Direct action activists challenged homophobes & won reforms
London, UK – 6 May 2020
This Sunday 10 May is the 30th anniversary of the formation of the trailblazing, feisty queer rights direct action group OutRage!
“It was a remarkable social movement that mobilised the grassroots LGBT+ community on scale never seen before. Through visual street protests, it secured media coverage and raised public awareness about the enormity of anti-LGBT+ discrimination. We challenged and shamed homophobes everywhere and put the government and public institutions under pressure to change,” recalls Peter Tatchell, one of the 30+ founding members and currently Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“Our first successful campaign was against police harassment of the LGBT+ community. Our demand was ‘policing without prejudice’ and we won major police reforms.
“OutRage! did an average of two non-violent direct action or civil disobedience protests every month. People were willing to get arrested if need be – and many were.
“The protests were daring, imaginative and often witty, drawing on LGBT+ traditions of camp and theatricality.
“They included the kiss-in, wink-in and turn-in to defy anti-LGBT+ laws. We also released condoms in Westminster’s catholic cathedral, attempted a citizen’s arrest of Mugabe, interrupted the Easter Sunday sermon of the Archbishop of Canterbury and made the first bid to overturn the ban on same-sex-marriage, way back in 1992.
“The six-month-long Equality Now! campaign in 1992 was probably the most sustained equal rights campaign by any marginalised minority community in the history of the UK. Week after week, it targeted every anti-LGBT+ law and institution.
“OutRage! had no paid staff and no funding, apart from what activists and supporters chipped in. It lasted an astonishing 21 years. I cannot think of any all-volunteer direct action group in the world that did so many diverse protests over such a long period,” said Mr Tatchell.
The public meeting that led to the formation of OutRage! was called by three gay journalists – Keith Alcorn, Chris Woods and Simon Watney – and was attended by 30+ LGBT+ activists. It was held at the then London Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon.
WATCH the OutRage! video here:
Take a look at the current OutRage! website here:
It has hundreds of OutRage! photos and leaflets and you can download hi res versions. They are free for personal, non-commercial use. Please credit: Stephen Mayes / OutRage!
The recollections of many OutRage! activists are documented in the book: Outrage! An oral history. By Ian Lucas (Cassell 1998)
The original early 1990s OutRage! website is archived here: https://www.petertatchell.net/lgbt_rights/rosecottage/OutRage-archives/index.htm