Only fifty years ago, sex between men was a crime. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 changed that in part, sparking a chain of social reforms that altered the face of British society for ever. But it was only the beginning of the long fight for equality in the eyes of the law, in society and in millions of private lives.
This vital new oral history – to accompany a Channel 4 documentary of the same name – tells that story through the lives of gay men who lived through those years. Built around the intimate testimonies of some exceptional but largely unknown characters, it gives voice to previously untold stories of denial, deceit and subterfuge, public pain and secret pleasure through the ten tumultuous decades before and since that watershed Act.
The human variety of gay experience is all here: lives lived in joyous defiance of the law and a repressive society; others always in fear of a prurient tabloid press. Those committed to love and others to licence: lifelong affairs alongside casual sex.
Young gay men may now take for granted the equal treatment denied those who went before. This vibrant celebration of past achievements and hardwon freedoms offers a powerful reminder of how much has changed in the past fifty years, and a warning that hard-won freedoms can so easily be eroded in uncertain times.