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Counselling for connection: making queer relationships during Britain’s sexual revolution


This article examines the creation and mobilisation of counselling services by British LGBTQ+ activist organisations during the 1960s and 1970s, focusing especially on Britain’s first ‘homophile’ organisation, the Albany Trust, and Friend, the counselling and peer support wing of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (1975). Beginning in the early 1960s, activists supporting homosexual law reform launched counselling services aimed at sexual minorities as a long-term solution to the harmful and enduring legacy of social exclusion and internalised homophobia and transphobia in Britain (and beyond). In an effort to make visible and help remedy the many social and emotional problems that homosexual, bisexual and trans populations faced, activists supporting sexual law reform drew on expansive postwar British understandings of emotional health in forging new queer subjectivities in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. This article reveals how popular British post-World War II conceptions of emotional health—which had explicitly promoted the monogamous heterosexual relationship as the basis for healthy emotional life and pathologised homosexuality—were appropriated in the 1960s as a basis for conceiving of positive depathologised queer sexualities. In the 1970s, however, gay liberation activist organisations pursued counselling as a basis for cultivating a broader range of intimate relationships in connection to psychological healing, including queer friendships and queer social and political community. This article thus demonstrates how concerns about socially induced emotional damage in LGBTQ+ people shaped not only political demands both prior to and following homosexual decriminalisation in the late 1960s, but also personal expectations of what it meant to be a ‘proud’ self-realised queer person during Britain’s sexual ‘revolution’.

  • Gender studies
  • Mental health care
  • Politics

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