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Tribune & the Fight for Gay Rights

In the 1980s, Tribune proudly provided a platform for gay and lesbian rights campaigners facing down prejudice, Thatcherism, and AIDS. The history behind its arrival at that position reveals much about the relationship between British LGBT activism and the socialist movement.

‘This international gay and lesbian solidarity represents the recognition that the equality we are fighting for is a universal human right — the right to sexual choice and self-determination — which overrides national boundaries, political systems, and cultural traditions.’

Writing for Tribune on the twentieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell surveyed the state of ‘the modern lesbian and gay liberation movement’ at the close of the 1980s. Since those epochal events in New York’s Greenwich Village, ‘an organised struggle for lesbian and gay rights ha[d] spread to almost every corner of the world’, holding out for a vision of queer pride against generations of homophobic oppression. The intervening decades had been ‘a period of truly remarkable achievement’.

For the gay movement in Britain, as elsewhere, the relationship with the socialist left had been one of protracted negotiation, striving to cultivate solidarity despite and against cultural unfamiliarity, mutual suspicion, and sometimes outright hostility. Tribune’s historical engagement with queer activism was in some senses reflective of that of the ‘straight left’ more broadly, as civil-
libertarian heterosexual socialists were confronted, beyond anti-political arguments for decriminalisation, with the emergence of a proud radical movement for gay self-emancipation in all spheres of public life.

The journey of gay rights politics from the margins of Tribune’s correspondence pages to its emblazoned headlines amid struggles against AIDS and section 28 thus illuminates much about the history of modern British socialism and the cause of sexual and gender freedom.

Before Decriminalisation

In the years before the Second World War, male homosexuality and its legal status were not matters of political contention for the great majority in British society, the socialist left included. Despite the presence of noted homosexuals like Edward Carpenter and Oscar Wilde within its fin-de-siècle origins, British socialism in the early twentieth century devoted little political attention to ‘the love that dares not speak its name’. Left interventions on the subject — such as Scottish communist Harry Whyte’s 1934 letter to Josef Stalin, opposing the Soviet Union’s recent re-criminalisation of male homosexuality in Marxist terms — were in several senses exceptional.

To the extent that the subject was discussed, it was typically in derisive terms: homosexuality was a sin or a symptom of bourgeois degeneracy or both. The statutory criminalisation of gay sex was thus not a matter with which mainstream socialist commentary was concerned; such aberrant behaviour, it was felt, would anyway most likely wither away with the downfall of capitalism. Founding the publication in 1937 as a vehicle for the anti-fascist Unity Campaign, what Tribune’s pioneering editors then thought about homosexuality is mostly unclear, but the topic did not feature in its coverage.

This situation began to change, for British public discourse and for Tribune, from the mid-1950s. Amid an increased criminal crackdown on gay men in the post-war decade, and a number of high-profile prosecutions, the Conservative government commissioned a Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, headed by Sir John Wolfenden, to investigate the matter. Published in September 1957, the ‘controversial Wolfenden Report on Homosexuality and Prostitution’, as Tribune dubbed it, occasioned a considerable stir throughout polite society with its recommendation of the decriminalisation of private, consensual sex between men.


The spirit of the Wolfenden Report — the reassurance to the public of his [Wolfenden’s] personal disapproval of homosexuality while advocating its limited legal toleration as reasonable and rational — was shared by Tribune in its initial comment on the report’s recommendations. In ‘You Can’t Legislate Against Sin’ (13 September 1957), Methodist minister and long-standing Tribunite Donald Soper proffered a civil-libertarian argument for decriminalisation, couched within the Biblical moral framework of Christian Socialism.

