The Gallery's mission is to represent people of achievement in British history and culture. This mission has remained constant since our foundation in 1856, and we continually review how to fulfil it and how to respond to the changing nature of society.
The Gallery’s Collection of portraits enables us to explore identity, image, sexuality and representation and our programme of events enables people to connect, discuss, share and discover. We offer a rich, engaging and inclusive programme for everyone throughout the year with regular events that may be of particular interest to LGBTQI audiences, including talks, DJs, films and artist performances. In addition, we celebrate LGBT History Month every February and PRIDE every summer.
The Gallery’s LGBTQI programme has been running for over 10 years and provides a welcoming and inclusive space for audiences, encouraging debate, discussion, reflection, creativity and expression. In exploring gender and identity, the Gallery acknowledges the broadest diversity of lives and experiences. We continue to discuss changing language and terminology with audiences and staff at the Gallery. We currently use the acronym LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex).
To mark LGBT History Month in February the Gallery has a series of exhibitions and events for all audiences exploring gender and identity.
Artist Sadie Lee marks the start of the month with her quarterly Queer Perspectives residency. DJs Mr Madam provide the soundtrack to Friday Lates. Also, a life drawing with artist Jon Sleigh who leads a session investigating gender, form and perception.
Explore our LGBT related exhibitions
Explore our LGBT events
Explore the Collection
Inspirational quotes from 10 significant LGBTQI people in the Collection
Find out more
Explore a visual snapshot of some LGBTQI figures and allies in the Gallery’s Collection
2017 Queer Perspectives Gallery Trail
Late Shift Tours offer an alternative way of exploring the National Portrait Gallery by presenting personal responses and perspectives on the Collection.
Download the Queer Perspectives Gallery Trail
The Sexual Offences Act 1967
In 2017 the Gallery commemorated the 50th Anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967 with exhibitions, displays and programme of events throughout the year, both in London and beyond.
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 saw the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual behaviour in England and Wales. (It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men over 21 years old.) It did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. In Scotland, homosexual acts were decriminalised in 1980 and in Northern Island, in 1982.
Despite its limited scope, the legislation was a major step forward for the gay-rights movement in the United Kingdom, and reflects a moment in history when sexuality and gender was being questioned publically and attitudes transformed.
The Wolfenden Report 1957
2017 also marked the 60th Anniversary of the publication of The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, known as The Wolfenden Report 1957.
The Wolfenden Committee investigated homosexuality and prostitution in the mid-1950s. The Committee included a judge, a psychiatrist, an academic and various theologians. The context was the rising numbers of prosecutions. The Committee concluded that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. The Report, published on 4 September 1957 summarised, ‘unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law's business.’
There was no political impetus after the publication of the report to legislate but in the early 1960s, Leo Abse MP and Lord Arran who sat in the House of Lords, put forward proposals to change the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men. Lord Arran drew heavily on the findings of the Wolfenden Report. In 1967, the Labour government supported Lord Arran and considered that criminal law should not penalise homosexual men and the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed.
Explore further key milestones and cultural moments in British history in relation to LGBTQI issues.
Explore the timeline
Speak Its Name! Quotations by and about gay men and women
A collection of moving, amusing and inspirational quotations by and about prominent gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people and allies, from Oscar Wilde to Tom Daley, Radclyffe Hall to Sandi Toksvig, illustrated with images from the Gallery’s Collection.
Buy this publication online