The Early Years – Introduction

At the time of the Enlightenment, science sought to explain and categorise things and so a medical discourse grew around a “normal” sexuality which was required for procreation. As a result. anything else came to be seen as abnormal or even deviant. These deviant acts were named and outlawed, as can be seen in the Burn’s Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer, first published in 1755. The people being published for committing these acts were defined as deviant and criminal. The “Disorderly Houses Act” of 1751 often referred to establishments such as John Blake’s, which were taverns, cafes and clubs frequented by gay men and lesbians and empowered the establishment to fine and imprison the individual for keeping a disorderly house.

A selection of court records loaned from PWDRO for the Pride in Our Past Exhibition showing entries of ‘homosexual offences’

In 1869, Hungarian-Austrian Doctor Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined the terms “homosexual” and European medicine attempts to explain homosexuality in these terms and comes to consider that this group to be either criminal or insane. As a result, entries into archives and other historical stores until late in the 20th century that feature anyone from the LGBT community tended to focus on them being either mad or bad. Nothing truly related to any other aspect of their lived experience.

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