Wolfenden’s report was, for Tribune’s columnist, ‘patient, careful and wise’; regarding homosexuality, Soper wrote, it ‘suggest[ed] certain ways in which this kind of behaviour, reprehensible though it is, shall be brought within the general framework of a legal system [oriented towards] justice for all’. Believing in the necessity of ‘a clear distinction between … private behaviour, which by theological and moral standards may be sinful, and … more social behaviour, which by … public standards may be
criminal’, the socialist churchman argued:
‘[H]omosexual acts between consenting adults in private should be transferred from the area of public crime and put where it belongs in the category of personal sin.’

Soper critiqued the prejudicial nature of the existing law, ‘built up not on a moral justice and understanding but on aesthetic repulsion and ignorance’, pronouncing that ‘the law against homosexuality abounds in injustice’. This was a remarkably forthright position for the time; indeed, countervailing a bitter counteroffensive by many church figures, Soper was subsequently a committed champion of decriminalisation. However, the concluding sentiment of his Tribune article towards homosexuality ultimately remained one of paternalist legal toleration of a moral sin — still to ‘be confessed, forgiven, and conquered’.

This unexamined pathologisation of homosexual behaviour itself, then, even within Tribune’s progressive argument in support of decriminalisation, testified to the long journey still to be travelled towards any kind of politics of ‘gay pride’. Even so, Tribune’s political milieu did play a significant role in political advocacy for the Wolfenden recommendations: Victor Gollancz of the old Left Book Club (and Tribune co-founder) helped set up the Homosexual Law Reform Society, whose inaugural public meeting in 1960 attracted an audience of over a 1,000.

Efforts that year to persuade Parliament to endorse Wolfenden’s proposals were unsuccessful, though many Tribunite Labour MPs voted in favour. Following defeat in the Commons, radical author Eric Lambert wrote for Tribune on the problem of ‘Intolerance’:

The degree of a nation’s civilisation, it has been said, can be measured by the treatment of its minorities. Were this wholly true, the British might be counted as barbarous, for in its treatment of the homosexual minority Britain lags well behind the rest of Europe; and to this day, when the subject of homosexuality is discussed, it brings out in many an Englishman all that is most primitive, bigoted and inhuman.

Lambert mocked Tory MPs’ prophecies that ‘were the Wolfenden recommendations to become law, homosexuality would spread through England like a “prairie fire”’. In dismissing as unfounded such fears of ‘the wholesale corruption that would attend any liberalisation of the homosexual laws’, however, he did admit to a lingering personal aversion to homosexuality as such, describing the (in his view, fantastical) prospect of ‘liberated homosexuals milling down Piccadilly in their exultant thousands’ as ‘slightly hard to take’.

Tribune had in the intervening years begun to articulate a more enlightened perspective on the nature of homosexuality, however. In ‘Homosexuality and Common Sense’ (1958), Dr Alex Comfort, drawing on the pathbreaking work of Alfred Kinsey, argued: ‘Most human beings are in some degree sexually responsive towards others of both sexes; between exclusive homosexual and exclusive heterosexual response there is a continuous gradation, and all of us fall at some point along it.’ Condemning the ‘injustice’ and ‘prejudice’ of existing laws, Comfort trusted that sooner or later the Wolfenden proposals would be enacted; the battle to reform society’s treatment of homosexuals was ‘like the others being fought against race prejudice; against capital punishment; and against censorship, … a critical battle for the future form of our society’.

Towards 1967

Throughout the ten years between the publication of Wolfenden’s report and the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, the cultural fabric of society underwent profound transformation. As the austere Britain of the 1950s gave way, via the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, to the era of the Beatles, Mod fashion, and the youth revolution, Tribune’s coverage of personal questions began to evolve too — heralded by the 1960 article titled ‘Sex: New Attitudes Wanted’.

Concurring that ‘the social code is changing rapidly while at the same time the ethical and religious codes are being questioned’, a 1963 editorial declared:

All progressive people will welcome the change in society’s attitude…. But now we should start to think where it is possible to crystallise the change by bringing in reforms in the laws concerning particular sexual problems. In four fields particularly — abortion, divorce, homosexuality and birth control — there is immediate need for reforms. At the moment the legal position is not only out-of-date but also socially unjust.

