Leicester: Bernard Greaves, LGBT+ rights pioneer

The press release, on orange paper, reports that the campaign has complained to the police about their use of undercover officers. The report, on beige paper, is entitled “Report on police operations in public toilets in Leicestershire.”
  Press release and report from the Leicester Lesbian and Gay Action campaign, October 1989. By kind permission of Bernard Greaves.
Colour photograph of the head and shoulders of a smiling middle-aged white man in glasses, wearing a white shirt, blue tie and dark checked jacket.

Bernard Greaves. Photo by kind permission of Bernard Greaves

When

1977 onwards

Where

Leicester

Bernard edited Liberals and Gay Rights in 1977, the first gay rights policy statement produced by a UK political party.

Bernard pioneered the Liberal Party’s commitment to removing legal discrimination based on sexual orientation in its 1979 general election manifesto. He was the first openly gay man to hold national office in a UK political party.

Blue page showing the title and price of 20p.
Front cover of Liberals & Gay Rights, 1977. By kind permission of Bernard Greaves.

Bernard Greaves, one of the first generation of openly gay campaigners for LGBT+ equality, has been a leading advocate for over 40 years. A prominent figure in the public life of Leicester, Bernard chaired an NHS trust, served on the Leicestershire Police Authority, and has been active in the economic development and regeneration of disadvantaged communities. In 2019 he received the President’s Award at the Liberal Democrat conference in recognition of his lifetime of campaigning for and supporting LGBT+ people. In the same year, he was given an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) from the University of Leicester.

Film of Bernard Greaves receiving an honorary degree from the University of Leicester in 2019.

Bernard and a colleague from Leicester Lesbian and Gay Action exposed how police would entrap gay men by inciting them to make advances to undercover police officers in public toilets. Consequences of prosecution could be devastating for the men, destroying marriages and family relationships and ending professional careers. Bernard circulated a detailed report describing police operations to a large number of public figures locally and nationally. As a result of his campaign, the Leicestershire force pioneered liaison with the LGBT+ communities that continues today. 

The article is headed: “Man thought policeman was gay. Ex-sailor is fined for attack.” The article begins: “A former sailor attacked an undercover policeman outside a public library because he thought he was gay, Leicester magistrates were told.” Part of the rest of the article is shown, giving more details of the case.
Newspaper report from the Leicester Mercury, March 1989, on the use of police officers to entrap gay men. Photo credit: Leicester Mercury, in Bernard’s possession.

Content by Bernard Greaves and Bradley Phipps.

Gay, straight, nonbinary and cisgendered people can all be involved in action for LGBTQ+ rights through political action, and also in our daily lives: not making assumptions about gender or sexuality, being sensitive to how people want to be described, allowing space for gay, lesbian and trans expression, challenging stereotypes and prejudices and offering positive allyship.

The policing of gay people that happened in the UK until recently, as described here, is still common – and far, far worse in countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. International solidarity action is therefore important.

By publicising Bernard’s story as a local hero, Leicester Journey to Justice were themselves taking action. There are unsung trailblazers for justice in the histories of every place in the country – as the stories across this site show. Why not unearth the stories in your community and share them?

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