How a fearless activist forced Isle of Man to end its gay sex ban – and why his fight isn’t over

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07/14/2021

On 10 July, 1991, local gay rights campaigner Alan Shea, supported by activists from LGBT+ group OutRage! In London, demanded the end of the Isle of Man’s homosexuality ban. Although homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, followed by Scotland and Northern Ireland in the early ’80s, sex between men remained punishable by life imprisonment on the Isle of Man until 1992. The island is a crown dependency and maintains autonomy from the UK on issues such as marriage (it would go on to legalise same-sex marriage in 2016). Shea handed over a petition calling for change wearing a striped uniform like that of Nazi concentration camp victims, causing an uproar on the island. According to the Guardian, Shea customised a set of striped Marks & Spencer pyjamas with a pink triangle, which the Nazis used to mark out LGBT+ people. He modified the pink triangle to include the Isle of Man’s three-legged symbol and included the government’s phone number as a “prisoner number”.

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