The ambient social conservatism of the older generation on Britain’s left around questions of sex and relationships was indeed beginning to yield ground to a changing outlook: the personal was not quite yet political, but it was on its way. The parliamentary cause for reform on many of these questions, notably homosexuality and divorce, came to be prominently spearheaded by Leo Abse MP — the flamboyant Labour politician and Freud aficionado, whose famed motion as ‘chancellor’ of the Cairo Forces Parliament of 1944 for the nationalisation of Britain’s banks (and subsequent internment) Tribune had reported at the time.

With the 1964 election of a Labour government under Harold Wilson, the publication hoped that progress towards homosexual law reform could begin in earnest. Running editorials and interventions by columnists, like civil liberties campaigner Martin Ennals, advocating urgent decriminalisation, Tribune expressed growing concern over the opposition from among Labour’s ranks. Following the narrow defeat of Abse’s 1965 private member’s bill calling to decriminalise consensual sex between men over 21, the paper expressed consolatory relief that ‘the majority in favour of persecution ha[d] gone down’, but complained that the ‘rate of progress’ was ‘not good enough for a “great reforming government’’’:

It is time local Labour Parties began to educate themselves and their Parliamentary representatives in the facts about this embarrassing subject. It may be only a minor reform; but the present law encourages blackmail, police corruption, assault, robbery, suicide and murder.

Allan Horsfall, Lancastrian New Leftist, openly gay man, and founder in 1964 of the North-Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee, which would eventually become the Committee [from 1971, Campaign] for Homosexual Equality (CHE), was an important figure in pressing for a change in attitudes within the Labour Party. He had previously written for Stuart Hall’s New Left Review on the embarrassed intransigence of Labour councillors, having heard from one that he ‘would be much more ready to [back the Wolfenden recommendations] were it not for the fact that he felt that at least some of the agitation for reform was organised by the queers themselves’. In 1965 Horsfall became the first out gay person to appear in Tribune on the subject of homosexual rights.

Incredibly, male homosexual behaviour is still an offence in this country, but I think it is now generally accepted that the homosexual is not responsible for his condition and that to punish him simply for being homosexual would be like punishing somebody for being colour-blind or left-handed.

The following year, Tribune reported optimistically that ‘Leo Abse MP has now gained leave from the House of Commons to introduce his Sexual Offences Bill, which aims to liberalise the law on homosexuality in accordance with the Wolfenden Report.’ Abse’s new bill needed all the support it could get. ‘The Government cannot slither out of responsibility; it must grant time for a Second Reading of the Bill as soon as possible.’ Abse himself authored a piece for Tribune that summer, making the case for his contemporaneous ‘New Deal for Divorce’. It was clear that the big offensive for this long-prepared payload of progressive social legislation had come.

Modest in ambition and purview though his bill already was, Abse continued to face ‘a sorry campaign to prevent any humanising of the law’. Tribune condemned those opposing the bill’s Second Reading from the government benches in ‘Homosexuality: The Labour Reactionaries’. Refusing to countenance reform ‘unless the Merchant Navy is excluded from its provisions in the same way as the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Air Force’ were, for fear of ‘widespread corruption of youth on the high seas’, these MPs’ ‘ridiculous efforts’ threatened to yet again jeopardise decriminalisation. Horsfall wrote to Tribune condemning attacks on ‘Abse’s overdue homosexual law reform Bill’ by ‘the shipping lobby’, and suggesting some small changes to the bill that could defuse the strength of opposition without conceding to it. Ultimately, however, to safeguard the necessary parliamentary arithmetic, merchant navy seamen were excluded from the decriminalisation effected by the Sexual Offences Act 1967 — as already were Scotland and the six counties.

