informs us about the lives of gay police officers before Daley died in 1971.

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In the days when gay officers had to hide in the closet, Daley, who served with the Metropolitan Police from 1925 to 1950, was an exception. In 1930, wearing his uniform, his portrait was painted by the gay artist Duncan Grant. Around the same time he began a love affair with the novelist EM Forster, but Daley was too indiscreet for the closeted Forster. The risk of being found out and imprisoned alarmed Forster to such a degree that he terminated the relationship. Until he retired from the force and joined the merchant navy, Daley happily continued to engage in unlawful acts while upholding the law. As the ‘human face’ of the British bobby in BBC radio broadcasts in the 1930s, he may have inspired the writer Ted Willis to create PC George Dixon, the friendly copper who pounded the beat in BBC TV’s popular Saturday night drama Dixon of Dock Green, from 1955 to 1976.

When I was growing up in Peckham, in South East London, in the 1970s, if I saw a policeman I didn’t ask him the time, I ran for it! If the copper happened to be PC Cole, there wasn’t any point in running away because he’d know who you were and where you lived. For 30 years, from 1953 to 1983, PC Cole walked the beat in South East London. He never moved from his base – the notorious Carter Street Police Station, situated off Walworth Road. Legend has it that villains used to beg their arresting police officers to take them anywhere but Carter Street. Now and again, PC Cole visited my school – a rough secondary modern – and spoke to us at morning assemblies. Though PC Cole was more approachable than his colleagues, in those days in South East London, almost everyone feared and mistrusted Lily Law.

After I left school in 1977, PC Cole became well known as the bobby who wrote a series of best-selling books, in which he related his experiences of walking the beat. This entertaining collection offers insights into an interesting and eventful life. When he died in 2008, our borough commander described him as ‘a talented man with a tremendous sense of humour. His books did much to enhance the reputation of the police service – his amusing anecdotes showed the other side of policing – the human side. He had a real sense of loyalty and passion for policing and for Southwark borough.’

When I read PC Cole’s book, Policeman’s Story, published in 1985, I was intrigued by his brief reference to PC Jimmy Davenport – not his real name – a ‘homosexual’ officer he befriended when he joined the police in 1953. Curious about PC Davenport, in 2004 I tracked down the then retired Harry Cole to find out more. What transpired was a revealing insight into attitudes towards a gay serving police officer in London in the 50s.

Harry informed me that his publisher insisted that he cut the references he made to Jimmy’s gay life, so Harry revealed what was left out of Policeman’s Story: ‘I met Jimmy when we arrived that first day for training at Peel House. Jimmy was in the next bunk to me and we became quite friendly. When we were at the training school, Jim was always singing in the shower. One of his favourite songs was Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Good for nothin’ men are good for nothin’’. Then Jim and I were posted to Carter Street, on the same shift and on the same beat. I liked walking with Jim because he was such a good-looking fella, and all the girls would always be looking at us. He was a tall, upright bloke. He had a baby face. And the funny thing was he had very big hands! But he never seemed to know what to do with them!”

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Everyone at Carter Street knew Jimmy was gay, but Harry said this didn’t create any problems, even at the height of the ‘homosexual witch hunt’. This intensified in Britain in the 50s around the time Harry and Jimmy worked together as police officers. Up and down the country, gay men were hounded, persecuted and imprisoned because, at that time, there was a perception that homosexuality was morally reprehensible and also politically dangerous. The medical attitude was that it was an illness, that if treated successfully, homosexuals would become ‘normal’. Police officers were encouraged to arrest any gay men they encountered, and gay men were often arrested and prosecuted after they unwittingly made advances to plain clothes police officers. These were known as agent provocateurs, French for ‘inciting agent’. And yet, in South East London, PC Jimmy Davenport avoided detection and carried on with his career as a police officer throughout the ‘witch hunt’ of the 50s. Harry explained, ‘If you have 15 policemen in a shift, in that 15 there’s going to be one you could kill, some you avoid, some you like intensely, others you don’t mind. And Jim was on the good side, if you like. If you have to work with another officer, you want them to be someone you like and get on with. Jim fitted in. Though we guessed he was a homosexual, it wasn’t an issue.’

Harry remembered that Jimmy used to visit a local gay ‘character’ called Maurice who owned a chemist shop in Westmoreland Road, off Walworth Road: ‘Maurice was as queer as a nine bob note, and he had these parties, for homosexuals, but we turned a blind eye. And if a bobby was wandering by, on his beat, especially on a cold winter’s night, Maurice invited him in: ‘Come in, dear boy. Come and have a drink.’ Everyone knew what Maurice was like. He was like a Wild West doctor. Abortion was illegal then but women, whose young daughters got pregnant, went to Maurice and he sorted them out. And there was always a copper who’d put some girl in the family way, so we’d tell him to take her to Maurice. And then, when the Richardson gang started up, if any of them got injured and couldn’t risk going to a hospital, they’d blag Maurice into helping them. He was around for years.’

PC Jimmy Davenport was stationed at Carter Street for several years and then he was transferred to Wimbledon, because his ‘other secret’ came out. In his spare time Jimmy was singing in a pub and getting paid for it! Harry explained, ‘A police officer didn’t earn much in those days, so money was always tight. Jimmy was discovered moonlighting. That wasn’t allowed. It was frowned upon. Things were very strict then. Some years later, it must’ve been in the 60s, I went with a mate to a club in Old Compton Street. When the show started, to my surprise, it was Jim who came on stage and sang! He had such a good voice. And that was the last I saw of him. After that, other officers said they recognised Jim in various West End shows. So he must’ve left the police and pursued a career in showbusiness.’

What PC Harry Cole didn’t tell me was that homophobia was rife in the police service – and if an officer was discovered to be gay, it could lead to instant dismissal. When I interviewed a gay inspector who’d joined the service – outside of London – in 1978, at a time when gay officers remained firmly in the ‘closet’, he told me: ‘You can’t imagine how racist, homophobic, and sexist the police was. If homosexuality was mentioned, it was always about perverts and poofs. Gays were a dirty minority who frequented gay pubs and haunted toilets. I never saw a copy of Gay News. I never heard about the Gay Liberation Front. I never heard about Gay Pride marches until 1986. I knew there were gay pubs in London, but I had no desire to visit them because, as a police officer, I was terrified of being found out and blackmailed. Gays weren’t tolerated in the police and I bitterly resented that, but there was nothing I could do about it.’ I also interviewed a detective constable who’d joined the Metropolitan Police in 1979. He said: ‘We were a police force, not a service. It was very disciplined. We learned nothing about blacks, homosexuals, religion or domestic violence. We had women officers, but they were expected to make the tea. In those days, the Met was made up of a lot of ex-servicemen, so it was a very macho environment.’ He added that the terms used to describe gay men were all offensive: ‘Queer, homo, poof, bender – they were all used in a derogatory manner. In the old days, because we believed we were the finest police force in the world, we thought we could do everything on our own, but we couldn’t. At first we resented people telling us how to do our work. But not now. That’s changed. We no longer see community advisers as busy bodies but as useful allies.’

In 2003 Stephen Bourne was named Volunteer of the Year by the Metropolitan Police for his pioneering work on tackling homophobic crime in the London Borough of Southwark and for his independent advice on critical incidents.

Words Stephen Bourne