Turns out that Peter Ackroyd, the prolific British author who I don't think I've ever got around to reading, is gay and has written a gay history of London. He claims it has always been a queer city:
I don't think I learned that much new from reading an article about it in The Guardian, but I do note this:
Unlike many chroniclers of gay culture, Ackroyd doesn’t neglect lesbianism: we are gleefully taken on a tour of the dildo shops of the Georgian city – it’s said that one establishment in Leicester Fields sold nothing else – and behind the closed doors of cigarillo smoke-filled Edwardian clubs such as the Cave of Harmony and the Orange Tree.
In 2017, 50 years after some forms of homosexuality were tentatively legalised, it’s hard to think of anything that has undergone greater upheavals than gay culture. But in Ackroyd’s view, things haven’t really changed that much.
“The manifestations alter, but the essence remains the same. There are still drag bars, there are still travesti acts, there are still pick-up places in parks, there are still men-only clubs. As a percentage of the population, there were as many gay bars in 18th-century London as there are today.”