From criminals to citizens

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Eric (Standing) with Michael and Ken. Ken Pemble | DW | 14364

In 1967, male homosexuality in the UK was partially decriminalized by the Sexual Offences Act. D-W spoke to gay men in the UK about how their lives have changed.

There are some interesting life stories in this article; like Ken, now 73, retired and living near Brighton. He moved to London. “I was gonna get lost in the big city because I couldn’t cope with trying to be normal in this small village.” Ken moved to London in 1959. Like others before him, he arrived with no job, accommodation, or acquaintances. He met his lifelong friends, Eric and Michael, when the two advertised for a room.

“Ken was a country boy who didn’t know a lot about London life … He thought it was nice to meet people of his own kind,” Eric said. To unsuspecting neighbors, the three friends were just like other young people in London who shared accommodation. “You could live in London and be yourself – nobody took an interest in you,” Michael said.

Men who were were caught by police had their names published by local, and sometimes national, newspapers. Underground gay bars, pubs and clubs sprung up, creating opportunities and dangers. “Now some of the people were really rough – they were not gay, they were there to rob you,” Michael said. Russ, a friend of the three flatmates, was assaulted by another man, but he did not report the crime out of a fear that he would be outed.


SP

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