The formal decriminalisation of private, consensual sex between men over the age of 21, when it finally came — a full decade after the paper had first welcomed the Wolfenden Report — ultimately passed with little fanfare from Tribune. Passed by the Commons on 4 July 1967, Tribune’s comment on the new Sexual Offences Act later that week framed it as one of ‘two major pieces of long overdue social legislation’ coming before Parliament that fortnight; the other being the Abortion Bill, which Tribune hoped would imminently ‘follow Leo Abse’s Sexual Offences Bill through the House’.

The deed, then, it appeared to most heterosexual socialist supporters of the reform of an outdated law interfering unjustly in people’s private lives, was done. A brief mention of the successful passage of Abse’s bill was to be Tribune’s last comment on questions of gay rights, outside of its correspondence pages, for a full decade.

From Homosexual Law Reform to Gay Liberation

For gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Britons, however, the struggle for social emancipation was far from over: in truth, it had scarcely begun. The partial decriminalisation of male homosexual love effected by 1967 undoubtedly changed thousands of lives for the better, but also threw into greater relief the imposing citadel of unfreedom that still characterised queer life outside the bedroom. Housing, employment, and consumer discrimination; police harassment; and interpersonal homophobia were near-ubiquitous. A ban on marriage and adoption, unequal age of consent, and continued criminalisation in certain professions and nations embodied continued discrimination within the letter of the law.

Moreover, many gay activists argued subsequently, the hegemonisation of an argument for decriminalisation based in the right to a discrete personal life had inadvertently legitimated the conceived barrier between the private and public spheres: delimiting the former as the proper place for homosexual expression through limited legal toleration, and reinforcing thereby the sense that homosexuality had no legitimate place within the latter. A heightened criminal clampdown on public queer affection, communication, and socialisation thus followed the ostensible decriminalisation of gay sex.

For a younger generation of queer radicals, politicised during the rebellious year of ’68, the apotheosis of the political strategy pursued by homosexual law reformers in the fifties and sixties had been a consolidation of the refuge of the closet. The new queer politics of the post-1967 years, however, whether it advocated ‘homosexual equality’ or ‘gay liberation’, was about coming out.

As James Greig and Omar Shweiki explained in this magazine in 2021, the wave of ‘gay liberationism’ that surged internationally following the Stonewall riots took inspiration from contemporary national liberation struggles across the ‘Third World’, inscribing them with a radical aspiration to turn the world upside down after the example of Tricontinental anti-colonialism. The London Gay Liberation Front (GLF), founded in 1970, declared that its vision of political change did ‘not just mean reforms’, but rather ‘a revolutionary change in our whole society’.

Despite the effervescence of this emergent radical gay politics, however, the whole episode of Gay Liberation made little impact on Tribune. Preoccupied with opposition to the government White Paper ‘In Place of Strife’, Heath’s Industrial Relations Act, US imperialism in Indochina, and Britain’s economic imbrication with apartheid South Africa, the Tribune of the turn of the 1970s devoted no attention to events at Stonewall, the activity of the GLF, or the July 1972 London Gay Pride march it inaugurated. One critical letter to the editor in 1975 observed: ‘The women’s movement has not quite touched Tribune.’ The same can be said, sadly, for its relationship to the gay liberation movement during this historic period.

That year did begin to disclose the first murmurs of rapprochement towards the new, now much more openly gay-led political scene, however. Tribune’s glacial response to the post-1967 discourse of ‘gay rights’, conceived as beyond and otherwise distinct from Wolfenden-style decriminalisation, was essentially also that of the Labour Party more broadly. Slow movement at the party’s grassroots finally began with the formation of the Gay Labour Group — ‘not associated with the Gay Liberation Front nor with the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’ — advertised in a letter to Tribune in January 1975. Another correspondence from the group the following year lamented the evasion by the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) on matters of gay legal equality:

The Labour movement has been in the vanguard of calling for social and economic equality for women, racial minorities, the disabled, pensioners and many other underprivileged groups. We believe it is only ignorance of the true facts about homosexuality that keeps our movement from adopting a full policy of equality…. It is up to the movement to educate itself and to invite homosexual rights activists to address our meetings.

