Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

“You have worn our badge ‘Coal Not Dole’ and you know what harassment means, as we do. Now we will support you. It won’t change overnight, but now a hundred and forty thousand miners know..about blacks and gays and nuclear disarmament and we will never be the same.”

David Donovan speaking on behalf of the Dulais miners to a crowd of 1,500 at the Pits and Perverts Ball, Camden Town, 10th December 1984

“When you say to people now in the [mining] communities that the gays and lesbians have been they say ‘Oh! How are they, did you have a good time?’ Some of my neighbours have said ‘Why haven’t you brought me to meet them?’ Now I thought that they might be … well … not offended exactly but … well … closed in. But they haven’t been like that at all. They’re great and they’ve accepted that there is a life apart from that in the valleys.”

Sian James, miner’s wife, secretary of South Wales Women’s Support Groups

“… just AMAZING ! … I could not stop talking about and reading all the stuff your group’s achieved … when there’s not much optimistic around it (copies of LGSM’s archive material) came through the post like a ray of sunshine!!”

from Allan Dalton, Labour Research Department, 8th February 1985


I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of comrade Mark Ashton (19 May 1960 – 11 February 1987) who remains forever a source of inspiration both personally and politically and in so many ways for those of us who ever knew him.

It was only when ‘Radical Records’ was published this year did I realise that the first openly gay campaigning for homosexual law reform took place within a mining community in Atherton, Lancashire in 1964. In his contribution to that book Allan Horsfall reveals that:

“the calmness with which the local mining community accepted the campaign (64-66) eventually enabled me to reassure the still nervous N.U.M.(National Union of Mineworkers) sponsored M.P.’s in a long letter concluding:
“If the miners’ MPs can produce a shred of evidence to show that the mining community is particularly or even mildly hostile to this reform I should like to hear it. I know of none’”

Allan Horsfall, ‘Battling for Wolfenden’

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) was magic. In its way it was socialism in action, changing the hearts and minds of those affected by it in a revolutionary way. Through solidarity in struggle it brought out a myriad of talents and strengths of ordinary working class women and men. It was a grass roots organisation, working on the front line and not concerning itself much with leaderships or bureaucracies. References have been and continue to be made to LGSM as far away as New Zealand and in such unlikely places as ‘Police Review’. It has become a darling of the recent history of the labour movement.

Many people were involved and there were ten other LGSM groups around the country besides London so I can give only my personal experiences of LGSM. Fortunately though we have a large amount of archive material to give guts to this account. It will need more people and more space than I have here in this contribution to fully write LGSM’s history - a task that needs to be done urgently by the very people who made that history.

For me personally I will never forget the feeling that I had come home when we first visited the Onllwyn Miners Welfare Hall on 27th October 1984. I felt that I had returned from a long journey in my life and that I was relieved and felt secure to be home again. It wasn’t home in the sense of geographical and family origins, but it was very familiar and I felt politically, socially and emotionally at home there. I’d never lost my socialism since I left my hometown but it had been a long and often painful journey to discover my sexuality. My working class identity had been obscured and threatened by a lesbian and gay sub-culture that had no unified working-class community or voice.

I come from Accrington, Lancashire a small industrial working-class town where I can only just remember the last days of Scaitcliffe colliery before it closed around 1960. The town had grown on’ King Cotton’ and the manufacture of textile machinery. My political ‘education’ came largely from my grandma’s stories of what life had been like for her as a single mother and mill girl during the 1920’s and ‘30’s. It was heart and mouth politics, straight from an angry soul. She knew from what life had taught her that the tories were liars, greedy, selfish and the enemy of working-class people. She had contempt for any working-class woman or man who supported the tories and she wouldn’t hesitate to tell them so. On the other hand she implored me never to become a ‘communist’ (read agitator) although I suspect her sympathies would have lain in that direction if she’d ever have had the opportunity to discover more about it. But she’d seen people hounded out of their jobs, families subsequently plunged into even greater poverty as a result of someone standing up for union rights or militating in some way.

As I reached adolescence I didn’t feel able to talk to anyone about my sexuality. I was thirteen years old when the Sexual Offences Act went through parliament in 1967, there were no lesbian and gay switchboards, teenage groups or any other support organisations around. It’s hardly surprising that I grew up isolated as a gay teenager, confused as a result of internalising all the homophobic messages around me in the world and unable to see any positive images of lesbians and gay men. I knew that I had to do something but I didn’t know what or how.

