Alan Butler


This thesis considers how the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered communities of Plymouth have performed and signified their own culture and identities during the period 1950 to 2012. Its source materials were largely generated by conducting oral history interviews with members of Plymouth’s LGB and T communities. This resulted in the creation of an archive which included thirty-seven interviews conducted with twenty-four individuals. These interviews, in conjunction with other uncovered archival memorabilia, now form a specific LGBT collection with Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. This PhD thesis interrogates this newly created community archive accession, using theories of performance as a tool, to consider how differing narratives and histories have been constructed, reproduced, contested and maintained. Pride, as a political concept in LGBT culture, is linked to the belief that individuals should maintain and display a sense of dignity in relation to their sexual orientation or gender role as a response to the stigmatisation traditionally associated with being LGB or T. This study tests the relevance of the concept of pride for the lived experience of LGBT communities in Plymouth, concluding that it needs to be understood within personal narratives rather than as primarily manifested in outward-facing forms of performance (such as a parade or a public event). Particularly significant in this regard is the “coming out narrative”. The thesis identifies spaces which, for various reasons, came to be accepted as safe places to accommodate sexual and gender differences in Plymouth in the 1950s and 60s. These strongly reflect Plymouth's location as a port, in combination with the fact that it has played host to each of the armed forces. It considers the impact of international public displays of gay pride from the Stonewall riots in the US through to performances as protest employed by groups such as Outrage! and legislation as Section 28 of the Local Government Act in the UK. The thesis concludes by considering the author’s role in, and wider impact of, the “Pride in Our Past” exhibition, which took place at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery (April-June 2012) as part of this research project.

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