The lesbian paradox: homophobia, Empire, and the law in 1950s Britain

The women of the Gateways club in Chelsea, London, early 1950s.

1533, during the reign of Henry VIII, an Act of Parliament prohibited ‘the abominable vice of buggery’. This was the first piece of legislation in England specifically relating to what would later be called ‘homosexuality,’ but it was limited to activity between men. Even after a renewed wave of legislation in the nineteenth century defined homosexual acts under the…