By the age of eighteen work brought me to London where I eventually came out. For two or three years after I’d come-out very few of the lesbians and gays that I met came from my sort of working-class background.
I’d helped start up North Staffs Gay Switchboard in 77 which was predominantly a working class organisation but LGSM was the first large lesbian and gay organisation that I’d been involved in where the majority of comrades were working-class. Very importantly many of us came from small towns or cities in the north of England, from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That first visit to Dulais valley as out, proud, working-class lesbians and gay men was an emotional event for every one of us. We had been made to feel so welcome. We drank with the miners and their families, talked, danced, laughed and discovered each other. Our banner was displayed by theirs at the front of the hall. They invited us to make a speech to the two or three hundred people there-something we hadn’t prepared for-and we finally bullied Andy Denn into doing the job. The miners knew that we were nervous and Andy, 20, was trembling when he got on that stage. There was a tremendous round of applause when the miners introduced him then avid silence to listen to what he had to say.

He spoke straight from the heart in rich scouser tones about working-class solidarity and the importance of getting to know each others common interests. People stood clapping and cheering when he finished.
Later that evening they read poetry and sang to us. We stayed in their homes, went for walks with their kids in the ancient craggy landscape that surrounds their pit villages, we went to their own support group meeting where they presented us with trophies. And all this AS lesbians and gays - that’s ALL they knew about us at first. No problems about how shall I come out here - we were out right from the beginning. The struggle for socialism, including lesbian and gay liberation, the more personal aspects of working-class life and culture were all rolled into one.

That’s why it felt that it was like returning home!


LGSM started in Mark Ashton’s flat in Elephant & Castle on 15th July 1984 - the group finally wound up one day short of a year later. Mark called that inaugural meeting together by placing a listing in ‘Capital Gay’ (a free, weekly newspaper circulating in London around the lesbian and gay community). Three weeks earlier a few of us had collected £200 from people on the Lesbian and Gay Pride March and at a rally afterwards where a striking miner on the platform had received a standing ovation. I think that it came as a surprise to both of us to see so much strong support for the miners - who had been on strike for sixteen weeks. Lesbians and gays throughout Britain were working within the labour and trades union movement in support of the miners but would this be recognised? History had taught us that our sexuality could be made invisible just as much within the movement as beyond it. LGSM gave people the opportunity to unite to focus on a crucial labour movement struggle whilst simultaneously being out and proud of our sexuality.

Six weeks after the inaugural meeting two motions were unanimously passed. The first was that LGSM was:

‘a single issue, solidarity group and owes no allegiance to any political party. The only requirements of members are that they are either lesbian or gay … that they support the NUM.’

The second motion agreed to adopt Dulais Valley (in fact it was three valleys: Neath, Swansea as well as Dulais). It was a fairly arbitrary choice that we adopt this mining community which lies on the westerly edge of the South Wales coalfields. The decision was made mainly on the basis that one of the members originated from that area. But we did know that the adoption of a particular community was going to be more effective in building links than simply sending money to the national strike fund.

When the Dulais support group received our letter there were not a few raised eyebrows. Some miners were openly hostile and suggested that they would be made a laughing stock of the valleys. Others argued that they had never knowingly met lesbians and gays and that they should use the opportunity to get to know more about us. The outcome was that they sent David Donovan, from Ynyswen to meet us in London on 6th September 84. Four of us met David - by the zebra crossing outside Paddington station ! We found a local cafe and spent two hours talking about their struggles and ours. David told us about their support group, that it was supporting around 3,500 striking miners and their families from several different pits in the three valleys.

