The news of Andrew's passing has been received with sadness by all those who knew him. See a tribute by Pliny Soocoormanee, Executive Officer to Peter Tatchell at Peter Tatchell Foundation, and an obituary by Graham McKerrow of the Guardian.
I’ve been saying for years that one day I’d write about Henry Labouchere, the MP who broke with his own family at the age of twenty and then with Parliamentary legislation broke up thousands of other families.
So here we are, The Homophobe : Essays on Henry Labouchere. I start with some general remarks, then begin with We Are Born. ‘Begin’ is the operative word. I’m putting this story online because I’m still trying to work out what on earth the man thought he was doing.
It will be slow work, but then the Victorian novel was slow reading. I expect to finish, many months from now, with Labouchere’s words when dying of emphysema in Florence in 1912. Flames? Not yet, I think.
We begin on a Tuesday in 1831. Vile weather, rain lashing windows, and Mary Louisa Labouchere in labour in London aged twenty-three.
Henry Labouchere MP will be born the next morning, Wednesday 9 November.
Charles Darwin, twenty-two and unacquainted with Mary Labouchere, is simultaneously in Plymouth in Devon, 240 miles from London, keeping company with Captain Robert FitzRoy of HMS Bounty, aged twenty-six.
They’re preparing for their five-year journey round the world, including the famous stop in the Galápagos islands off Ecuador vital to the theory of evolution.
I’m going to weave around them the stories of the mother in Portland Place, her husband John and the doings of FitzRoy and Darwin in Plymouth, because I wish to begin my story with the state of heterosexuality in 1830s Britain. All four are 'straight'.
Mary Louisa’s baby is now fifty-three and an MP for Northamptonshire with a one-year-old child of his own, plus a live-in girlfriend. In 1885 he will successfully set out to persuade the British and Irish Parliaments gathered at Westminster to approve the following:
‘Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding one year with or without hard labour.’
Thousands of families, including those of Oscar Wilde (1895) and Alan Turing (1952), are to be devastated by the words. And overseas territories to which Britain exported its laws, attitudes, judges, and police are still being devastated by these words.
Pictured on the right are the covers of three books in which I’ve been involved.
The one in blue is Souvenirs of Sirmione (One Roof Press, 2010) which I wrote as a gift for the late gay activist Antony Grey with beautiful drawings by David Shenton, also given as a gift.
The top book, Rainbow Planet, can be read here.
Title Fight, cover designed by Roy Trevelion, is from 1983 and is a factual story of an LGBT workplace facing bankruptcy which I wrote with the poet Gillian E Hanscombe (Brilliance Books 1983, and sometimes available on Amazon.)
And here’s me and my partner Stephen Clissold (on the left).
(Photo by Francisco Gomez de Villaboa for Attitude)
In 2022 some of us who marched in London’s first Pride march in 1972, celebrated our 50th Anniversary.
The design and maintenance of this website is a gift from Alan Martin of London to whom I return most heartfelt thanks.