Unsung Heroes of the Gay Scene

We asked some of the most admired, well-known activist names within London’s LGBT+ community: who do you admire, who is not known, and deserves recognition? 

By Patrick Cash


‘Out and proud’ lesbian, British LGBT rights activist. Runs LGBT History Month, which runs throughout February, which this month includes the 1st National History Festival (www.lgbthistoryfestival.org) and the national calendar and resources to celebrate LGBT History Month can be found on the website below: 





Adam Lowe. Writer, publisher and creative producer, Adam Lowe, lives in Manchester and runs the LGBT emerging writers programme ‘Young Enigma’, supported by Commonword and Arts Council England. His 2012 poetry collection Precocious was a reader nomination for the Guardian First Book Award. Find out more about his various endeavours on his website below.




Kirsten Hearn. Kirsten was the first blind art student in the UK, and worked for 16 years in local government, rising to assistant director level working in the field of equality and diversity. She’s pleased to say she had a hand in transforming council services into more responsive and inclusive operations. Since 1979 she has been a founder, active member, committee member and chair of up to twenty local, regional or national voluntary organisations, addressing a range of equality, diversity and community issues.



Ju Gosling. Ju, aka Ju90, is a 50-something disabled webmaster and multimedia storyteller who works mainly with digital lens-based media, but also with performance, text and sound. Ju is director of Bettany Press and co-chairs Regard, the national LGBT disabled people’s member-led charity.




Amelia Lee. A controversial choice, you may have heard of Amelia Lee in the news recently as one of the driving forces behind the plans for Britain’s first LGBT school. Lee is strategic director for LGBT Youth North West, the youth work charity behind the plans. Whereas many gay men have been crying out on social media against the plan as reckless segregation, and QX Editor Cliff Joannou has written a piece for Vice saying ‘no’, Lee says: ‘This is about saving lives. Despite the laws that claim to protect gay people from homophobic bullying, the truth is that in schools especially, bullying is still incredibly common and causes young people to feel isolated and alienated, which often leads to truanting and, in the worst-case scenarios, to suicide.’


Julie Parker. 
Julie Parker trained at Central School of Speech and Drama and went on to perform in Gay Sweatshop’s first women’s show, Any Woman Can, touring Britain and elsewhere. She became a member of Action Space collective in Chenies Street where she helped organise the influential Women’s Festival in 1977. She stayed on to become theatre programmer at the venue and eventually its Artistic Director when it became The Drill Hall, building it into London’s premiere lesbian and gay venue, where numerous hugely significant works have been developed and premiered for over 30 years. Julie Parker with Mavis Seaman, now runs Outhouse London, previously Central London Arts Ltd, producing large-scale theatre and community theatre events across the UK.



One of the foremost LGBT campaigners in the world, Peter runs the Peter Tatchell Foundation, speaking out against all forms of discrimination and prejudice. 





Rev Richard Kirker. The first General Secretary of the Gay Christian Movement founded in 1976 (now known as the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement), Kirker was in the position for over 30 years. Under his leadership LGCM became famous worldwide for its fearless challenge of homophobia in the churches and other Christian movements. Sold copies of ‘The Joy of Gay Sex’ from the bell-tower of St Botolph’s Aldgate.



Edwin Sesange. Director of the African Out & Proud LGBTI Diamond Group based in the UK, which currently boasts a hundred plus members, from Uganda, Gabon, Gambia, Sierre Leone, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Jamaica. Their mission is the preservation of human dignity, freedom and justice, and the promotion of equality for the LGBTI persons in African and other countries where LGBTI persons are persecuted.




Rev. Jide Macaulay. A Nigerian pastor and the founding pastor of the House of Rainbow, based in both Lagos, Nigeria, and London, United Kingdom. The primary vision of the organisation is to reach out to sexual minorities through education, advocacy, reconciliation and capacity building. Jide’s focus is spiritual activism with a major focus on the inclusion and reconciliation of sexuality and spirituality, immigration advice, human rights in all aspects and especially the rights of LGBTI people.



Dennis Carney. Dennis leads the development of workshops targeting black gay and bi men and is a co-founder of the Loving Men team. He’s worked with groups in a wide variety of settings, primarily as a freelance trainer and consultant focusing on diversity, LGBT equality, team building and HIV issues in the workplace.