He told us that collections were vital because there were no social security payments for strikers and that the strike was going to last a long time because of the National Coal Boards massive reserves. The coal from their region was some of the finest in the world: hard, clean, shiny black anthracite. The support for the strike was almost 100% solid in South Wales, not only amongst the mining families but generally within their community. There are no other industries in the area so that the whole local economy is directly and indirectly dependent on mining. It made no economic sense to close these pits down - what it really needed was a massive injection of capital investment in order to make the pits more productive and able to compete with foreign coal. Foreign coal was subsidised either by their government or - as is the case of South African coal - by appallingly low wages. The wages of the miners in South Wales were lower than the national average and that itself was much lower than the tory press would have people believe. But this strike wasn’t about wages - it was something that they had no choice about, pit closures on the scale McGregor was trying to enforce would spell disaster to their community. It made no economic sense because there was no real alternative to mining, the bill for paying unemployment benefit almost certainly was higher than the so-called ‘uneconomic’ pits. But this fight was not simply about the mining industry it was a deliberate confrontation by the state, by the tories - an attempt to destroy the historically most powerful trades union in Britain. Thatcher was not going to follow Heath’s defeat when he took on the miners. If the miners lose this battle many more people other than the mining communities would suffer as a result.

David told us that the strike was teaching them a great deal, they now knew what police harassment was about, what media lies and distortions were about. “Things that black people, lesbians and gays have experienced for far longer than we have.”

He had only been a member of the local labour party up till now but the strike was showing him were their real support came from, they were deeply disappointed in the party leadership’s response to the strike. Now it was important to make links with new found allies and jointly fight the oppression from a common enemy. That was why he had been sent to meet us People wanted to know more about us He sat and listened to us talking about our politics and our recent experiences of the miners strike. We weren’t naive to the fact that there would be homophobia in the mining community just as there was anywhere. We told him about the tremendous reception that we had when we unfurled our banner at the National Women’s demo three weeks earlier. We were optimistic that a large section of the lesbian and gay community was increasingly identifying with the mining communities.

We arranged to meet David later that evening As the four of us travelled back on the tube we all said how we’d been fighting the tears back. We’d been nervous as shit before we met David - we didn’t know what to expect. It’s a natural consequence of the experience of oppression that you tend to be guarded, cynical and have low expectations of people who you know have not had much to do with -in our case- lesbians and gays before. Our support for the miners was unconditional - we were prepared for the miners being as heterosexist as anyone else might be - we could take prejudice because we were strong and proud. Prejudice breeds on fear and ignorance but here was an opportunity to do something about that. Heterosexism and the struggle against pit closures were connected but right now it was the miners who were facing the wrath of the state. But David’s words had surpassed all our expectations. He had inspired us with his honesty about the hostility that there was towards us within his community, but that there was also support that could be built on to break down that prejudice. He’d inspired us with his clarity and his commitment. We travelled back together fired with increased determination and couldn’t wait to report back to our comrades at the next LGSM meeting.

We met David again that evening and took him along to his first lesbian and gay pub where we’d made arrangements to present him with our first cheque for £500. The customers of this particular pub had been very supportive and generous when we made collections at the door, despite the crowd being predominantly young, poorly paid or unemployed. The D.J. stopped the music and Mark Ashton introduced David as a striking miner. He was immediately met with cheering and clapping and the crowd of around 200 moved closer to hear what David had to say. He briefly talked about the strike to date, the problems that they were up against and said:
“I have been asked by the people of the Dulais Valley to extend the hand of friendship and solidarity to the lesbian and gay comrades and friends in London.”

Later he invited members of the group - as many of us as wanted too - to visit Dulais and stay in the miners homes. Next morning we rushed off a press release, which was published with a photo in the following week’s ‘Capital Gay’.

We realised at this early stage that we were making history here and it fired us with a sense of responsibility and commitment. Individual lesbians and gays had been bravely pioneering for recognition and support within the labour movement for years hitherto with limited success. The cry that lesbian and gay liberation was part of the struggle for socialism had not been understood.

It seemed that only now, during a bitter confrontation with the state, when the police and courts were exposing their political allegiances, when the tory press barons puled every stop to discredit and misrepresent the miners struggle, only now did we have the opportunity for face-to-face understanding. We had to by-pass the media now and talk directly to one another. There was no time for shyness, reserve or naivety. We were committed to solidarity and that can only be achieved by understanding each other’s lives and lifestyles, by learning who to trust and who not to trust. Over the months individual strikers or their wives from Dulais were sent all over the country making links with other organisations. They would talk about us wherever they went, confronting prejudice and changing other people’s attitudes. I met miners from other parts of the country who had met people from Dulais and they would tell me that they’d heard of LGSM. It was mainly because of the active lobbying of the miners that the T.U.C. and Labour Party conferences adopted policy on lesbian and gay rights. The left press coverage was good, LGSM was mentioned in dozens of different publications throughout Britain, Europe and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Rumour had it that we were even mentioned in East Germany but I have been unable to obtain that press cutting.


