Telling the story of LGBT campaigning in the UK

OutRage! Kiss-In (1990) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

OutRage! the beginnings

OutRage! was a radical, non-violent, direct action LGBT human rights group that fought against homophobia in the State, the Church and society in general for 21 years. “We challenged and shamed homophobes everywhere and put the government and public institutions under pressure to change,” recalls Peter Tatchell, one of the founding members.

OutRage! meeting (1991) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

Three gay journalists – Keith Alcorn, Chris Woods and Simon Watney – called a public meeting on 10 May 1990 following the murder of gay actor Michael Boothe. This meeting was held at the then London Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon and 30 LGBT activists attended. OutRage! was founded.

OutRage! Labia Leaflet (1991)Original Source: LSE Library

Affinity groups

OutRage! established several internal groups to take on different aspects of the campaigning work. They were given intentionally offensive and attention-grabbing titles, for example: the Policing Intelligence Group (PIG); Perverts Undermining State ScrutinY (PUSSY - tackling censorship); Expanding The Non-Indigenous Contingent (ETHNIC); and Lesbians Answer Back In Anger (LABIA). 

OutRage! leaflet (1990)Original Source: LSE Library

The campaigns

One of the earliest campaigns was to highlight police harassment of the LGBT community. They faced opposition, not only from the police, but also from the wider community, as shown by the graffiti on this leaflet. OutRage! demanded ‘Police protection, not persecution’ and, over time, there was a reduction in the number of arrests. OutRage! organised an average of two non-violent direct action or civil disobedience protests every month. People were willing to get arrested if need be – and many were.

OutRage! Kiss-In (1990) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

Protests were imaginative and often witty. Making political demands in this way helped to diffuse hostility, overcome apathy and promoted an interest in radical ideas.

Famous stunts included the 'Kiss-In' at Piccadilly Circus in September 1990. They were protesting against the arrests of gay men kissing in public.

OutRage! Exorcism of Homophobia Leaflet (1991)Original Source: LSE Library

Many of the protests organised by OutRage! were similar to staging a play. ‘Exorcism of Homophobia’ took place outside Lambeth Palace, the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 7 August 1991. It was organised by the Whores of Babylon, a group within OutRage! set up to combat religious bigotry.

OutRage! Exorcism of Homophobia (1991) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

A scene from 'Exorcism of Homophobia'.

OutRage! Wink-In Leaflet (1992)Original Source: LSE Library

Protests were visual, making activism an art form. This secured press headlines, raised public awareness and provoked public debate around anti-LGBT+ discrimination.

OutRage! Cruise-In (1992) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

The ‘Wink-in’ and ‘Cruise-in’ at Piccadilly Circus on 5 March 1992 made headlines with “Drop your trousers, drop your laws!” OutRage! was protesting against procuring, importuning and soliciting laws.  

OutRage! Wink-In (1992) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

“We will be challenging the police to arrest us for behaviour which is criminal for gay men but not for heterosexuals” said OutRage! spokesman Martin Harrington.

OutRage! Equality Now! (1992) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

In the run up to the 1992 General Election, OutRage! organised the 'Equality Now!' campaign. Week after week, every anti-LGBT+ institution was targeted.

This included an attempt to register same-sex partnerships at Westminster Registry Office on 19 March 1992.

OutRage! Equality Now! (1992) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

When the Registrar refused, OutRage! ‘married’ the couples outside.

‘Legalise Our Love’ and ‘Our Love Defies Your Laws’ read the posters. OutRage! demanded same-sex partnerships and inheritance rights on the general election agenda.

Registering civil partnerships would not become law until 2005. It then took another nine years before same-sex couples could marry.

OutRage! Queen Valentine Carnival leaflet (1993)Original Source: LSE Library

OutRage! wanted protests to have an element of fun - fun to be part of and to be watched. ‘Queer Valentine Carnival’ on the eve of St Valentine’s Day 1993 saw a procession for ‘Queer Love Rights’ through Soho renamed ‘Queer Town’.

OutRage! Vatican Embassy (1992) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

Protests were daring and provocative. In August 1992 OutRage! invaded the Vatican Embassy in Wimbledon and confronted the Papal Nuncio over the Vatican’s definition of homosexuality as ‘objective disorder’.

OutRage! Tell the Truth (1994) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: Outrage!

In 1994 OutRage! named ten Church of England bishops asking them to ‘Tell the Truth’ about their sexuality. This action generated much public discussion around LGBT discrimination.

OutRage! Teenage Turn-In (1994) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

The ‘Teenage turn-in’ encouraged 16 to 18 year old gay teenagers to hand themselves into Charing Cross Police station and challenge the police to arrest them for having underage sex as part of the ‘Age of Dissent’ campaign. Parliament had lowered the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18 in 1994. OutRage! demanded equal age of consent with heterosexual couples which was 16. This was not achieved until 2001.    

OutRage! (1992) by Stephen MayesOriginal Source: LSE Library

This exhibit has highlighted some of the campaigning work of OutRage! To find out more, visit outrage.co.uk

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