In May 1977, the year the Trades Union Congress (TUC) held its first gay and lesbian trade unionists conference, gay politics finally returned to the main pages of Tribune, with the article ‘Neither Sick Nor Sinners’ finally repudiating the language of Christian moralism through which the publication had first discussed homosexuality. That summer, Tribune carried the piece ‘Homosexual Rights: There’s Still Bigotry in the Labour Movement’, by John Gallagher of the new Labour Campaign for Gay Rights (LCGR). Disputing that ‘the 1967 Sexual Offences Amendment Act ha[d] helped much’, Gallagher referenced the spate of ‘homosexuals dismissed from their jobs, being refused help by trade unions or industrial tribunals’, and the problem of ‘continuing indifference or outright bigotry within the Labour movement’, which threatened to ‘increase resentment and disillusion among politically committed homosexuals’. Despite these obstacles, the LCGR was ambitious:

It intends to reduce the age of consent from 21 to 16 …, and to seek legislation against discrimination. It wants to extend the consenting-in-private right to the areas not covered by the 1967 Act, to remove inequalities in taxation and social security and to compel local authorities to treat homosexuals like everyone else in terms of housing, health, education and social services.

Tribune’s platforming of the fledgeling LCGR’s programme drew a mixed reaction. A CHE activist, complaining that ‘in Britain … it is only the Communist Party which has fully endorsed the gay rights campaign’ in contrast to the Labour Party mainly characterised by ‘embarrassed indifference’ if not ‘prejudice and hostility’, found some consolation in Tribune’s public stand:

At least I can hope that Tribune will continue to provide a forum for the discussion of homosexual rights within the party and so help to bring a little nearer the day when we are as civilised as our friends in Holland.

Not everyone agreed. One reader, who was disturbed that ‘[f]rom time to time in the pages of Tribune, letters and articles appear which are written either by homosexuals or by people sympathising with them’, wrote in to assert:

[I]t is no part of the duty of a Left publication to fight the homosexuals’ battle for them…. The working-class movement has neither the time nor the duty to campaign on behalf of those who, like it or not, are still regarded by the majority with repugnance.

Respondents in the debate on ‘Gays and the Class Struggle’ this provoked on Tribune’s letters pages included ‘a working-class homosexual’, who warned that ‘the socialist movement would lose too many of its hardworking members if all its homosexuals quit’, as well as Bob Dent, founder of the Liverpool radical bookshop News from Nowhere.

I recognise that the interests of gay people struggling for their liberation are connected with my own interests for, as a socialist, I oppose repression wherever it exists…. The Labour movement has for too long operated on the assumption that the working class consists only of white, male, middle-aged, heterosexual, manual workers and has therefore tended to ignore, to its own cost, the specific oppression of blacks, women and gays within the movement. It is about time this changed …

This would not be the last time an open display of editorial support for the cause of queer emancipation occasioned a fracas among the paper’s broad readership. A heated back-and-forth on the subject of Labour candidates and gay rights commitments continued across Tribune’s pages throughout the summer of 1978, while in 1986 its publication of photographs of drag queens at that year’s London Pride with the caption ‘Sing If You’re Glad to Be Gay!’ incensed a reader of ‘40 years’ to renounce his Tribune subscription: ‘I find your support and advocacy of deviant conduct quite incompatible with my socialist tenets.’ Clearly, though the publication had by this time long since tied its colours to the mast of lesbian and gay equality, for some among its veteran supporters old attitudes died hard.


The 1980s were the decade when, for better or worse, gay rights advocacy and the social ‘topic’ of queer people more broadly finally reached the level of mainstream public consciousness. It was also the decade in which Tribune, following its belated catch-up as a publication with the new gay politics of the seventies, became loudly, proudly pro-gay across the full span of its coverage. This included the realms of culture and literature, as well as activism and the regular reviews of books exploring lesbian and gay subjects — many of them by influential left-wing gay artist and writer Emmanuel Cooper.