In order to collect for the miners it was vital to campaign for them too and we worked very hard at this. It was also the area where there was most disagreements over political understanding. Hardly surprising within an organisation that embraced comrades who were either unaligned to any political party or they were Liberals, Trots, Commies, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Lesbian Feminists, Labourites of all kinds, lonely people who had nothing better to do on a Sunday night, others who were using LGSM as a means of coming-out, those suffering from clinical verbal diarrhoea, careerists, comedians and committed hedonists! We had fierce political arguments within meetings about Polish coal imports, sexism, racism, trades union and party leaderships and responsibilities (or lack of them), separatism and autonomy, liberalism vs. socialism vs. anarchism, class and sexuality, the role of the middle-class within an organisation like LGSM and now and then just a TOUCH of attempted character assassination, love-tiffs, jealousies and other such endearments. The structure of the group was loose so we didn’t have many resignations but there were people who didn’t return again for various reasons. There were lesbians who wanted to offer support to Women Against Pit Closures who met lesbians who were working in LGSM. Together they formed Lesbians Against Pit Closures. Wendy Calder from LAPC said “It’s part of the struggle against this government and this society that’s anti-gay, anti-lesbian and anti-working class - in fact anyone who wants to be an individual. I wanted to work with lesbians because I’m a lesbian”. LAPC collectively wrote the following letter to LGSM at their meeting on 10th December 84:

Dear Sisters & Brothers,
… We wanted to write to you in a spirit of solidarity and to clarify how we see our group. We wish to encourage as many lesbians as possible to take part in the support work for the mining communities in their struggle and we know from our experience as lesbian women that some of us prefer to work with women only. We are sure that you will agree that the more people drawn into support work the better and that we should all feel able to participate in any way we choose. Therefore we will continue to organise autonomously as women.
We do recognise and celebrate our common aims as lesbians and gay men in supporting the miners.
Victory to the miners,
Lesbians Against Pit Closures

Those women who were into working in mixed (lesbian and gay) groups continued to work in both organisations. There were also lesbians who worked only in LGSM and lesbians in the Socialist Workers Party made a formal statement expressing their regret at some of the lesbians leaving LGSM to join LAPC. They wanted to make it clear that they would remain actively committed to LGSM, tackling sexism when it occurs (LGSM minutes 16.12.84).

It was essential for the greater benefits of the group that we reconcile or at least reach acceptable compromises over political differences and we settled down to working together to campaign effectively. LAPC and LGSM organised several events together, including a women’s weekend when a dozen women from the mining communities came to stay with us in London.

The pivot of our campaigning was collecting itself because here we were up-front in lesbian and gay pubs and clubs shaking collecting buckets shouting ‘SUPPORT THE MINERS, DIG DEEP FOR THE MINERS, THEIR STRUGGLE IS OURS!’ and all the other slogans which are now brandished onto our brains till the day we die. There were all kinds of reactions, just as there are all kinds of lesbians and gay men. Some places were hopelessly right wing and hostile to us, pub and club owners would throw us out but we’d just collect by the door on the street instead. One customer outside ‘Heaven’ nightclub in Charing Cross actually went to phone the police to get us removed. Managers of these establishments would claim that we were ‘intimidating’ their customers, the truth was that they didn’t like ‘political’ dykes and faggots, and the same could be said of some of their customers. A common cry of those who opposed us would be ‘Why should we support the miners, what have they ever done for us?’ Sian James from Dulais agreed that before LGSM:

“We turned our back on lesbians and gays, we didn’t have anything to do with them, it had nothing to do with us. We might have felt sorry for them but what could we do - for years this was our attitude. But suddenly WE were up for grabs. We were being attacked by the police, the media, the state....You cannot sympathise WITH an oppressed group until you’ve been a member of one.”

Another common cry levelled at us by lesbians and gays was:

‘You people should be collecting for lesbian and gay organisations or people with AIDS, not a bunch of naff straight miners!’

