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OUTing the Past 2018 Gazetted Presenter Spotlight: Janet Green

This year, the Festival Comms Team has reached out to all OUTing the Past 2018 gazetted presenters, whose presentations you may see at upcoming celebrations. In order to provide a platform for their invaluable work, presenters were asked a series a questions to acquaint you with their previous and current projects.

Janet Green was kind enough to share:

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I was 21 in 1969 and was just coming out as a lesbian, having my first passionate affair with a woman, who was a bit more experienced and ten years older than me.  Although gay men could lay claim to a few visible role models, we lesbians were rather limited.  There were no celebrities, soap characters or comedians that we could relate to.

I never knew that there was a club for lesbians. A place to meet other, similar,  women.  Then the film ‘The Killing of Sister George’ was released.  It was a story about lesbians, but not a good story.  It showed lesbians as sleazy, nasty, cold and a bit odd. But it did have a scene in a lesbian club.  I thought that this was a figment of the writer’s imagination, never imagining that it was real place.

So, going with my lover, to the actual Gateways Club in Chelsea for the first time was a huge revelation.  The women, the music, the tiny basement room with a juke box at one end and the bar at the other, the walls adorned with murals and condensation,  was a heady experience.  It made such an impact on me, and I remember it like yesterday.

The lesbian club scene would remain a hidden one for several more years, but that night showed me a glimmer of hope for the future, where women could love and lust for each other without hiding in a dark basement.  A world of visibility.

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Having come out in the late 60s, through the unconventional route of swinging parties, I realised that I had an interesting story to tell, not least with respect to the changes for LGBT people.  I could recall times when gay sex between men was illegal, when gay sex between women was invisible.  I decided to write my memoirs (Rebel Without a Clue) to tell the story of my life from childhood to my early thirties.  It turned out to be a tale of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but also a story of enormous social and personal change.

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I remember feeling angry about the unfairness of LGBT invisibility and, for men, illegality in around 1970.  I can’t recall how I found out, but in July 1972, on the nearest date to the Stonewall riots, a march was held in London.  It was the first Gay Pride march in the UK, and I went to it, finding I was virtually the only woman. It tipped down with rain, and the pockets of my cagoule became filled with water, but I didn’t care.  I felt part of a community, and felt that I was a small part of changing attitudes and society.

By 1982 I was a volunteer on London Lesbian Line, and by 1988 was marching against Section 28 with others, men and women.  The weather was fine on that occasion.

Early LGBT activism tended to see gay men and women separately pursuing different agendas.  We tended not to mix very much.  They had their clubs and we had meetings. However, when the AIDS crisis broke in the UK, I wanted to be involved, to address the awful homophobia and misinformation that was rife at the time.


I applied for, and was appointed, as one of the first paid workers for the Terrence Higgins Trust.  It became more than just a job for me.  It was almost a vocation, and changed me both personally and professionally.  I became friends with gay men … and lost a few separatist feminist friends.

However, not all my efforts at Terrence Higgins were for gay men.  I also wrote and produced the first health education leaflet aimed at providing information about HIV and AIDS for women.

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Whilst I still believe in the power of protest, I no longer go on the marches.  Age and arthritic knees have put paid to that.  However, I am still passionate about equality, diversity and justice.  As well as campaigning for LGBT rights, I am a campaigner for animal welfare, both domestic and wild.  Most of this is done from my ‘office’ (actually a desk on the landing) on the computer, but that does not make it any less meaningful.

My book, Rebel Without a Clue – a Memoir, can be bought as a paperback at Waterstones, Gays the Word, Amazon and Housmans, or from my publishers atwww.troubador.co.uk. It can also be bought as an ebook from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google Play and Nook.

I also write a blog, which can be found at:


Be sure to follow @LGBTHM for more information leading up to the Academic Conference and check out our national media partner, The Canary.

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