The Conservative premiership of Margaret Thatcher, ranging much reactionary invective against the ‘permissive society’ bequeathed by the 1960s, contributed to an increasingly hostile environment towards gay people in national politics, at precisely the moment the LCGR had begun to make limited headway within the Labour Party’s programme.

A particularly ugly episode for Labour came with the 1983 Bermondsey by-election and the controversy over the contested candidacy of Gay Liberation Movement veteran Peter Tatchell. The Australian-born advocate of ‘extra-Parliamentary action’, incorrectly perceived by much of the Labour establishment as associated with the Militant Tendency, had begun to write regularly for Tribune in 1981. When Michael Foot, under sustained pressure from the party’s right, publicly denounced and disavowed Tatchell — possibly at least initially in a case of mistaken identity — Tribune reaffirmed its support for his candidacy against the ‘disgraceful and ill-informed attack’ by its former editor.

Amid an openly homophobic campaign by the press and rival parties, Labour hostility to Tatchell — although ostensibly rooted in his purported links to the Trotskyist left — was routinely laced with prejudice. Neil Kinnock was said to have remarked, ‘I’m not in favour of witch-hunts, but I do not mistake bloody witches for fairies.’ Isolated by the party machine and going down to defeat in Bermondsey, Tatchell recounted his ‘war with the gutter press’ in Tribune: ‘My homosexuality was made into an issue by the tabloids. They repeatedly and gloatingly focused on it…. From the beginning I was constantly quizzed by journalists about my support for homosexual equality.’

These years did yield some progress, with 1985 dubbed the ‘Breakthrough Year for Labour Gays’. Tribune celebrated the now-iconic solidarity activism of the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, founded the previous year by socialists Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson, in ‘collect[ing] thousands of pounds in aid of the [miners’] strike’ and cementing an ‘alliance … between several mining communities and the lesbian and gay community’. Presaged by the ‘wonderful’ participation of ‘miners and their communities at the annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Carnival’ that summer, National Union of Mineworkers votes at the Labour Party conference finally secured a formal manifesto commitment to gay rights.

Progress on the political front was beset, however, by a proliferation of anti-gay moral panics — threatening to derail those fragile advances which had been made. The devastating onset of the HIV-AIDs crisis, claiming hundreds of lives, ‘herald[ed] a new anti-gay backlash’, wrote Tatchell for Tribune, with the tabloids unleashing ‘a constant deluge of scare-mongering and homophobic stories about the disease which the press inaccurately dubbed as the “gay plague”’.

Tribune maintained a regular coverage of the AIDS pandemic, and its tragic human cost, throughout the 1980s, while setting itself against reactionary media sensationalisation — advocating a public health programme entailing a widespread, ‘unprejudiced’ information campaign encouraging safe sex, community involvement, improved healthcare infrastructure, ‘anti-discrimination laws to protect people with AIDS and HIV infection’, and greater medical research funding. In 1987, it supported the ‘Wombourne 12’ — young gay activists on trial for occupying the garden of a Tory council leader who had advocated putting ‘90 percent of queers in the ruddy gas chamber’ to stamp out AIDS.

With the coming of section 28 — the Thatcher government’s legislation to ban local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’, including teaching of the ‘acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’ in schools — supporters of gay rights, including Tribune, were confronted not only with a reactionary Conservative offensive, but also with the Kinnock Labour Party’s cowardice in the face of it. As it made its way through the Commons, the bill, Tribune wrote, received ‘qualified support’ from the Labour frontbench, coming under ‘heavy fire for doing so’; Bernie Grant MP ‘told Tribune that the clause should have been kicked out altogether’ instead of enjoying the opposition’s prevarication. All this represented, a Christmas 1986 editorial declared, the persistence of ‘The Labour Party’s Gay-Bashing Tendency’:

The clear impression given, despite the tabling this week of Labour amendments to ameliorate the worst aspects of the proposal, was that Labour is, in all important respects, as intolerant and bigoted as the Government over gay rights…. Perhaps because of their own unacknowledged prejudices, Labour front-benchers believed a Tory lie [about Labour councils] and failed to defend their own supporters. The image of an embarrassed and divided party is entirely their fault.