It was a fact that many comrades in LGSM did do a lot of support work for and within the lesbian and gay community, volunteers working on ‘Switchboard, housing agencies, employment and legal rights. Furthermore those comrades who joined LGSM as their first involvement in a campaign have gone on since to involve themselves in our campaigns, defence organisations and voluntary services. I found that if you turned on the questioner and asked what had THEY done for us frequently they’d never done anything for anyone!

As for why they should support the miners there were all sorts of replies about solidarity, unity, maybe if we support them now they’ll support us in the future, trades union struggles today-civil liberties tomorrow (Section 28 has sadly proved that argument). Mark Ashton replied on the video that we made:

“What do you mean ‘the miners don’t support us’, the miners dig coal which is used for fuel, which makes electricity that runs these disco lights. Would you go down a mine and work? I support them because they go down there and do it. I wouldn’t!”

Besides collecting we campaigned within the lesbian and gay community by keeping up some lively correspondence in the letters columns in ‘Capital Gay’, we leafleted, wrote articles for our newspapers and magazines. One particularly good article appeared in the magazine ‘Square Peg’ (12/1984). Robert Kincaid wrote the article that concluded:

“The miners strike has been the best thing to happen in years for so many working class people, lesbians and gay men included. There may be a long way to go, but we know that we’ve made friends, built some links and can be sure of their support in our struggle. IT IS all about education. People are educated through struggle, but there is no effective struggle without organisation. Individual protest is the engine of social change, and harnessed by political organisation it acquires the force of revolution. So come along and get involved. Victory to the miners!”

The LGSM enamel badge that Jonathon Blake designed became a collectors piece almost overnight - understandably because (at the risk of outrageous chauvinism) it had the elegance of a queen’s touch and knocked spots off other badges. Style was a feature of LGSM - not to mention wit. How about this leaflet attached to the LGSM T-shirt:

‘This T-shirt was silkscreened by 4 members of LGSM at the Deptford Community Workshop. The design is adapted from a poster designed by Kevin Franklin for the Pits & Perverts Ball, a benefit starring Bronski Beat, which took place on 10th December 1984 and raised over £5,000 for striking miners and their families.
Oil based inks were used to print the design which accounts for the smell ... soak and wash this T-shirt before wearing it; the smell will disappear in time ... (NB. Wash in cool water; do not tumble dry.) CR/6.85’

What T-shirt have you ever bought that had so much loving detail attached to it?

We held two public meetings. The first was on 19th October at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. Mark chaired the meeting and we had speakers from Harworth, Notts; South Wales N.U.M. executive and LGSM, with messages of support from Ken Livingstone, Mick McGahey (N.U.M. Scottish President), the women at Greenham Common, Betty Heathfield (Women Against Pit Closures) and M.P’s Jo Richardson, Tony Benn and Bob Clay.
Martin Goodsell for LGSM drew the links between the attacks on the mining communities and those on the lesbian and gay community. He reminded people that in that year there was the raid by Customs and Excise on ‘Gays The Word’ bookshop in London, 40 police raiding ‘The Bell’ at Kings Cross, the harassment of gay men cottaging and Rugby council’s decision to ban the employment of lesbians and gay men. The miners were also under attack and from the same people, so too we must unite and integrate our struggles - we must show the miners where we stand. We should take lesbian and gay liberation into the labour movement and socialism into the lesbian and gay community.

The speakers from the mining communities told us about sequestrations, police harassment - Harworth, a small mining village was besieged with police, the fundamental role of women in the mining communities who were not ‘behind’ the miners but side-by-side on the picket lines and travelling the country campaigning for the miners.

We were united in the belief that far from the miners being ‘the enemy within’ it was the police, the tories, the judges and the media who were the biggest threat to freedom, democracy and the right to work in this country.
This meeting and our second one in January attracted between 100-150 people. For people who had never been involved in the group it was always a revelation to hear the miners paying such sincere tributes to the lesbian and gay community and more people would be drawn into our activities.

