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Obituary: Gay rights activist Stephen Holdsworth

Henrietta Ronson April 29, 2009
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Long-time gay rights activist Stephen Holdsworth died last month in Edinburgh, aged 47.

Mr Holdsworth had been heavily involved in the lesbian and gay movement throughout his lifetime.

He was one of the leading organisers of a Lesbian and Gay Socialist Conference in Edinburgh in 1984 and was also active in supporting the miners’ strike.

Mr Holdsworth worked with Kate Fearnley, whom he also had a two-year relationship with. They volunteered books and features editors for Gay Scotland magazine and were both instrumental in the creation of the Edinburgh Bisexual Group, which ran for 16 years.

In an obituary written by Ms Fearnley for the Guardian, she praised his “huge intellectual capacity, deep convictions and many intense interests”.

They also created a number of flamboyant political banners, his favourite of which was “Pink Commie Queers”, the banner of the Communist Party Great Britain (CPGB) Lesbian and Gay Network made from pink net.

It was at Gay Scotland where Mr Holdsworth landed his first paid job as a part-time administrator. Eventually he moved to the HR department at Napier University in Edinburgh.

He was born in south London on 27th January 1962, the son of an Anglican priest. He experienced his first gay relations in his mid teens but it was at Edinburgh University where he studied divinity, that he came out and became a political activist.

He was especially drawn to Left politics, liberation, theology and sexual politics and at one point, became a member of the student branch of the CPGB.

Mr Holdsworth experienced a series of health problems ever since he was struck down with viral cardiomyopathy and had a heart transplant in 1998.

The anti-rejection drugs caused a proliferation of other major health concerns, including osteoprosis, kidney failure and cancer. Friends have said however that he bore his fluctuating health with fortitude.

Mr Holdsworth is survived by his partner of 22 years, Adam O’Brien.

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