LGBT activist and trade unionist
Member of the Gay Liberation Front
‘Racism and homophobia rely upon spreading vicious lies about, seriously denigrating and removing the rights of their victims.’
Ted Brown is a Black gay activist and trade unionist. He was effective in raising Black lesbian and gay experiences in the anti-racist and the lesbian and gay movements. He was born in the USA and moved to London as a child. He was confronted by racism as a teenager living in Deptford, South East London. When he realised he was attracted to other men he felt increasingly alone. He did not know any other gay people for support.
His life changed in 1970 when he went to see the film ‘Boys In The Band’ in Leicester Square. Outside the cinema he got a leaflet announcing a new group, The Gay Liberation Front (GLF). He went to its next meeting. At the meeting he stood up and compared gay rights, women’s rights and black civil rights. He also met his partner Noel there. He lived for a time in a GLF commune in Penge, south London.
By 1971, the UK national newspapers began to notice the GLF as a political movement. The GLF Manifesto was published, and the organisation made a number of noticeable direct actions. They disturbed the start of the morality campaign, Festival of Light.
GLF established many groups in British towns such as Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, and Leicester. A Media Group produced the GLF Newspaper ‘Come Together’, which had sixteen editions. An Anti-Psychiatry Group worked on analysing and attacking the Psychiatric Organisations. Other groups included a Women’s Group, a Street Theatre Group and a Communes Group. The Youth Group for the under 21s, fought to equalise the age of consent.
By 1974 GLF had developed and separated into other groups. From the Anti-Psychiatry Group came Icebreakers. There was Gay Switchboard, Bethnal Rouge and The Brixton Faeries. From the Media Group came Gay Men’s Press. From the Street Theatre Group came the world-renowned theatre troupe ‘Bloolips’. The campaigning groups Stonewall and Outrage! also developed.
When HIV/Aids was identified these groups and networks of individuals could quickly respond. The new activists in HIV/Aids used the example of the GLF. They immediately challenged the traditional attitudes of the medical establishment towards LGBT+ people.
At this time Ted was a leading member of the trade union NALGO’s national lesbian and gay committee. With fellow committee member Dirg Aaab-Richards and NALGO backing, he started ‘Black Lesbians and Gays Against Media Homophobia’. This successful campaign challenged ‘murder music’ such as Buju Banton’s song ‘Boom Bye Bye’ (which urged listeners to kill lesbian women and gay men) and challenged other homophobic media, including newspapers. It led to positive coverage of Black lesbian women and gay men and their issues.
In 2007 Ted received a Life Achievement Award from the Black Lesbian and Gay Community Awards and featured in Stonewall’s 25th anniversary publication ‘LGBT Voices.