May 17 is recognised as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), and despite all the advances made in fighting for the LGBTI community, the LGBTI community still face discriminatory laws, policies and practices against them. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) effectively points out that, “72 countries and territories still criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults, only 63 countries provide some form of anti-discrimination protections for LGBTI people and just two countries ban unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children.” Despite the huge advances made in the last decades, discrimination towards the LGBTI community is an issue that can no longer be ignored.
Achim Steiner, a UNDP administrator states, “Raising our voices against homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and intersex-phobia on 17 May is a chance to reaffirm our commitment to respect human dignity and to champion human rights. We must do everything in our power to ensure justice and protection for all to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Let’s talk a look back at some of the most important milestones achieved by the LGTBI community:
· August 1921: Attempt to legalise sexual acts between women – however, the clause was rejected as it was believed that it would encourage women to explore their sexuality and draw attention to the offence
· 1946: The autobiography of the first transgender man – Michael Dillion published Self: A Study in Endocrinology in which he explains the surgeries that led his journey from Laura to Michael. His surgeries were conducted by the pioneering surgeon Sir Harold Gillies.
· May 1951: The first known British transgender woman to undergo sex reassignment surgery – Roberta Cowell became the first woman to undergo a vaginoplasty in the United Kingdom (UK).
· 1963: Arena Three is published – the UK’s first lesbian and bisexual monthly journal – at its peak it had about 500 to 600 subscribers and was published until 1972.
· July 1967: The Sexual Offences Act – it decriminalised homosexual acts between men over the age of 21, in private settings. The age of consent for homosexuals was 21 compared to 16 for heterosexuals and lesbians. This Act only applied to England and Wales.
· June 1972: Gay News, which was the UK’s first gay newspaper was published. It was published until 1983.
· 1 July 1972: The first UK Gay Pride march – The London Gay Liberation Front organised the first Gay Pride march in London, it ran from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park and roughly one thousand people participated.
· 1992: The World Health Organization (WHO) removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders
· February 1994: The age of consent for gay men is reduced to 18 in England.
· 2001: The UK government lifts its ban on lesbians, gay and bisexual people serving in the armed forces
· 2001: The age of consent for gay/bisexual men is lowered to 16.
· 2002: Equal rights for adoption to same-sex couples: The Adoption and Children Act 2002 allowed gay and lesbian single people as well as same-sex couples to adopt children in the UK.
· 18 November 2004: The Civil Partnership Act – this Act gave same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
· 2004: The Gender Recognition Act – This Act gave trans people full legal recognition of their appropriate gender, and acquire a new birth certificate.
· 2008: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act – Same-sex couples were recognised as the legal parents of the children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.
· 17 July 2013: Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Act – Despite the fact that they could enter into Civil Partnerships same-sex couples were not permitted to marry. This Act gave them the opportunity to marry, and couples that were already in a Civil Partnership could convert this to a marriage.
· 2013: Alan Turing finally receives his posthumous royal pardon – The cryptographer, who aided in breaking the German Enigma code (which helped win World War II) had been convicted of ‘gross indecency’ and was chemically castrated.
· 2017: The ‘Alan Turing Law’ – The Policing and Crime Act in 2017 pardoned all historic instances in which criminal conviction of gross indecency against men took place.
Despite the world having evolved so dramatically, and being in modern times, there is still much to do for the LGBTI community and their rights, and hopefully one day, all will be seen as equal in the eyes of the law.