Deaf LGBTIQA+ History UK
This page aims to capture the timeline of the history of the Deaf LGBTIQA+ community in the UK, and is built up on continuing research. We will keep adding to this page every time we get useful information, especially when we have more capacity/resources.
LGBTIQA+ History Webinar
This webinar took place in February 2021 as part of February’s LGBT History Month. We created a detailed video explaining LGBT history and why it’s important to remember how far we’ve come.
Timeline of Deaf LGBTIQA+ in the UK
1967 – Homosexual sex was made legal for men over the age of 21.
Lots of Deaf people still lived in the closet, hiding their sexuality in the Deaf community.
1976 – Kings and Queens set up in Manchester. They later changed the name to Triangle Club in 1983/84. They closed in 2009.
1978 – The Brothers and Sisters club was founded. Although it was based in London, it was originally for all of the UK. This club celebrated its 45th anniversary in June 2023. You can watch the video about its history.
1982 – Central Rainbow was founded in Birmingham. This group has been dormant since 2009 but hopes to reinvigorate itself.
1985 – The ascent of the HIV/AIDS programme led to such a programme set up by a consortium of Deaf organisations. This was known as AIDS Ahead. Many Deaf Gay men became volunteers, and Deaf Gay men chaired the organisation. Due to concerns over funding, AIDS Ahead eventually became a part of the British Deaf Association’s Health Promotion Unit.
Three Clubs meetings, to enable information sharing between Brothers and Sisters Club, Central Rainbow, and Triangle Club, took place annually between 1985 and 1990. This was Geoffrey Queen’s idea, and so Brothers and Sisters Club hosted the first meeting in London in 1985. The following meetings are listed below:
- Triangle Club hosted the 1986 meeting in Manchester.
- Central Rainbow hosted the 1987 meeting in Birmingham, at the RNID Centre at Edgsbaston.
- Brothers and Sisters Club hosted again in 1988 in London.
- The location of the 1989 meeting is currently unknown.
- The 1990 meeting was hosted by Lesley Davidson, at her own house.
1986/7 – Punch and Judy Club was founded in Brighton. This club closed a few years later.
1989 – Deaf Lesbians and Gays Groups (DLAGGS) was established to organised Deaf Lesbian and Gay Awareness Workshop at BDA Centenary Congress in 1990. DLAGGS raised around £500, mostly by Gay Times, Pink Paper, and a private donation by a well-known actor. DLAGGS was not a club or a social organisation – it was an organisation to raise Deaf Lesbian and Gay awareness, and sharing information on Deaf Lesbian and Gay scene in the UK, Europe, and the world. They later changed the group’s aims, and focused on the publication of DLAGGS Newsletter, starting in 1990 and ended in 2002, when they closed.
1988 – Section 28 was passed in law. It stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ nor ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.
1989/90 – Dragons Club was set up in Wales. They closed in 2015.
By 1992, there were 15 Deaf gay and lesbian clubs established in the UK.
In the early 1990s, South London Deaf Gays ran for a few years before closing.
1993 – Deaf MESMAC was set up to specifically support Deaf men who have sex with other men. Its’ programme covered workshops, training courses, creating sexual health materials for Deaf users, and organising counselling for Deaf male clients. In addition, Deaf MESMAC also arranged the care programme for Deaf people with HIV/AIDS. The programme’s funding priority was reduced later, and they eventually stopped running.
1994 – Gay Sign Variant was recognised and taught as part of sign language teaching. This was a big achievement for British Deaf gay and lesbian people.
1995 – Biscuits was set up for bisexuals, curious people, and friends. They ran for a few years before closing.
1997 – Brothers and Sisters Deaf Youth was set up, and ran up until 2000.
1999 – There were only 3 Deaf gay and lesbian clubs running.
1999 – Simon Hesselberg and Iain Poppetts delivered a presentation, entitled ‘Deaf Gay Men – Positive Diversity in British Deaf Community’, at the WFD Congress in Melbourne.
2000 – Section 28 was repealed in Scotland.
2001 – Age of consent was lowered to 16 years old for gay and bisexual men.
2002 – Deaf Sisters was established, with meetings being held annually until 2012. This was similar to Deafab, and was for women only.
2003 – The rest of the UK repealed Section 28.
2004 – The Civil Partnerships Act and Gender Recognition Act were approved.
2008 – Deafab was established by Richard Carter and Ian Glover, and held annual events. The last event was held on 10th June 2022 in Bristol. There were themes for each year, which you can see below:
- Bristol 2009: Navy
- Bristol 2010: Cowboy
- Bristol 2011: Hawaii
- Bristol 2012: School
- Cardiff 2013: Where’s Wally?
- Belfast 2014: Neon
- Birmingham 2015: Silver
- Manchester 2016: Chav
- Leeds 2017: Disney
- Bristol 2018: Rainbow
- Bristol 2022: Rainbow
2013 – The Marriage Act, which allowed same-sex couples to marry, is passed.
2018 – The Deaf LGBTQ Facebook Group was set up by Richard Carter. Over 600 members joined within the space of 5 months.
2018 – In July, the Deaf LGBTIQA website was set up. This was funded by Deaf LGBTIQA people, and done with lots of positive support of the Facebook group!
In November 2020, Deaf LGBTIQA officially changed its name to Deaf Rainbow UK, and also became a registered charity.
This page is still a work in progress and does not fully demonstrate the historical timeline of the Deaf LGBTIQA+ community. If you would like to contribute to this page, please contact us – we will be grateful for your time and support!