For a long time male homosexuality was illegal in the UK, something which was only legalised by the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Not so long afterwards the Gay Liberation Front organised the first openly gay social event in 1971, at Kensington’s Town Hall. Prior to this, lesbian and gay communities have only existed as underground-cultures, and therefore records are limited in the main to court reports, newspaper articles and even documentation of executions! The capital’s lesbian and gay relationships took place behind closed doors or in connection with prostitution. So called 'Molly Houses' (18th century brothels where cross dressing and gay sex would take place) were not uncommon.
London's most famous gay scandal resulted in the trial and eventual imprisonment of author and poet Oscar Wilde. Wilde's love–affair with the son of the Marquis of Queensberry, Alfred Douglas (Bosie) led to his prosecution under the 'Labouchere Amendment' of the 1885 Criminal Law Act, but much has changed since that time. With over 200 dedicated gay and lesbian bars and clubs, London really is a place where you can feel relaxed and at home now whatever your sexuality.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the heart of the city’s gay and lesbian scene remains in the central region of Soho, but other areas most notably Vauxhall and Clapham, in the south have also become centres for the gay and lesbian community. Going a little further, check out Islington and Hoxton, Earl's Court, Hackney and Stoke Newington for other gay-friendly areas that offer a great variety of gay & lesbian pubs, bars and restaurants.
Today’s Soho and its busy streets such as Old Compton Street attract Londoners and tourists of every age, colour, class and sexual orientation who simply want to have a great night out; it’s not a gay ghetto, but an area for everyone. The lesbian and gay community there and beyond has grown and developed to the extent that a whole industry has sprouted up around it’s wants and needs; shops, bars, clubs and restaurants with a gay twist are readily available. Check out the following for some ideas: