LGBT History in The United Kingdom - 1950s


  • 1950 On 31 July in Rotherham, an English schoolteacher, Kenneth Crowe, aged 37, was found dead wearing his wife's clothes and a wig. He had approached a minor on his way home from the pub, who upon discovering Crowe was male, beat and strangled him. John Cooney was found not guilty of murder and sentenced to five years for manslaughter. In response to the violence and unfair treatment of gay men, the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed seventeen years later.
  • 1951 Roberta Cowell becomes the first Briton to undergo male-to-female confirmation surgery on 16 May.
  • 1952 Sir John Nott-Bower, commissioner of Scotland Yard began to weed out homosexuals from the British Government at the same time as McCarthy was conducting a federal homosexual witch hunt in the US. During the early 50's as many as 1,000 men were locked up in Britain's prisons every year amid a widespread police clampdown on homosexual offences. Undercover officers acting as 'agents provocateurs' would pose as gay men soliciting in public places. The prevailing mood was one of barely concealed paranoia.
  • 1953 Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood were arrested and charged with having committed specific acts of "indecency" with Edward McNally and John Reynolds; they were also accused of conspiring with Edward Montagu (the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) to commit these offences. The Director of Public Prosecutions gave his assurance that Reynolds and McNally would not be prosecuted in any circumstances. British police pursued a McCarthy-like purge of society homosexuals.
  • 1954 Alan Turing, an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist influential in the development of computer science committed suicide. He had been given a course of female hormones (chemical castration) by doctors as an alternative to prison after being prosecuted by the police because of his homosexuality. The trial of Edward Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood began on 15 March in the hall of Winchester Castle. All three defendants were convicted. The Sunday Times published an article entitled "Law and Hypocrisy" on 28 March that dealt with this trial and its outcome. Soon after, on 10 April, the New Statesman printed an article called "The Police and the Montagu Case". A month after the Montagu trial the Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe agreed to appoint a committee to examine and report on the law covering homosexual offences (this would become known as The Wolfenden report).
  • 1956 The Sexual Offences Act recognises the crime of sexual assault between women.
  • 1957 The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden report, after Lord Wolfenden) was published. It advised the British Government that homosexuality should not be illegal.
  • 1958 The Homosexual Law Reform Society is founded in the United Kingdom following the Wolfenden report the previous year, to begin a campaign to make homosexuality legal in the UK.
  • 1959 Alan Horsfall, Labour councillor for Nelson, Lancashire, tables a motion to his local Labour party to back the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The motion is rejected, but Horsfall and fellow activist Anthony Grey later form the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee.

Read more about this topic:  LGBT History In The United Kingdom

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