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OurStory Scotland

... recording the stories of the LGBT community in Scotland

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Tickled Pink show by Glasgow Gay Men's Chorus 1996

Timeline of OurStory: Diverse Histories of Scotland


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1600 - 1899
1603 James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England. It is joked that 'Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen'. His reign is characterised by honours bestowed on male favourites such as Robert Carr, the first Scot to sit in the House of Lords, and George Villiers, whom he calls his 'sweet child and wife'.
1732 The Beggar's Benison club is founded in Anstruther, Fife. Members celebrate male sexuality, drink from phallic-shaped goblets and are initiated through collective masturbation rituals.
1806 Isabel Gunn, disguised as Orkney lad John Fubbister, joins the Hudson's Bay Company, becomes the first European woman in western Canada, and works as a labourer freighting goods inland, before being found out in 1807 when giving birth.
1809 The Drumsheugh case: Edinburgh scandal where two female teachers are condemned by their community when a malicious child alleges they are having an affair.
1824 Walter Scott's novel Redgauntlet portrays Darsie Latimer, a hero who eludes conventional masculinity, is kidnapped and forced to wear a woman's riding outfit and is characterised by same-sex attraction. The following year Scott visits the Ladies of Llangollen who share a same-sex marriage in Wales 1780-1829.
1865 Dr James Barry dies after 46 years of service as an army medical officer, and is 'discovered to be a woman'. Dr Barry, dressed as a male, had been admitted to Edinburgh University, and thus makes history as the first woman in Britain to graduate as a medical doctor (1812).
1899 Aleister Crowley, the occultist and bisexual who is labelled by the popular press as the wickedest man in the world, buys Boleskine House on the shore of Loch Ness and takes the title 'Laird of Boleskine and Abertarff'.
1900 - 1949
1901 Murray Hall, politician, businessman and twice married man-about-town, dies in New York and is discovered to be Mary Anderson, born in Govan.
1903 Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald, after a brave and distinguished military career, commits suicide in Paris rather than face a court martial for 'acts of gross indecency' in the colonies. 'Fighting Mac', son of a crofter, remains a national hero in Scotland, with a 100 ft high memorial built above Dingwall in 1907.
1916 Duncan Grant, painter born Rothiemurchus near Inverness 1885, sets up house at Charleston in Sussex with Vanessa Bell and his lover David Garnett. Other male lovers include Maynard Keynes. With Vanessa he has a daughter Angelica and a life together that lasts until her death in 1961. His first commission in 1911 had included a mural of a naked man swimming, criticised by the Times for its potentially 'degenerative influence on the children of the working classes'.
1917 Siegfried Sassoon meets fellow poet Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart Hospital, Edinburgh.
1922 CK Scott-Moncrieff, poet born Stirlingshire 1889, and educated at Winchester (expelled for publishing a story about sexual liaisons between students) and Edinburgh University, publishes the first volume of Proust's great French novel in English, a translation hailed as one of the greatest of all time.
1933 Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, both from poor working-class Ayrshire families, meet at Glasgow School of Art and become inseparable as lifelong partners and artists, known as the 'Two Roberts' or simply 'The Roberts'.
1934 Edinburgh born journalist Harry Whyte asks whether a communist and homosexual, like himself, can be a member of the Communist Party. Based in Moscow, he writes to Stalin and argues against the new law that had re-criminalised homosexuality in the Soviet Union.
1934 Lillian Hellman turns the Drumsheugh case (1809) into the play 'The Children's Hour' – a big hit on Broadway, it is banned in the UK.
1937 Norman McLaren, pioneer of film animation, born Stirling 1914 and educated at Glasgow School of Art, meets his life partner Guy Glover at the ballet in London. McLaren goes on to open an animation studio at the National Film Board of Canada, wins an Oscar and becomes one of the world's most influential experimental filmmakers.
1939 Luís Cernuda, the exiled gay Spanish poet who wrote of forbidden pleasures and the conflict between reality and desire, takes up a lectureship at the University of Glasgow, and creates an idealised world of memory and imagination to set against Glasgow's utilitarianism and puritanism.
1950 - 1969
1957 Wolfenden Report recommends to parliament the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in private between consenting adults over 21.
1958 Wolfenden Report's recommendation on homosexual law reform rejected by General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The Lord Chamberlain lifts the ban on reference to homosexuality on stage.
