Gay rights street march 1970s


OUTing the Past: 1950s Pioneers

Hosted by the LSE Library

Education Room, LSE Library, Lionel Robbins Building, Portugal Street, United Kingdom


Alex Bakker

Historian and author

Martin Malcolm

Ben Priestley


Dr Debbie Challis

Education and Outreach Officer LSE Library

Discover ground breaking gay and trans rights activists of the 1950s who inspired change. Part of OUTing the Past / LGBT+ History Month.

Transgender Pioneers of the Fifties: a secret history

Alex Bakker

Alex Bakker will give a researched presentation on a piece of unknown LGBT+ history. The fifties of the 20th century can be regarded as a kind of birthplace of modern trans identity. In December 1952 a media hype was born: Christine Jorgensen, a former GI from New York, had had sex reassignment surgery in Denmark. Jorgensen was the first transgender woman to receive such elaborate attention from the press, and the first to get both hormone treatment and surgical correction. Christine’s story was sensationally exploited but for transgender people all over the world it was also a landmark. Many of them had not even known how to understand their own feelings, thinking they were the only ones with this “craziness” inside them.

Open Door: The Start of a Campaign

Martin Malcolm and Ben Priestley

This presentation explores the untold story of a now-forgotten activist, Dr RD Reid and the tragic court case that prompted him to make what may have been the first public call for a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in the UK. It's a story that started in the Somerset town of Taunton in 1954.  Martin Malcolm is writing a play, Open Door, about this story and plans to illustrate his talk with photographs (of Reid and of the prison cells) as well as readings of Reid's letter and newspaper coverage of the case (found in the LAGNA archive) and material about other cases (found in the LSE Hall Carpenter archive).

Alex Bakker is a historian and author of Transgender in Nederland.

LSE Library is delighted to be a hub for OUTing the Past: LGBTQ+ History Month.

The British Library of Political and Economic Science was founded in 1896, a year after the London School of Economics and Political Science. It has been based in the Lionel Robbins Building since 1978 and houses many world class collections, including The Women's Library.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSELGBT


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