Amiable Warriors

a History of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and its times
by Peter Scott-Presland


Truth and myths

MYTH: CHE was middle-class. TRUTH: CHE came out of the Labour movement in Manchester and involved working-class gay men at the start.
MYTH: CHE was middle-aged. TRUTH: CHE was turned into a national organisation in 1969 by the work of two teenage boys, living together in the house that one of them shared with his parents.
MYTH: CHE was dreary and respectable. TRUTH: Many gays joined local CHE groups to have sex or a find a partner; some managed to do both. Orgies happened regularly at CHE conferences.
MYTH: CHE was cautious and conformist. TRUTH: CHE became increasingly militant throughout the 1970s. One convenor was arrested for getting hold of a shotgun to shoot a bigoted local alderman.
MYTH: The Gay Liberation Front is the most important gay organisation in UK Gay History. TRUTH: CHE had 500 members and 13 local groups when GLF started in October 1970. Its active campaigning life lasted nearly twenty years longer than GLF. GLF veterans have many achievements to be proud of, and provided the intellectual and theoretical backbone to the gay movement. But CHE provided the grassroots practical slog all over the country to ‘sell’ the gay rights agenda which the last two governments have implements. Both organisations can be proud of themselves.
MYTH: CHE was male only. TRUTH: CHE, like GLF, had a small but very influential minority of some 20% women. Where most women left GLF in 1972, women stayed in CHE and worked with it throughout the 70s and early 80s. CHE became strongly feminist.
MYTH: CHE and GLF were totally opposed to each other: CHE was reformist, GLF was revolutionary. TRUTH: Like political parties, both CHE and GLF contained people with a spectrum of views. Each had a ‘left wing’ and a ‘right wing’. And the centre-left wing of CHE overlapped the centre-right of GLF. Many people defined themselves as belongoing to both CHE and GLF.
MYTH: CHE was obsessed with the Age of Consent and reform of the Sexual Offences Act. TRUTH: CHE developed a total charter of LGBT rights which involved both legal and social reforms as well as radical changes in public attitudes. It provided care and support on an individual basis for thousands of people – and offered a ripping good time into the bargain.