1961 Hellman's play 'The Children's Hour' finally becomes a film (an earlier version made the illicit affair heterosexual) known in Britain as 'The Loudest Whisper'.
1967 Sexual Offences Act enacted in England and Wales (not Scotland or Northern Ireland), decriminalising male homosexuality in private between consenting adults over 21.
1968 Horse McDonald gets her first guitar on her tenth birthday. Born in Fife, her formative years in Lanark are difficult due to dysphoria with her gender and sexuality. She finds escape through music, forms a band, and goes solo in 1996.
1969 Formation of the Scottish Minorities Group (SMG) to campaign for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Scotland.
1970 - 1979
1970 Peter Maxwell Davies, one of our greatest composers, visits Hoy, Orkney and decides to live there. In 1977 he founds the internationally famous St Magnus Festival. In 1999 he moves to Sanday where he lives with his partner Colin.
1971 Cobweb disco, Scotland's first gay disco, organised by Scottish Minorities Group.
SMG Glasgow Women's Group founded.
SMG Edinburgh Women's Group founded with their magazine Gayzette.
SMG meetings move to the Catholic Chaplaincy basement at 23a George Square, Edinburgh.
1972 Scottish Minorities Group (SMG) launches a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Scotland.
Edinburgh Gay Switchboard formally established.
1974 The first International Gay Rights Conference is held in Edinburgh, leading to the formation of the International Lesbian and Gay Association in 1978.
Scottish Minorities Group buy a building to set up a Gay Centre in Edinburgh.
1977 Britain's first Gay Centre established at 534 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. It was visited and praised by singer song-writer Tom Robinson and composer Peter Maxwell Davies.
1978 Scottish Minorities Group (SMG) becomes Scottish Homosexual Rights Group (SHRG).
SMG News becomes Gay Scotland.
1979 Rhona Cameron, born Dundee 1965, turns 14 in her hometown of Musselburgh and begins asking out girls. Her memoir 1979: A Big Year in a Small Town is published in 2003. Establishing herself as a top standup comedian, she hosts Gaytime TV on BBC 2 in 1998.
1980 - 1989
1980 Scots law on male homosexuality brought into line with English law, by a Robin Cook amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill: decriminalised in private over 21.
1982 Lavender Menace opens in Forth Street, Edinburgh, becoming Scotland's first LGBT bookshop.
1984 European Parliament approves its first resolution in support of lesbian and gay rights.
Jimmy Somerville (born Glasgow 1961) is lead singer on debut album of Bronski Beat 'The Age of Consent'. The album includes a pink triangle on the front, while inside it lists the different international ages of consent for gay sex. Top track 'Smalltown Boy', reaching no. 3 in UK charts, is about a boy leaving a bullying hometown to find love.
Clyde Unity Theatre stages its inaugural production, John Binnie's first play, 'Mum, Dad, There's Something I've Got To Tell You.'
1987 West and Wilde bookshop (previously Lavender Menace) opens in Dundas Street, Edinburgh.
1988 Section 28 (2A in Scotland) prevents the 'promotion' of homosexuality by local authorities. It generates protests throughout UK including 15,000 in Manchester and 10,000 in London.
1989 Stonewall Youth Project is established in Edinburgh, becoming the national organisation LGBT Youth Scotland in 2003, dedicated to the inclusion of LGBT young people in the life of Scotland.
And Thus Will I Freely Sing, an anthology of gay and lesbian writing from Scotland, edited by Toni Davidson, is published by Polygon.
1990 - 1999
1990 Edwin Morgan comes out at 70. In 1999 he is made Glasgow's Poet Laureate, and in 2004 he is appointed as the Scots Makar.
1991 The Glasgow Gay and Lesbian Centre was launched (later to become the Glasgow LGBT Centre) on 17 March 1991 with fundraising and awareness raising.
1992 The Crazy Jig, a second anthology of Lesbian and GayWriting from Scotland, edited by Joanne Winning, is published by Polygon.
1993 Glasgay! is founded as Scotland's annual celebration of queer culture and grows to be the largest multi-artform festival of its kind.
Bob Cant, born Dundee 1945, publishes Footsteps and Witnesses: Lesbian and Gay Lifestories from Scotland.
1994 House of Commons votes to reduce the gay male age of consent to 18. Bitter disappointment amongst the crowds outside leads to a riot in the precincts of Parliament for the first time for 150 years.
Dundee LGB Switchboard is established.
