Ray Crossley met his lifetime love Wilfred Avery in the notorious Soho boozer the Salisbury in 1966. “The way I always put it is that it was a one-night stand that went badly wrong,” says Ray. Wilfred, a painter, was born in 1926. Ray was a lawyer and 14 years his junior. Their union was illegal for a year before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Not that it bothered them. “Our families were wonderful. There was never any trouble. They were always most welcoming. Even outside the law, we were just living and doing what we felt we had to do, and enjoying it,” says Ray.
Ten years after meeting Ray in Soho, now living with him in Blackheath, London, Wilfred wrote and directed an educational film. The bluffly and arrestingly titled David Is Homosexual was made for the Lewisham branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), a social and political group Ray had persuaded Wilf to join. Because while decriminalisation was a vital landmark, it was just the start of a fight for recognition.
“We were both heavily involved with the Lewisham group,” says Ray. His activist fire was ignited after becoming involved in the case for the dismissal of John Warburton, the schoolteacher at London’s Holland Park comprehensive sacked for being gay in the early 70s. “I don’t think Wilfred would ever have joined CHE, but I was younger and more politically active. We spent a lot of time there and he grew to love it, becoming a kind of father figure to the group.”
John Warburton, like Ray, features as a cameo in David Is Homosexual, at the 1976 Gay Pride event in Hyde Park. Read more via the Guardian