Image: Members of Oxford’s Gaysoc picketing W. H. Smith on Cornmarket at the height of the Gay News trial in 1977. From The Oxford Handbook, 1979.
With this advertisement in Daily Info, Oxford’s famous Gaysoc was born. Possibly the idea to create a new society was prompted by the success of London University’s Gaysoc, a collaborative endeavour between CHE (Campaign for Homosexual Equality) and GLF (Gay Liberation Front) which had began life in 1972.
From its outset, Oxford’s Gaysoc was a campaigning organisation which, like its London counterpart, collaborated with other local groups. For example, following the infamous Gay News blasphemy trial during the winter of 1977, Gaysoc teamed up with the Oxford branch of CHE to stage a ‘Blasphemy Disco’ to fly in the face of the authorities who had acted against Gay News. The event took place on 10 February 1978 at Wadham.
During the early 1980s, the activities of the society centred on Pembroke College. Regular meetings took place in the MacMillan JCR (Junior Common Room) on Wednesday evenings at 8.30pm with other events occasionally happening at other times and places. Events were open to all, including local people not otherwise associated with the University. Surviving documents show that discussions, speakers, parties, theatre trips, and activism were all pursued with gusto. The society has evolved through several name changes, reflecting the growing self-awareness and inclusivity of Oxford’s diverse student body. It has been known as Oxford Student Lesbian and Gaysoc and Oxford Student Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Society (‘LGB Soc’). Today the society is known as the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society and is the second largest of Oxford’s student societies and the largest student LGBTQ+ society in the country.
© Ross Brooks, 2020