Andrew Copson. Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Copson is also First Vice-President of the International Humanist & Ethical Union, and former chair of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association. The BHA is a charitable organisation which promotes humanism and aims to represent ‘people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs’ in the UK by campaigning on issues relating to humanism, secularism and human rights.




Ray Harvey-Amer. A prominent member of OutRage!, a gay rights campaigning group, and Rainbows Across Borders, a voluntary self-help group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution of oppressive homophobic/transphobic regimes.






David Stuart is Lead Substance Use Advisor at 56 Dean Street and one of the UK’s foremost experts in chemsex trends amongst gay men. He organised the Gay Men’s Wellbeing Campaign series of events last year, is organising another series of events this year, and co-runs the open forum ‘Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs’. 



Toni Hogg. Toni Hogg is the project manager at Antidote, one of London’s only LGBT substance abuse clinics – the other being 56 Dean Street. Antidote is run by charity London Friend and helps anyone who wants to quit drug or alcohol use, who is thinking of cutting down or would just like some support or advice about playing more safely.





Leigh Chislett. Clinic manager at Soho’s 56 Dean Street and the Dean Street Express, two of the busiest sexual health clinic for LGBT people, and particularly gay men, in the whole of London. Leigh is highly respected and admired by all his staff and ensures that the clinics are at the forefront of sexual health and wellbeing services for those who need it most.





Nacho LaBayden de Inza. The first Chemsex volunteer to have been recruited at Antidote, six years ago, Inza has worked 4-5 days a week, tirelessly and unpaid.





Ian Smith-Howley. Editor of FS Magazine, the gay men’s health and life magazine run by gay men’s charity GMFA. GMFA’s mission is to improve gay men’s health by increasing the control they have over their own lives. Ian moved to London from Ireland in 2010, loves to tweet, is a massive Liverpool FC fan… And has a soft spot for Melanie C.




Additional nominations: Jake Jenkins (Lead Nurse at 56 Dean Street), Michael Underwood (Clinic Manager at St Stephen’s Centre, ensuring LGBT people experience equality and excellence in sexual health care), Patrick Gayle (director of Three Flying Piglets, working voluntarily for decades towards betterment of gay men’s sexual wellbeing) and Fat Tony (DJ and role model for the LGBT recovery community). 




Really one of the ‘Unsung Heroes of the Gay Scene’ in his own right, genial, pipe-smoking, bearded wizard of the gay scene Anton Johnson works ceaselessly for the Unite London & Eastern Region LGBT Committee, as well as supporting young LGBT artists in London of every nationality and background through creative outlet Left Front Art. 



Peter Purton. Peter Purton is the Trade Unions’ Congress policy officer for disability and LGBT rights, and has written often about issues of equality, LGBT services under austerity cuts and what Pride stands for in the modern age. Anton Johnson states that Purton’s work during the Labour Campaign for Lesbian & Gay Rights in the 1980s/90s has been instrumental in bringing us to where we are now and that his community work is ‘tireless’.





Monty is Chief Executive of London Friend and has over 15 years of experience working with LGB&T communities. 



Michelle Ross & Aedan Wolton. Michelle and Aedan run CliniQ, the trans sexual health partnership at 56 Dean Street. Both are independent of Dean Street and volunteer with CliniQ, doing massive amounts of external community engagement and training to raise awareness of sexual health needs amongst trans and non-binary people. CliniQ’s approach is renowned as innovative and Aedan has written about his involvement before in a piece for The Guardian.


All the volunteers at London Friend. Monty wanted to acknowledge all the volunteers at London Friend as a team for their much-appreciated joint effort, that is pivotal to keeping the charity’s cogs running like clockwork.



Marc Thompson is Coordinator of the Peer Mentor Project at Positively UK, and is one of the few out HIV+ black men in the UK. He has been involved in community activism in the UK for twenty-five years and his work around HIV, peer support and working specifically with black gay men is well-known and admired. 



Sigma Research Team (pictured is Dr Adam Bourne). Sigma Research have lead the way in social research into the lives of LGBT communities in the UK, and the team is made up of a mixture of academics – many of whom are LGBT; including Ford Hickson, Adam Bourne, Will Nutland, Peter Weatherburn. Their invaluable research has informed health and HIV policies for LGBT communities for more than twenty years now.