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Finding queer stories in Scottish History

Discover queer Scotland this LGBT history month

Genre: LGBTQ+

Last updated: 01 May 2023

'And now – look – Old Scotland is no more.
Gay men kiss at the Parliament’s door.'

Scots Makar Jackie Kay’s poem 'The Long View'(this will open in a new window) sweeps through Scottish history with an eye to how far we’ve come. Looking back lets us see how much progress(this will open in a new window) Scotland has made for LGBTQ+ rights and representation, and how far we still have to go.

The coronavirus restrictions have ruled out looking for the queer past in a physical library or archive this February. Don’t let this stop you investigating some of the mysteries of queer Scottish history from your own home.

Explore queer Scotland

Fantastic online resources from Our Story Scotland(this will open in a new window) and Queer Scotland(this will open in a new window) are a great place to begin your journey. Here are some more ways to find and enjoy queer stories this LGBT History Month...

Through poetry

Find out more about poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon(this will open in a new window), and the time they spent in Edinburgh being treated for shellshock during WWI. Read the work of artist Maud Sulter(this will open in a new window) whose iconic images and poems were rooted in the black, feminist, and lesbian movements of the 1980s. Leaf through Edwin Morgan’s scrapbooks(this will open in a new window) and read the poem he wrote for the opening of the Glasgow Gay and Lesbian Centre(this will open in a new window) in 1995.

In the library

Register for a free account(this will open in a new window) with the National Library of Scotland for access to a host of eResources you can use from home. Browse newspapers(this will open in a new window) from the 1700s to the present day and read stories as they were reported at the time. Creating an account also lets you browse historic images and films in the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network.(this will open in a new window)

In the archives

Find out about early lesbian publications and the fight against Section 28 in Glasgow Women’s Library’s online collection(this will open in a new window). Many documents from the National Archives are available to view online, along with a guide to researching LGBT history(this will open in a new window) in their collections. The National Records of Scotland have details of some of their LGBT material online(this will open in a new window), including a cautionary tale about not carrying a musical instrument when escaping arrest. You can even glimpse footage of the Scottish Minorities Group in Edinburgh, including a very 1970’s disco, in the BBC Open Door archive(this will open in a new window).

In your local area

Walking down your street could bring you closer to queer history than you realise. Perhaps you lived near the Scottish communist journalist who defended homosexuality to Stalin, or close to the site where farmers rallied their tractors to protect their transgender neighbour from nosy reporters. Explore the Queer Scotland LGBT Historical Maps (this will open in a new window)and The Digital Transgender Archive map(this will open in a new window), or take an audio tour of Glasgow’s queer heritage(this will open in a new window) with Glasgow Women’s Library.

Get involved

There are plenty of exciting ways to get involved with queer history in Scotland. Visit the oral history project OurStory Scotland(this will open in a new window) to contribute your voice to their archive and help preserve the experiences of others. Lavender Menace, which started in 1982 as Scotland’s first queer bookshop, has returned as a queer book archive. Join them and add your collection to their archive(this will open in a new window).


Reading is a fantastic way to observe, learn, celebrate and reflect on LGBTQ+ history and progress. Scottish Book Trust has several LGBTQ+ inclusive book lists to get you started, many of which include Scottish perspectives. Immerse yourself and discover queer Scotland in these incredible stories.

(this will open in a new window)Books about LGBTQ+ history