Resisting the Hitler Youth, supporting the Great Miners Strike of 1984, celebrating pride despite violence from homophobic thugs – Nick Jones provides a history of LGBT oppression and resistance captured on film and video.


This year a record number of people are set to take part in LGBT Pride events throughout Britain. Many people are unaware of LGBT History and how it has shaped the world so that many of us can be ‘out’ and enjoy freedoms, that are in reality only a recent phenomena.

We now have a massive amount of literature and academic texts about LGBT rights movements. I recommend reading many of them but hope people with less time watch some of the ‘videos’ that I have chosen which help to put LGBT history in context. They are in no way exhaustive, but may make a useful contribution to our understanding of LGBT oppression and how fighting back and spreading solidarity are the real reasons why we have more LGBT equality today.

Paragraph 175: The Hitler Youth moved in on us with knuckle-dusters

The film is takes its title from the law that made sexual acts between males punishable in Germany 1871. The repeal of Paragraph 175 was a focus for socialists and other and progressive forces in Germany for decades. Supporters included: Albert Einstein, George Grosz, Thomas Mann, the leading socialist Karl Kautsky, August Bebel and Magnus Hirschfeld. On taking power the Nazis changed the law in 1935 to make punishment more severe, the mere ‘suspicion’ of homosexuality became an offence.

The film is based upon interviews with LGBT survivors of Nazi persecution and it documents the rise and fall of the early LGBT movement in Germany – the excitement of youth movements, caf√© culture and cabaret. The interview with Heinz D√∂rmer (1912-2001) is a warning to those who think that LGBT rights cannot be eradicated in a ‘modern civilised society’. He describes the Nazi take over; “My group and I could only exist for another six months. Then the Hitler Youth moved in on us with knuckle-dusters and other weapons. There was a lot of resistance but there were more of them and they were stronger. “

Post-War Liberation: ‘A sickness that was not visible like smallpox but no less dangerous and contagious’

Following ‘Liberation’ many victims were either forced into silence or faced further repression. The police in England and Wales began a massive increase in the persecution of ‘homosexuals’ in the 1950’s. The number of offences rose five-fold. Senator McCarthy in the USA sought the eradication of the thousands of ‘deviants’ working for the government. The post-war paranoia is captured in the film ‘Boys Beware’.

The Stonewall Riot: “This was the Rosa Parkes moment”

This repression and the thousands of prosecutions led many to consider reform. Some retreated into pleading ‘respectability’ but others took a more radical approach. On Friday June 27 1969, detectives set off from Manhattan’s Sixth Precinct to raid the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. What was to be a routine raid became ended in fight and the Police in retreat. The trailer for the film ‘Stonewall Uprising’ shows how a riot sparked what became an inspiration for a worldwide fight-back for for Gay Liberation.

The Gay Liberation Front(GLF)

The GLF sprang up in in London in the Autumn of 1970. They were radical and saw themselves as a ‘people’s movement’ rejecting traditional methods of working through ‘establishment bodies’.

The rare footage in the next video does not have sound but is an amazing record of the birth of the GLF in England in 1971. Same sex couples kissed and played games in the park. The Police were on hand to threaten participants with arrest and close the peaceful protest down.

Police harassment was common and became the theme of Tom Robinson’s 1977 hit ‘Glad to Be Gay’.

“The British Police are the best in the World, I don’t believe on of these stories I’ve heard”.

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners: ‘We’ve suffered in the last year with the police and different things, what they’ve been suffering all their lives’

Government sought to divide oppressed groups and set worker against worker in the 1980’s. The daily of experience of LGBT fighting authority and police persecution mirrored that of the mining communities who fought to defend jobs in the Miners Strike 1984-1985. One of the most inspiring points of the LGBT movement had to be when the “Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners’ was established to spread solidarity between two communities facing state repression. This film shows how solidarity breaks down prejudice, one of the striking miner’s wives puts it so well:

‘It’s only over the last year that we’ve come to know Gay and Lesbian People…because their struggle is similar to ours. We’ve suffered in the last year with the police and different things, what they’ve been suffering all their lives and are likely to continue to suffer unless we do something about it.”

Defy Clause 28

The miners were defeated and the Tories began what was to be one of biggest attacks on LGBT for years. The Tories sought to prevent the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by public bodies. This prevented open discussion in schools, threatened the existence of Gay bars through licensing and undermined the provision of information to LGBT people by Local authorities. The campaign against what was to become Clause 28 of the Local Government Act saw massive opposition. There is little video footage of the mass protests- but one film is unforgettable- the day when Lesbians disrupted the BBC’s 6’Oclock news.

The Tories never succeeded in fully implementing their legislation but they did generate mass opposition and thousands of LGBT people ‘came out’ and made a conscious decision that they were not going to be pushed back into the closet. After the Tory defeat in 1998, the Labour Government sought to introduce progressive reforms such as workplace protection and civil partnerships. Although many are grateful for Labour reform, it in no way reversed past injustices or was anything resembling full equality.

Untold damage had been done to LGBT people, their friends and families. No other place can this be felt than in schools. Despite the repeal of Section 28 in 2003 and the ‘Equality Act’ 2010, homophobia remains a major issue today. Homophobic hate crime is on the increase.

The fight for LGBT Liberation has not gone away and past struggles have inspired new ones. The fight for LGBT equality has seen movements develop in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Asia.

When we are celebrating Pride events this year we need to remember the battles other are engaging in are the same ones we had to fight. We need to be aware that with the rise of the far right and Tory calls for the ‘Gay Watershed’ that we will soon be fighting again.

Eastern Europe: Belgrade Pride