Forbidden Lives: LGBT Stories from Wales


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Forbidden Lives is a fascinating collection of portraits and discussions that aims to populate some of the many gaps in the LGBT history of Wales. Starting in the twelfth century with Gerald of Wales’ reports of bearded women and hermaphrodites, and ending with the establishment of the first Cardiff Mardi Gras, the book arcs over nine hundred years of LGBT experiences.

Along the way it takes in Edward II, poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, disguised female sailors, the ‘dancing marquess’ of Anglesey, artist Gwen John, writers Cliff Gordon and Jan Morris, and psychoanalyst Ernest Jones, in moving stories of lives often lived in the shadows of society.

Wales has strong connections with the exploration of homosexuality and transgender issues, and Forbidden Lives highlights the contributions of John Randell, MPs Desmond Donelly and Leo Abse, and activists A.E. Dyson and Griff Vaughan Williams, who helped transform social and legal attitudes towards LGBT people across Britain.

Documenting the controversy around the ‘AIDS play’ We all Fall Down in Swansea, and the early Pride marches in Cardiff, Norena Shopland shows that there is still work to do. The stories in Forbidden Lives provide the inspiration for that change to take place.

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