10 Key Milestones That Shaped The UK’s LGBTQA+ History

10 Key Milestones That Shaped The UK’s LGBTQA+ History

Let’s take a moment to remember that same sex relationships used to be illegal in the UK. And what’s worse is that there are still a number of countries where this is the case. Some, such as Sudan, Yemen and Iran, see homosexuality as punishable by death. I mean, what a crime.

While things like this remind me of my privilege, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect here either. Hate crimes are said to be rising in the UK. The risk of poverty and suicide are significantly higher in trans people, compared to cis members of society. And that sucks. Why do we live in a world that screams at us to embrace our individuality – to do what makes us happy – yet throws obstacle after obstacle at anyone standing out?

I think things will get better though. In the same way that we roll our eyes at our obliviously racist grandparents, saying, 'you can’t say that, Nan,' perhaps the next generation will look back on how things are now, and say, 'wow, it really used to be like that?'

Despite areas of improvement desperately needed, the LBGTQA+ community has never been more normalised.  here are ten milestones in the UK’s LGBTQA+ history: 

1. 1951: The UK’s first trans woman undergoes gender reassignment surgery.

Credit: PA

Credit: PA

Roberta Cowell (1918 – 2011) was the first known Brit to have male-to-female surgery. Born in Croydon, Cowell was quite a badass, who was a racing driver and fighter pilot in World War II. However, after the war, it became apparent to Cowell that her typically masculine lifestyle was an attempt to hide her feminine side. 

2. 1967: The Sexual Offences Act decriminalises sex between two men over 21 in England.

Although this didn’t include men in the Navy, or Armed forces, nor did it reach Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, this was crucial stepping stone in legalising homosexuality. 

3. 1972: The first ever Pride is held in the UK.

Pride in the '90s | Credit: Peter Tatchell

Pride in the '90s | Credit: Peter Tatchell

Held in London, around 2,000 people turned up. That’s a pretty decent footfall, but today the number is closer to a million.

4. 1980: Scotland decriminalises sex between two men over 21.

13 years after England, the Scots thankfully caught up.

5. 1992: World Health Organisation declassifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness.

Yes, you read that right – a mental illness. 

6. 2000: LGBTQA+ people can join the army.

British Forces at London Pride 2017 Credit: Royal Navy

British Forces at London Pride 2017 Credit: Royal Navy

The ban was lifted on lesbians, gays and bisexuals joining the UK armed forces.

7. 2002: Equal rights are given to same sex couples wanting to adopt.

Since then, the number of same sex couples adopting has risen year on year. Currently, around 10% of adoptions are made by LGBTQA+ families. 

8. 2004: The right for civil partnership is granted in the UK.

In November 2004, same sex couples were granted the right to register for a civil partnership. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as married couple, but hey – we’re getting closer. 

9. 2012: Homophobic bullying in schools is looked at as part of Ofsted school inspections.

Tackling bullying in schools helps to normalise and support LGBTQA+ people. This also reduces the amount of kids that then grow up to commit hate crimes against this community. 

10. 2013: Same sex marriages are legalised in the UK.

Credit: Dan Kitwood

Credit: Dan Kitwood

We made it! But saying that, I can’t help but shudder as I remind myself that this was only five years ago. How did it all take so long?

We've come a long way, but you best believe we've still got much further to go. Equality won't come overnight, even if equality is how it should be. Whether you're part of the community or an ally, keep fighting for equality and supporting in ways that work against the marginalisation of LGBTQA+ folx.