An outdoor Pride event with people holding up flags and signs

Queer homes and families: A history and policy debate

Discover a history, and question the future, of what makes queer homes and families.

Home and the family are where many of us begin to form an impression and understanding of the world, and our place within it. Often the environment in which we are raised will shape the way that we view politics, personal relationships, desires and ourselves within society.

LGBTQ people's experience of home and the family is sometimes a challenging one. Often in adolescence, these elements are in conflict with personal feelings, becoming a wall which must be traversed in order to seek a logical, rather than biological, family and home.

In October 1970 the Gay Liberation Front UK (GLF) was founded by students at the London School of Economics. The radical politics of GLF was informed by an opposition to the nuclear family and an understanding of the oppression of LGTBQ people as a direct result.

Gay Liberation Front Manifesto

Gay Liberation Front Manifesto containing an illustration of a clenched fist

The 1971 Gay Liberation Front Manifesto proclaimed that ‘Homosexuals, who have been oppressed by physical violence and by ideological and psychological attacks at every level of social interaction, are at last becoming angry.’

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It is because of the patriarchal family that reforms are not enough. Freedom for gay (LGBTQ) people will never be permanently won until everyone is freed from the sexist role-playing and the strait-jacket of sexist rules about our sexuality. And we will not be freed from these so long as each successive generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the patriarchal family.
Gay Liberation Front Manifesto
(1971), London. p.9

In 2012 the Raphael Samuel History Centre hosted Queer Homes, Queer Families at the British Library, as part of its History and Policy series. Introduced by academic and director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre Dr Matt Cook, the recording features presentations by three academics working within the field of gender and sexuality, plus a question and answer session from the audience.

The recording itself is an artifact of a different time in that it was made before equal marriage legislation was passed in England and Wales (Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act, 2013), Scotland (Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, 2014) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act 2019).

Steven Dryden
  • Steven Dryden
  • Steven Dryden is a Sound Archive and Humanities Reference Specialist at the British Library. Steven co-curated Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty (2017, British Library) and led a series of student workshops and public lectures at the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University, USA (2018).

    Steven’s primary research interest is in the use of language by heritage institutions. His recent work has focused on the cataloguing of gender and sexual minorities in archive and museum catalogues. Steven develops content for the British Library LGBTQ Histories website and has spoken widely across Europe and the UK.