Manchester Student-made

The icons of Manchester’s queer history

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As part of LGBT+ History Month we’re celebrating a few of our favourite Manchester icons!

Alan Turing was an English mathematician most famously known for his work with the British Intelligence Service in WW2. Alan pioneered the technology to decrypt Nazi Germany communications, known as ‘The Enigma Code’ and played a vital role in Britain’s victory over Germany but his work during WW2 was kept hidden by the Official Secrets Act until the 1970s.

In 1948, Turing joined the Computing Machine Laboratory at The University of Manchester, where he helped create the Manchester Mark 1, one of the earliest ever stored-program computers. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts. To avoid prison time, he was given a form of conversion therapy, known as DES, in which he was chemically castrated. He later committed suicide by cyanide poisoning.

In 2009, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology for the treatment of Alan Turing and he was granted a posthumous pardon by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013. In 2017, ‘The Alan Turing Law’ was passed, pardoning men convicted of homosexual activity under historical legislation. The Alan Turing Memorial Statue resides in Sackville Gardens, Manchester.

Ann ‘Annie’ Kenney was a prominent member of the Suffragette movement and the WPSU (Women’s Social and Political Union). She co-founded the first branch of the Suffragette Movement and her political activism played an integral role in the fight for women’s right to vote.

She began her political history by handing out leaflets on women’s suffrage to the Mill Workers of Oldham, Manchester. In 1905, she attended a Liberal rally at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. She interrupted a political meeting by Winston Churchill where she unfolded a ‘Votes For Women’ banner and gave a public speech. She was removed from the meeting and arrested and sent to Strangeways Prison in Manchester. She was imprisoned a total of 13 times including undertaking a hunger strike where she was force-fed.

Dung her lifetime she continued to fight for women’s rights with the Suffragette campaign, orchestrating public speeches and militant acts throughout England, including in Liverpool, Wales and London, and even staged protests in France and the United States.

The diaries of Mary Blathwayt, a fellow Suffragette, details the lesbian activities of Kenney, many of her relationships taking place at Blathwayt’s house in Somerset. The house offered many women privacy and safety from the anti-homosexual laws of the 20th century. It was also heavily rumoured that she was involved in a serious lesbian relationship with Christabel Pankhurst, another prominent member of the Suffragette movement, for many years. The Annie Kenney Memorial Statue resides at Oldham Town Hall in Manchester.

Allan Horsfall was a politician central to the early gay rights movement and has been termed ‘the Founding Father of the Gay Rights Campaign.’ He was a Manchester resident, living in Atherton and Bolton.

In 1956, he joined the Labour Party and introduced the idea of homosexual law reform. In 1964, from his home in Atherton, Greater Manchester, he announced the formation of the Manchester-based North West Committee for Homosexual Law Reform (NWCHLR), one of the first grass-roots organisations for gay rights. In 1967, The Sexual Offences Act de-criminalised private homosexual acts between men over the age of 21, in part due to the work of the NWCHLR.

 In 1971, the Committee changed to the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) where Horsfall was President and based CHE in Manchester. CHE gained a membership of 5,000 LGBT+ members who continued to campaign for homosexual law reform. Upon his death in 2012, Manchester Town Hall held an event in his honour.

Harry Stokes, born in 1799, was a Manchester resident who was assigned female at birth, but lived his life with a male identity, unbeknownst to those around him.

He assumed a male identity at a very young age and was successfully employed as a male building apprentice, before starting his own successful bricklaying company in Manchester and was listed in historical Manchester trade directories as a male tradesmen. He was also the police special constable for the Manchester District of Old Quay and St. Peter’s.

In 1838, his wife approached a lawyer requesting a formal separation and revealed that her husband was biologically a female and she had been keeping this secret for many years. A police officer examined Harry Stokes’ body and issued a legal certificate declaring his sex was a woman, though no legal action was taken.

The gender identity of Harry Stokes was a tabloid sensation. The Manchester Guardian issued a piece headlined ‘A Woman Passing as Man for Forty Years’ and the Salford News Weekly wrote an article entitled ‘Harry Stokes the Man Woman’. Upon his death in 1859, the death certificate was signed off as ‘Harriet Stokes’. An exhibit honouring Harry Stokes exists in the People’s History Museum in Manchester, and the Greater Manchester Police Museum.

Luchia Fitzgerald fled her abusive household in Ireland in 1961, for Manchester, where she became influential in the campaign for LGBT+ and Women’s Rights.

Luchia fled Ireland after her family threatened to send her to an asylum for being a lesbian, where she lived on the streets of Manchester. Soon after she was arrested by police officers for being a gay woman and was ordered to get a lobotomy, a cure for homosexuality at the time. Thankfully, she escaped before the procedure could take place. Whilst on the run from officials, she found a job at the New Union Hotel, where there was an underground community of LGBT+ members who took her in.

It was at the New Union Hotel, where she met Angela Cooper. In an act of political defiance, the pair painted the streets of Manchester with yellow paint writing ‘lesbians are everywhere.’ In the 1980s, following Thatcher’s introduction of Section 28, a series of laws across Britain that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’, they organised a protest of 20,000 activists to march through Manchester.

In 1971, they formed The Manchester Women’s Liberation Centre to help survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. They offered pregnancy testing and helplines, and police brought abused women to their doorstep. They developed this into the city’s first women’s refuge – known now as Woman’s Aid. A short film ‘Invisible Women’ was shot to commemorate the work of Luchia Fitzgerald and Angela Cooper.

Foo Foo Lamar was a British Drag Queen who was influential in pioneering Manchester’s infamous drag scene.

They discovered drag at 20, where they would wear dresses to perform for the Mill Workers in Manchester and later began to appear at Manchester pubs late at night as Foo Foo Lamar. The persona of Lamar gained popularity and they have now appeared on television, radio and in theatres.

Foo Foo began to buy multiple nightclubs in Manchester City Centre, naming one of them ‘Foo Foo’s Palace’, where drag performances were played and Foo Foo Lamar made special appearances. They later went on to buy more bars and nightclubs, that acted as a gay haven on Canal Street, now known as ‘The Gay Village’, their bars and clubs were influential in providing safe spaces for LGBT+ expression. A mural of Foo Foo Lamar exists on Richmond Street, Manchester.

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