The impossible 18th-century gay bars of London

We tend to think of gay bars as a relatively modern invention—or at least I did, as part of that new wave of LGBT twenty-somethings. Imagine my surprise, then, at coming across this 1709 account describing the phenomenon of 'molly houses', a precursor to the gathering places we know and love today. Reading about the 'Sodomitical Wretches' who have apparently 'degenerated from all masculine Deportment' and 'mimick a Female Gossiping', all I could think of was how cool it all sounded.

To paint it in an idealistic light belies the reality that the 1700s was hellish for anyone found guilty of an 'unnatural sexual act' and gay life would stay this way until the Victorian age. Even so, the 'molly houses' remained open, most of the time, albeit unable to do so in the open.