It’s been 30 years since the gay actor Michael Boothe was brutally beaten to death by a group of six men in a gay hate killing in London.
In 1990, Britain was a very different place for queer people compared to what it is today. Two years prior the vile, homophobic Section 28 had been passed, meaning local authorities were prohibited from “promoting” homosexuality. It remained in place until 2003.
Gay sex had been decriminalised 23 years earlier, but anti-LGBT+ attitudes were alarmingly prevalent — a situation that was made all the worse by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. The crisis disproportionately affected the LGBT+ community, which wrongly encouraged many others to see queer people as a threat.
This was the world that Michael Boothe and his contemporaries lived in. One that was hostile to LGBT+ people who were expected to hide their identities, where anti-gay violence was commonplace — and the police were generally unwilling to do much about it.
Michael Boothe was brutally murdered by a group of six men while walking home.
On the night of April 30, 1990, Michael Boothe was walking home after midnight when he passed a set of public toilets that were known as a meeting place for gay men looking for hook-ups.
Stuart Hobday, an eyewitness on the night, wrote in The Independent that it is believed Boothe was looking for a “sexual liaison”.
There, he was set upon by the group of six men who pushed him to the ground and violently beaten to within an inch of his life. He was kicked, stamped on and brutalised by the gang.
After the senseless attack, a couple walking past heard Boothe crying for help. They called an ambulance and he was taken to hospital, but he died shortly afterwards from internal bleeding.
Michael Boothe was just 48 years old. His killers were never found.
His death led to the formation of an LGBT+ rights group that fought tirelessly for change.
Less than two weeks after Boothe’s death, on May 10, the direct action group OutRage! was formed in direct response to his murder.
Between 40 and 60 people attended the first meeting. A month later, they protested against police sting operations at public toilets. Later that year, they arranged a “kiss in” at Piccadilly Circus to protest the arbitrary arrests of gay men for kissing in public.
OutRage! was in operation until 2011, and in that time, the group fought tirelessly for the advancement of LGBT+ rights.
The UK has changed radically since then. Gay people have won many battles, including the right to marry, however all is not yet equal for LGBT+ people.
Michael Boothe’s brutal murder shocked the LGBT+ community of its day and went on to serve as a catalyst for much needed change. Today and every day we remember Boothe, and remember that the fight for full LGBT+ equality is not yet won.