Tribune and Queer Liberation, Yesterday and Today

Kinnock’s Labour ultimately yielded to grassroots backlash to come out belatedly against section 28, prompted by a resounding Labour conference majority for a motion backing the advance of gay rights. But the craven tendency to wilt before — or even actively collaborate in — right-wing moral panics about queer people for reasons of electoral calculation was one which would recur more than once in the party’s subsequent history.

Tribune kept a spotlight on anti–section 28 campaigning, including ‘when three lesbians abseiled from the public gallery’ of the House of Lords ‘into the chamber … full of stunned peers’, and a 20,000-strong Manchester rally led by gay actors Michael Cashman and Ian McKellen (newly out) — co-founders the following year, alongside Lisa Power and others, of the LGBT rights charity Stonewall.

‘No Thatcher fan’, McKellen gave an interview to Tribune in January 1990, entitled ‘Out of the Closet, Into the Lobby’.

I’m very aware that being gay in Britain in 1990 is itself a political state, because the powers-that-be make it so, I look forward to a time when to be gay is as interesting or as uninteresting as to be straight.

For the then-star of Martin Sherman’s Bent, inspired into coming out and into activism by section 28,

[Stonewall’s envisaged brief was] as mediators and helpers rather than trouble-makers. But, of course, the trouble-makers have their place, because it’s only when people are out shouting in the streets that you can go in to the Minister and say, ‘Do you know what they’re shouting about?’

The patchwork of gay rights campaigns and activist groups forged amid the outpouring of opposition to section 28, in conjunction with a Labour Party finally forced — despite its accelerating wider freefall towards the political right — into broadly metabolising a policy of gay rights reform, ultimately spearheaded significant advances for LGBT legal equality over the next twenty years. Public attitudes changed, and with the legislation of same-sex marriage in 2013 a teleological narrative of progressive liberal reform appeared confirmed.

However, the time since Tribune’s revival in 2018 has coincided with a rising, now emboldened, threat to this fragile progress, in particular the targeting of transgender people. A very British moral panic about trans rights reform, combining with a wider international reactionary baying against so-called ‘gender ideology’, has metastasised into a potent transatlantic offensive — not only upon the existing rights, freedoms, and limited social acceptance of trans people, but on the LGBT community as such.

With open queerphobic bigotry increasingly once again a constitutive plank of Conservative politics, the Labour Party — its left wing now thoroughly eviscerated — has shown itself less than willing to stand up publicly for the community whose rights advances represented one of the few unalloyed goods of the New Labour period. The Kinnock leadership’s reactionary electoral calculation over section 28, which Tribune had earlier condemned, is regnant again under Starmer.

Whether there is anything that can be done to win the present Labour Party back for the defence of queer people today is debatable — this author personally finally resigned their membership in disgust over the leadership’s position on Gaza — but what is certain is that Tribune will always keep our solidarity with the LGBT community.

Tribune’s historical relationship with the cause of gay emancipation was long and winding, but we are proud of this publication’s provision of a platform and backing to the brave activists of the 1980s fighting to change the world amidst political besiegement and terrible community tragedy. Seeking to uphold that legacy today, we at Tribune stand in solidarity with transgender and other queer people, against those who would seek to roll back the revolution that started at Stonewall. It took the British socialist tradition many generations to find its way to this position, but here at Tribune we maintain that there can be no socialism without queer liberation.