Andrew Lumsden: an original member of the Gay Liberation Front; founder of the UK’s first gay publication; a pioneer of LGBTQIA+ rights in the UK – we look back at his legacy.
The founder of the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ publication and Gay Liberation Front activist, Andrew Lumsden, has died, aged 82.
Tributes have poured in for the pioneer from fellow activists and queer organisations. ACT Up London, Pride in London, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation have all shared tributes, while activists old and young have shared their memories of Lumsden. Trinidad and Tobago activist Jason Jones said he was “utterly devastated” by the news, while QueerAF contributor Yasmin Benoit spoke of how Lumsden stood up for her in the face of anti-asexual prejudice at events.
The history of the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ outlet: Gay News
Lumsden started Gay News in 1971 after doing a story with The Times about the Gay Liberation Front. The editor of the newspaper forbade its publication at 11 pm, just hours before the newspaper was printed.
After the editor of the then left-leaning Daily Mail also said it “would not be of interest by the general public” Lumsden started Gay News – Yass Magazine.
The paper would later become infamous for being sued and found guilty under blasphemy laws that dated back to the 17th century. Those laws were repealed in 2008, and the poem that got Gay News fined £1000 is now widely available online – LGBT History Month.
Thanks to funding for the Gay News Archive project, parts of the paper’s history are available online, and Lumsden captured what happened at the newspaper’s collapse in a book with Gillian E Hanscombe.
Memories of Andrew Lumsden’s life, in his own words
Speaking to The Independent in 2017, Lumsden remembers hating himself for his sexuality – before quickly becoming a key player in the Gay Liberation Front exactly because their key message was “don’t hate yourself”.
And while writing for HuffPost in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, he reflected on the UK’s first ‘pride’ on July 1st 1972, which he helped organise with the Gay Liberation Front. He said the march was inherently political, aimed at “taking back the streets”. He writes fondly of marching “arm-in-arm down towards Hyde Park, stopping occasionally for the odd kiss.”
Analysis: Andrew Lumsden, founder, activist and pioneer
It’s inherently queer to do something because you’ve been told not to. It’s not only a statement I live by but one that inspires this outlet. We, too, started QueerAF after an editor told us to stop pitching gay stories because there wasn’t enough “money” or “audience” in them. That was less than a decade ago.
That’s why Andrew Lumsden’s passing is a sad moment. He helped create the UK’s first gay publication, and the inspiration for it is a prejudice we still face today, despite many advances in queer rights.
Nonetheless, his work with the Gay Liberation Front helped shift the country forward and remains a key part of the reason we’re able to celebrate what rights we have now.
The founder of the UK’s first queer news outlet’s legacy is rich. He is one of the pioneers of queer liberation in our country. He will be sorely missed.
It’s striking how similar Andrew Lumsden’s story is with Gay News – and why I started QueerAF.
QueerAF began in response to an editor who told me to stop pitching ‘gay stories‘ because there was no ‘money’ or ‘audience’ for them.
No one should be told their lives aren’t worth telling a story about.
I didn’t understand this at the time, but one reason newsrooms create awful experiences as I faced, is because they are locked into a system.
One that rewards stories that feed hungry divisive algorithms. All to serve enough ads to simply repeat the cycle over again.
It’s stark, but not surprising – that I’m still told stories like mine and Andrews, regularly.
So many journalists have told me stories of pitching LGBTQIA+ articles only to be told they aren’t “interesting”, “worthwhile”, or “click-worthy”. It’s time to change that. Because, and as we show week in week out – our stories count. We’re here to do with our queer as f**k audacious project, but we need your support to truly banish stories like mine and Andrew’s to the history books.
*Article originally published in QueerAF.