The largest single event that we ever organised was the ‘Pits and Perverts Ball’ at the Electric Ballroom, Camden Town on 10th December 84. Nearly 1,500 people came to the concert. We raised £5,000 that night. For people who had never done anything like this before we were certainly brass-necked about it, we’d got the support of nearly all the major artists and performers of the alternative lesbian and gay stage. They all willingly entertained the crowd voluntarily. Nigel Young and Kate Thomas from LGSM compered the evening and managed to weave together the fun and excitement with a strong political message. It was tremendously hard work for those involved in organising the whole thing but was worth every minute of it. Lots of miners from all over the country were staying in London, street collecting for their own communities and we had spread the word that any miner who turned up would get into the event free. I remember one miner from Yorkshire standing there looking a bit dazed by it all, he said to me ‘Are all these people lesbians and gays?’ Beaming with pride I told him they were and he replied ‘I’d no idea you people supported us’. He’d obviously come out of curiosity and had a few preconceptions blown away. Dave Donovan and Hefina Headon spoke on behalf of the Dulais miners and the crowd was rapturous in its support. It was there that David promised that the miners would wear OUR badge on their lapels just as we’d worn theirs. (A promise that eventually turned into their support group buying a van and inscribing our name on both sides surrounding pink triangles).

Then Jenny Dennis from Kiverton Park, South Yorkshire made an appeal for a bucket collection for her mining community. We referred to Jenny as Jenny ‘chickens’ because in common with most of us she’d obviously had little experience of public speaking but when she spoke it came straight from the soul:

“We want money to buy chickens - yes chickens - for Christmas, we’ve been eating beans for months, we don’t want turkeys but we want chickens for Christmas”.

Her appeal worked - she raised over a thousand pounds just from bucket collections that night! A further £1,000 was raised from a raffle which was drawn that evening. Prizes included gold discs presented by ‘Bronski Beat’ (who headed the bill) and ‘The Specials’, an original cartoon of police agents provocateurs entrapping a gay man cottaging, by Steve Bell, and Mari Wilson’s dress - which was sadly nicked at some stage during the event (some queens have no restraint).

We had other public fundraising events such as a mega-jumble sale, which was previewed at an event we called ‘The Night of a Thousand Socks’ when members of the group modelled the beautiful and bizarre things we’d collected.

Other organisations/ performers did benefits of their own accord either on our behalf or sending the money directly to the miners. ‘Gay Sweatshop’ did a reading of ‘Dear Love of Comrades’ (about Edward Carpenter, 19th century gay socialist); the ‘Go-Go Boys’ played for us at the Gate Theatre; ‘New Depression’ Disco had several benefit nights; Cliff Grist - a miner from Dulais came to London with his unique slide collection and gave an illustrated talk on the history of the South Wales miners. It was something of a coup to find people coming to us to ask ‘What can we do to support LGSM?’

The more time went by, the more our campaign paid of, the more support we were engendering. I think we opened up the class division within the lesbian and gay community more than anything had done before. Whilst collecting we’d find more and more people, strangers, would jump to our defence if we were being attacked. This was often very useful because it was easy to get side-tracked away from collecting into some political debate whilst all your supporters were walking out through the door. I’ve many memories of working-class lesbians and gay men gleefully taking an opportunity to argue with some bourgeois ‘apolitical’ (i.e. Tory) queen. It was surprising quite how many lesbians and gays had come from mining families Four days after we’d collected £5,000 at the ‘Pits and Perverts’ benefit the Gay Conservatives made a donation to the SCAB miners - the princely sum of £25 seemed to sum them up.


We were on one of our many visits to Wales when the decision was made to return to work. It was a sad weekend. South Wales had been almost completely solid throughout the strike and many of our friends were angry at the decision. It had been a long and bitter dispute and the state had thrown everything that it could at the miners. Major sections of the labour and trades union movement had failed to offer real support. On the other hand many new forms of support had emerged, mainly from the marginalised and oppressed sections of our society the black groups, Bengali’s, women’s groups and ourselves. At the Dulais support group on the Sunday evening a miner stood up and said:

“Now our fight is over, it’s time to turn round and support those who have supported us for their struggle continues, and none less than the lesbians and gays who have stood by us solidly.”

