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Out of the closet: Visibility

Detail from Liverpool Pride poster

The shifting religious and social attitudes towards homosexuality, in different places and at different times, has had a profound impact on the visibility of LGBT individuals and communities. Because these attitudes and rules have defined what can be said, heard, seen or done in public places, and who can be seen together, it has also had an extremely significant impact on wider art and culture. 

In the Classical World of Greece and Rome some types of homosexual relationship were celebrated, though the increasing influence of Christianity led to the introduction of laws criminalising sodomy across Europe.  Many of these laws, though often revised, were still in place in the second half of the 20th century.

These laws prohibited gay and bisexual men from being open about their sexuality and often banned anyone from dressing in clothes normally worn by the opposite sex. Though there were no laws against female homosexuality, contemporary taboos of the time kept them as closeted as their male counterparts. While there were certainly LGBT people, places, slang, and social groups, the expression of same-sex love and desire tended to be coded, and remained hidden from those who weren’t ‘in the know’.

Prior to the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which stopped prosecution of most same-sex sexual activity, there was no publicly visible gay culture in Liverpool.  After 1967 Liverpool’s LGBT communities began to make a visible and lasting mark on the city.