BBC runs the cult camp comedy series The High Life about Air Scotia, co-written by Alan Cumming, who plays one of the stewards. Cumming, born Perthshire 1965 and educated at RSAMD in Glasgow, becomes a Hollywood star, comes out as bisexual in 1999 and has a civil partnership ceremony in London in 2007.
1995 The Lesbian Archive and Information Centre (LAIC), set up in London in 1984, relocates to Glasgow Women's Library.
Opening of the Glasgow Gay and Lesbian Centre (later to become the Glasgow LGBT Centre) at 11 Dixon St., attended by local MPs George Galloway, Maria Fyfe and Mike Watson, MEP Bill Miller and rock star Horse McDonald. Edwin Morgan read a poem specially written to mark the opening.
Garry Otton launches Scottish Media Monitor for Gay Scotland.
Talking Bollocks, dramatic monologues based on real life stories of gay men, is presented by 7:84 Theatre Company at the Citizens Theatre for Glasgay.
United Nations considers lesbian and gay rights abuses for the first time, at its International Tribunal on Human Rights Violations Against Sexual Minorities.
1996 MCT Theatre Company, the first Scottish lesbian and gay theatre company, is founded by Christopher Deans, Lorenzo Mele, and Rachel Jury. Their first production is Molly's Collar and Tie, a history of the LGBT experience in Scotland.
Bette Bourne delivers the Alasdair Cameron Memorial Lecture, Glasgow University, 1996. Alasdair Cameron, who died in June 1994, was involved in the promotion of new theatre and performance, as teacher, writer, critic and historian.
European Parliament approves a resolution calling for an end to 'all discrimination and/or inequality of treatment concerning homosexuals' in every country of the European Union.
1997 Equality Network is formed to campaign for equality for LGBT people in Scotland, and holds its first Equality for All conference.
Healthy Gay Scotland is launched.
British government recognises same-sex couples in immigration rules.
1998 Generations of Space exhibition, curated by Dianne Barry, captures the changing nature of LGBT space in Glasgow from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Fingerlicks, on being out and a dyke in Scotland, is presented by MCT at Glasgay.
In Jackie Kay's novel Trumpet, Scottish jazz musician Joss Moody is found on his deathbed to be a woman, a secret known only to his wife Milly. Trumpet wins the Authors' Club first novel award and the Guardian fiction prize.
1999 Camp comedian Craig Hill has his Edinburgh Fringe debut. His first public success had been winning a talent contest at the age of ten in his home town of East Kilbride, impersonating Cleo Laine.
Bank of Scotland pulls out of its deal with US TV evangelist Pat Robertson, who describes Scotland as a 'dark land overrun by homosexuals'.
2000 - 2009
2000 Clause 2A (Section 28) repealed in Scotland: only Conservatives vote against. It takes three more years for Section 28 to be repealed for England and Wales.
Age of Consent is equalised in the UK.
British government lifts the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed services.
March for Equality and Diversity takes place in Edinburgh as a broad-based demonstration including STUC.
Dundee LGB Switchboard becomes Diversitay LGBT Group to reflect the full Tayside area and to be inclusive to Trans people.
Just Pretending, exploring how conventions of marriage and family exclude LGBT people, is presented by 7:84 Theatre Company Scotland at the Tron for Glasgay.
The Orkney Lad: The Story of Isabel Gunn is filmed as a docu-drama in Orkney.
2001 The Convention Rights (Compliance)(Scotland) Act complies with the European Convention on Human Rights and repeals the law that had criminalised gay sex where more than two people are present. The repeal is enacted 2 years later in the rest of the UK.
2002 Establishment of OurStory Scotland, to collect, archive and present the stories of the LGBT community. Inaugural exhibition is 'Becoming Visible' at Glasgow LGBT Centre.
European Court of Human Rights rules that UK law breaches the rights of transsexual people, by not recognising change of gender, and by not allowing transsexual people to marry someone of the opposite gender.
Scottish Catholic schools' sex education guidelines are revised for the first time in nearly 30 years: though they still see the sex as 'wrong', they permit discussion of homosexuality and acknowledge that sexual orientation is 'not the same for everyone'.
2003 Edinburgh's LGBT oral and community history project is named 'Remember When'.
ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) Europe conference in Glasgow is the biggest ever.
Margaret Smith becomes the first openly lesbian MSP.
Patrick Harvie becomes the first openly bisexual MSP.
Discrimination in the workplace on grounds of sexual orientation becomes illegal for the first time.