They did. They came on Lesbian and Gay Pride ‘85 with the Blaenant Lodge banner. A thousand people joined our section which was put right at the front behind the ‘Pride banner itself. They’ve never stopped speaking about us at meetings and rallies, appeared on T.V. or wrote about us. They’ve made several collections for A.I.D.S. work to continue. We continue to visit Dulais and they come for weekends in London with us. Memories are long in their communities - the imprint of generations of struggle, hardship and confrontation creates a class-consciousness that is impossible to eradicate so long as the community survives. Just as my own grandma never forgot the support that the Geordie and the South Wales miners gave to the Lancashire cotton workers during the 20’s/30’s, just as the Dulais miners still boycott a scab pub from the 1926 strike, so too they will never forget us. As Ali Thomas from Dulais said at our second public meeting:

“… my comrades, my friends, my brothers and my sisters I salute each and every one of you. There will always, always by a welcome in our communities for you good people.”

We kept LGSM going for several months after the strike had ended because the miners were still in desparate hardship and many had been sacked or jailed (and continue to be today). We completed a video and an exhibition to record what we had achieved, knowing full well that lesbian and gay history is vital to our identity and all too often it is lost or made invisible. (The video is available for hire/sale from the Albany, Deptford, London).


Since LGSM two further workers support groups formed. The first was Lesbians and Gays Support the Printworkers which rallied around the Wapping dispute and at present Lesbians and Gays Support the Seafarers. Unfortunately LGSM drained my energies and I’ve not been involved in either of these two groups - their story remains to be written.

What lessons are there to be drawn from LGSM ?

Firstly that class struggle is as relevant today as it always has been. LGSM member Derek Hughes explained that:

“By us taking our collections to..commercial pubs and clubs we took politics to people who weren’t THINKING. They hadn’t been canvassed right from the beginning, from 10-15 years ago from G.L.F.”

And Nicola Field that:

“LGSM brought socialism onto the agenda of sexual politics and the lesbian and gay community. But at the same time brought sexual politics onto the agenda of trades union politics. And both gained in strength as a result.”

The Tories didn’t use the entire might of the State against the miners because they thought that they were irrelevant or ineffective. They hate trades unions because they are the only effective voice of ordinary working people. They are threatened - as they should be - by socialism, by working-class solidarity. Their lackeys in MI6 were obviously keeping an eye on the new support groups that united with the miners (we featured in ‘Police Review’ only a month after the group started!). It’s in their interests to divide those who stand against them, to alienate one group from another: black from white, women from men, the old from the young, the unemployed from the employed, people with disabilities from the able bodied, lesbians and gays from straights - the list goes on.

What we did was to stand firm against that. We know that people are kept in ignorance about lesbian and gay oppression. We knew that the mining communities - just as ANY OTHER community would have a spectrum ranging from the bigots to the more open-minded. We supported them unconditionally but bigotry would not be allowed to go unchallenged and it wasn’t. But it wasn’t just us who challenged it, their own comrades challenged it. Prejudice exists within all of us - the point is to change things. Not all lesbians and gay men have the privilege of living in London, being independent, knowing lots of other politicised dykes and faggots. We were always aware of this. We had a responsibility to use the power of this privilege wisely. We knew that there were ten other LGSM groups that started up around the country but they encountered completely different problems to us because they didn’t have the same resources as us.

On a more personal, but still political level LGSM had no political mega-stars in it. Most of us were ordinary working-class people with a political conscience. Some had been involved in politics for years, whilst for others it was their first time. None of us had done anything like this before. We discovered we had talents and abilities - often out of necessity, we learned to speak in public, to write and to argue our corner. It was a group that did things. Careerists who simply wanted to impress people with rhetoric were quickly spotted and given short shrift. There were no heroes, the slightest whiff of pompous-ness and you quickly got knocked off your pedestal - that’s the problem with working-class revolutionary dykes and faggots: no respect for authority! It also lead to a strong feeling of comradeship, everyone felt that they had a role to play - holding a collecting bucket was the most important thing to be done and everyone could - and HAD too do.

LGSM worked at the grass roots, it touched ordinary people’s lives and real change comes from the base upwards. We created a base for conscious working-class lesbians and gays to use as a reference point. We’ve a long way to go. The middle-class still dominates the lesbian and gay movement, it even dominates within the left of our movement on occasions. But that’s something we share with the rest of society. It’s when the class unites that we’ll bring about real change. All it takes is an opportunity, a tangible issue like the miners strike. Whilst Thatcherism simultaneously tries to destroy our identity at the same time it creates more and more contradictions, the most important being the widening gap between rich and poor, which is where it all started in the first place.