Key moments of visibility in LGBTQ+ History in the UK
The theme for this year’s LGBTQ+ month is ‘Behind the Lens’, celebrating those who have contributed to sharing our culture through cinema. To start a conversation from this idea, we wanted to look back on history to highlight a few key moments of LGBTQ+ visibility in the UK since the first Pride march took place in the UK on 1st July 1972.
The launch of the BBC’s Open Door programme gave way to the first time a trans community were given a platform on British television. The group addressed misunderstanding, stereotyping and discrimination about trans people, presenting a case for acceptance and change in both people’s attitudes and the law. The programme is available to watch on BBC’s archives here.
Justin Fashanu was an English professional footballer who became the country’s first black £1 million player during his nineteen-year career. Fashanu was the first professional footballer in England to come out as gay in 1990, but sadly took his life in 1998. He remained the only professional football player in England to have done so for over three decades. Jake Daniels broke this silence and came out as gay in 2021, becoming the first openly gay active professional footballer since Fashanu. The courage of these two men to live their truth in an environment that often supresses definitions of masculinity deserves to be seen and celebrated.
The World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental illness, removing it from ICD-10, WHO’s tenth revision of International Classification of Diseases. This was a big step towards protecting the rights and livelihoods of LGBTQ+ people, who had previously received controversial and often detrimental treatments to try and ‘cure’ their sexuality.
LGBTQ+ activist Lord Waheed Alli was the youngest, and first openly gay member of the House of Lords in 1998. He is prominent for his involvement in spearheading the appeal of section 28 and advocated for the age of consent for homosexuals to be lowered from 18 to 16, coinciding to heterosexuals, which came into law in the Sexual Offences Act 2000. Alli is also one of few openly gay politicians from a Muslim background.
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 allowed for unmarried couples, including same-sex couples in England and Wales to adopt a child. In Scotland, the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 received royal assent in January 2007, enabling same-sex couples north of the border to jointly adopt children.
The repeal of section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which banned local authorities and schools from ‘promoting homosexuality’ took place. This law had made it illegal for schools to teach about same sex relationships or representations of it in literature. This led to LGBTQ+ campaign groups such as Outrage! and Stonewall forming. Ten years later, Stonewall UK would launch the ‘Gay. The Let’s get over it’ campaign in schools aimed to address homophobic language and homophobia in education settings and society.
The Gender Recognition Act was the first law to grant legal status to transgender people. The Gender Recognition Act 2004, an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, allowed people who experienced gender dysphoria to change their legal gender. The law came into effect on 4 April 2005.
UK Black Pride first took shape in August 2005 at Southend-on-Sea in Essex. Following this was the official launch of UK Black Pride on 18 August 2006. Today, UK Black Pride is Europe’s largest pride celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern descent.
The LGBTQ+ Youth in Care Network was established in 2013 by a group of individuals working in the care system who found there were no resources specific to supporting LGBTQ+ youth in care.
The first Trans Pride event, held in Brighton, also happened in 2013. Around 450 people took part and is described as the first of its kind in Europe. London’s first Trans Pride march occurred in 2019 and saw more than 1,500 attendees.
In 2014 same sex marriage was legalised in the UK (England, Scotland and Wales), although it wasn’t until 2020 that it became legal in Northern Ireland. Upon the legalisation the UK celebrated many couples getting married, this change in law had been long overdue.
A pioneering study of the experiences and identity development of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender young people in care and the support they receive is carried out by Jeanette Cossar in 2018 and published in 2019.
It’s A Sin was broadcasted on Channel 4, becoming the network’s most binged TV programme. Beyond offering fresh and uniquely British perspectives on the 1980’s HIV and AIDS crisis, the show led to an increase in HIV testing than ever before. This shows the powerful impact that showcasing stories from marginalised groups can have.
Whilst we can highlight the milestones above and many more not mentioned here, there are still significant challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community today. Continuing the conversation, fighting for equality and ensuring visibility is still as equally important today as it was in 1973.