How the last man to see Sylvia Plath alive was punished for his quiet homosexuality

Bissell, Christopher and Boukli, Avi (2017). How the last man to see Sylvia Plath alive was punished for his quiet homosexuality. In The Conversation The Conversation, London.



Nearly 50 years ago, in July 1967, the government voted to partly decriminalise homosexuality for men over 21-years-old. The illegality of homosexuality had ruined countless lives and careers – even of those who were not actually convicted of a crime.

One of those who fell foul of the law two decades earlier was the distinguished art historian and curator of Leicester Art Gallery, Trevor Thomas. His story is indicative of how others were treated and cautionary of how current injustices inflict harm.

Thomas and another man were arrested in 1947 for allegedly "looking at each other" in a local public lavatory. He was not actually convicted of any offence, though he was “bound over” to keep the peace for 12 months. But he lost his job.

Thomas was a London neighbour of the poet Sylvia Plath and the last to see her alive. She borrowed some airmail stamps from him on the eve of her death, but he was not aware of the tragedy until the arrival of the emergency services the following day, as he had himself been overcome by gas fumes.

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