With queer history beginning to fight off the historic invisibility of the closet, Christobel Hastings takes a closer look at the resources centring the voices of LGBTQ+ pioneers, and their heartwarming stories of hope, joy and love.
I met Elaine, and she asked me what I wanted to do, if I’d like to go anywhere specifically that evening, and I said I’d like to go to Gateways. And she’d never been, and so she said ‘OK’. She thought she knew where it was, down the King’s Road, and so we got dressed up. In those days I think I had a fur jacket, and a large handbag! We got in the taxi and we didn’t want to ask for Gateways, so we said, ‘can you take us down the King’s Road?’”
I’m listening to the voices of Elaine and Lynn, a couple who first met nearly four decades ago through Switchboard, a national LGBTQ+ helpline for anyone wanting to talk about gender identity and sexuality. Their heartwarming story is part of The Log Books, a podcast which centres around handwritten log book entries made by the volunteers who staffed the phones, beginning from when it started life from a tiny office in the basement below a socialist bookshop in King’s Cross in 1974.
Over the course of the first series, the listener is transported back in time to discover untold stories of LGBTQ+ life in Britain during the 70s and early 80s. The stories are as fascinating as they are moving, as callers describe everything from police entrapping gay men in toilets and lesbians living together in communes, to isolated fishermen phoning for a chat, and a continual discussion of the best gay pubs and clubs (some things never change).
It seems fitting that the log books, which have sat in storage for some years at the Bishopsgate Institute, should now have their moment in the spotlight. In recent times, queer history has experienced something of a cultural awakening, thanks in large part to a new wave of LGBTQ+ museum tours, TV shows and Instagram accounts chronicling the lives and stories of queer people who came before us.
Read the full article on Stylist here.