Gay men formed an unlikely partying alliance with older black women in 1960s Britain

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Before homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, a night out for gay men was fraught with danger.

Unable to get together in clubs as heterosexual couples would, gay men would be at a loss as to where they could meet.

Some of these issues are explored in ongoing BBC documentary series Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain.

Susan Calman and Stephen K Amos (BBC)

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Fronted by Susan Calman and Stephen K Amos, the first episode of the series looks at the time directly prior to partial decriminalisation and uncovers an unlikely alliance between gay men and older black women.

“Pubs frequented by gay men were often raided by the police and if you did find somewhere to dance, you certainly weren’t allowed to touch each other,” said Amos.

“As the pubs kicked out, the race was on to find an underground party on the wrong side of the tracks where you could dance with someone properly and not get arrested ”

He added: “Gay men sometimes found themselves coming together with other outsiders in ’60s Britain.”

Nigel Quiney, who lived through the time, said: “For a very small sum, half a crown, you could go to a flat of a black family, usually sort of hosted by an elderly woman.

“We always called them ‘the aunties’, because somehow it was George’s auntie or whoever’s party.

“And the auntie was around as a host. A lovely, big smiley, welcoming black lady, who would hug you and give you a kiss if you were a bit upset, saying ‘Oh, come on, darling. You’ll be alright.’”

He continued: “Picture the scene. You’ve got a sitting room, furniture would’ve been pushed all the way round the walls.

Prejudice and Pride (BBC)
Prejudice and Pride (BBC)

“Some of us would have brought our own gramophone records. Men danced together. They weren’t having sex, but they were dancing together as a normal couple would.”

The touching story of alliances formed at a time of great discrimination is in stark contrast to some current issues in the LGBT community.

A shocking recent survey by GMFA, the gay men’s sexual health charity, found that more than seven in 10 black gay men have experienced racism in the LGBT community.

“We as a community, led by gay men of colour, need to come together and find solutions to combat racism,” said Ian Howley, Chief Executive of GMFA.

Watch a trailer for Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain below: