By Florence Tamagne
Publication via Tamagne, Florence
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Additional resources for A History Of Homosexuality In Europe: Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939
C. 62 Very often, outside the mainstream there was greater freedom: lower-class workers had crude slang terms for homosexuals, whereas certain avant-garde circles, like Bloomsbury, could be very liberal. It would be an error, however, to think that homosexuality was generally overlooked. If one studies the homosexual vocabulary in French, German and English communities, the multitude of designations is striking. Three categories of terms indicating homosexuals and their activities can be distinguished: scientific or medical terms; familiar or slang terms that heterosexuals used when talking about homosexuals — which sometimes were picked up by homosexuals themselves; and terms used within the homosexual community, often having a coded meaning.
29 The scandals of the pre-war period left a lasting mark on the homosexual mind. The uproar showed how fragile were the attempts at homosexual emancipation, always at the mercy of the whims of ever-shifting public opinion — which was concerned with respectability and ready to name sacrificial victims, in a crisis, in order to redeem the “sins” of the nation. They also revealed to those homosexuals who had been isolated that homosexual networks existed and that a homosexual culture was being formed.
32 Homosexuality was not only a crime against the army, it was a crime against England at war. Civilians, too, became objects of attack and a veritable witch hunt started. The parliamentary deputy Noël Pemberton Billing launched a crusade against homosexuals. 33 In 1918, he published an article entitled, “The First 47,000,” referring to the number of British homosexuals (according to him) known to the German secret service. They supposedly had a list that enabled them to blackmail people in high places and to extort state secrets.