2004 Sexshunned, a community drama project based on individual testimonies, collective reminiscence work and dramatic improvisation, is presented by 7:84 Theatre Company and OurStory Scotland at The Arches for Glasgay.
Gender Recognition Act is passed, providing full legal recognition for transsexual people's gender realignment, including the right to a new birth certificate.
Civil Partnership Act passes through UK parliament, offering same-sex couples the opportunity for the first time of legal recognition similar in scope to civil marriage.
2005 February is declared officially LGBT History Month in Scotland and rest of UK.
First civil partnerships are registered in public ceremonies in Scotland on 20 December (Northern Ireland on 19 December and England and Wales on 21 December).
Queer Stories project is launched by OurStory Scotland with support from the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund. Storytelling events begin with Queer Stories at Glasgay 2005 and continue throughout 2006 in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh and Inverness.
2006 Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 gives same-sex bidie-ins (cohabiting and not registered as civil partners) the same legal rights as mixed-sex bidie-ins (cohabiting and unmarried) with the exception of adoption rights, which are due to be granted in subsequent legislation.
Dumfries and Galloway launches a new LGBT Centre, which also acts as a base for LGBT Youth Scotland to run regional services.
Rainbow City, Stories from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Edinburgh, is presented by Remember When as a major exhibition at the City Art Centre, a vibrant play as part of Queer Stories, and a beautiful and moving book.
Jo Clifford, transgender playwright and Professor of Theatre at Queen Margaret University, speaks about gender identity at Edinburgh 's Festival of Spirituality and Peace and adapts Faust for the Lyceum Theatre in a gender-shifting production seen as a symbol of renewed energy in Scottish theatre.
OurStory Scotland holds storytelling events throughout the country, including verbal and visual storytelling, audio and video recordings, and the collection of over 150 episodes written by LGBT people. OurStory Ceilidh is a sell-out success at the Trades Hall in Glasgow, combining music, dance and stories in the best tradition of the ceilidh, with 20 LGBT storytellers from all over Scotland telling their story live.
2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in provision of goods, facilities, and services in the UK.
Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 allows joint adoption by same-sex couples.
Scottish Transgender Alliance is formed to address issues of prejudice and the lack of information and support for transgender people in Scotland.
Glasgow LGBT Centre relocates to Glasgow City Council owned premises at 84 Bell Street.
First ever LGBT exhibition at the People's Palace (Winter Gardens) in Glasgow displays visual and verbal storytelling by OurStory Scotland.
2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act ends discrimination against LGBT people in relation to fertility treatment in the UK.
Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008 extend protection from discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment by banning direct discrimination and harassment by most providers of goods, facilities and services in the UK.
RoundABout, Aberdeen city centre exhibition curated for OurStory Scotland by Mark Duguid and Charlie Hackett, is officially opened at Robert Gordon University Union by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen.
OurSpace exhibition in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, the largest civic museum and art gallery in the UK, is the first major LGBT exhibition at a Scottish museum. Curated for OurStory Scotland by Dianne Barry, it is officially opened by Hilary Third of the Equality Unit of the Scottish Government.
2009 Scottish Parliament passes Green MSP Patrick Harvie’s Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill with no opposition and no amendments. Extending previous definitions of hate crime based on religious or racial hatred, the legislation allows Scots courts to issue tougher sentences where crime involves hatred based on disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 abolishes the old 'homosexual offences' of sodomy and gross indecency, and amends sexual offences law to avoid discrimination in terms of gender and sexual orientation.
National LGBT Forum is commissioned by the Scottish Government to provide web information promoting equality for LGBT people in Scotland.
Transformance, a performance of stories from transgender lives, is directed by Jo Clifford and staged at the LGBT Centre in Glasgow.
Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art hosts an LGBT exhibition sh[OUT], the latest in its biennial Social Justice series, including OurStory Scotland exhibitions entitled Drawn Out & Painted Pink (cartoons by Kate Charlesworth and David Shenton) and Our Vivid Stories. After the stramash surrounding an exhibition Made in God’s Image, Culture and Sport Glasgow deny censorship when they refuse to show three works by Dani Marti about HIV positive gay men.
Our Vivid Stories, a collaboration between OurStory Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland, led by Dianne Barry and Julie Ballands, opens at GoMA and goes on to be screened at the CCA Glasgow for Document 7 human rights film festival.

Timeline Updates

For amendments and additions to the timeline, please contact us.