Representing the history of LGBT rights: political rhetoric surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967

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To mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially discriminalised sex between men in England and Wales, all five living British prime ministers (Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Sir John Major) wrote exclusively for the LGBT news website PinkNews. Drawing eclectically on recent work on social representations of history and a rhetorical psychological approach to commemorative discourse, this article examines how these prime ministers represented the history of LGBT rights and how such representations were used rhetorically. The prime ministers figuratively represented the Act as the start of a long road to LGBT equality. In doing so, the historical event was anchored in a contemporary political agenda for LGBT equality. However, despite this being an outward display of unified celebration, these prime ministers indirectly engaged in the business of party politics by selectively praising the achievements of their own parties and omitting how LGBT rights have been advanced by their opponents. Theresa May in particular managed the Conservative Party’s brand. It is argued that representations of the past provide a selective and partial view of the history of LGBT rights in the UK but that we should go beyond examining the content of representations to examine how they are put to political ends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-317
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Issue number4
Early online date27 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

“This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Psychology and Sexuality on 27 September 2017, available online:


  • Gay rights
  • Political discourse
  • epideictic rhetoric
  • Commemoration
  • social representations


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