In June 1998, The House of Commons votes to lower the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16 in England. However, a month later the House of Lords defeats the clause, and the age for same sex relationships between men remains at 18.
1997: Stephen Twigg becomes first openly gay MP at the time of his election. Ben Bradshaw, also openly gay, is also elected just 21 minutes later.
The UK dependency, the Isle of Man, fully decriminalises homosexuality in 1992. Before this time any men caught having sex faced life in prison. While this may seem like good news the bill came with a sting in its tail. In order for it to be legal the men both had to be over the age of consent, and in private. It is the ‘in private’ clause which causes issues as that is taken to mean anywhere the public cannot go freely or by payment, and there must be no more than two people present. It is also still illegal if performed onboard a Manx registered merchant vessel.(1)
In the same year, TV Personality Sandi Toksvig, comes out publicly as a lesbian through the pages of the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror. Within the last couple of years, she has revealed that she received homophobic death threats shortly after she came out, and was told that her career in television would likely be over. Sandi Toksvig took over hosting QI from Stephen Fry last year, and continues her highly successful entertainment career.
She gave an interview about her experiences from death threats to the rise and fall of her relationships in the Guardian here.
(1) Note: The author has not checked to see if this is still the current situation in the Isle of Man and was correct as of 2012.
1994: The UK House of Commons, led by MP Edwina Currie, moves to reduce the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16. The vote is defeated and the age of consent is instead lowered to 18. An age of consent for same-sex relations between women is not set.
The age of consent had a bit of a chequered history over the years. The Home Office recommended an age of consent of 21 but it was Harold Wilsons government in 1967 when it finally happened. Later in 1979 the Home office again recommended that it should drop to age 18 because that was the point when “society deems a young man to be an adult and responsible”. Nothing ever happened at that time.
It was when Edwina Currie brought forward her amendment to the bill to lower the consent to 16, with the support of the opposition that the compromise age of 18 was finally settled on.
The age of consent did not settle at 18 for long after the European Courts got involved in 1996 starting a further round of rows.
For a more in depth article about the changes over the years the BBC have done a good write up here.
In 1992 the World Health Organisation finally declassified same-sex attraction as a mental illness, with the publication of ICD-10. ICD-10 still holds an entry for ‘ego-dystonic sexual orientation’. In this condition, a person is in no doubt of their sexual orientation, but wishes it were different ‘because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders.’ It is important to note that the entry does state that “Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.”(F66*)
This followed the decision by the Board of Directors of the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders back in 1973. First published in 1968, the DSM II listed homosexuality as a mental illness. Whilst they removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1973, they replaced it with an entry for ‘sexual orientation disturbance.’ for people in conflict with their sexual orientation. Not until 1987 did homosexuality come completely out of the DSM.
While subsequent revisions to the document have been welcomed the new revision is set to further declassify diseases relating to sexual orientation if accepted. The proposed revision to ICD-11 had the recommendation of:
“The Working Group recommends that the F66 grouping of categories entitled “Psychological and behavioural disorders associated with sexual development and orientation” be deleted in its entirety from ICD-11. Both concerns about gender identity and sexual orientation difficulties can well be addressed using other ICD categories.”(ICD-11 Proposal)
In 1990, Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer to come out as gay. He was also the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee, with his transfer from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in 1981.
In 1998, aged 37, he chose to commit suicide in London, after fleeing an arrest warrant in America. The warrant was issued after a 17 year old accused Fashanu of sexual assault resulting in a lot of publicity and hostility striking his life. His suicide note stated that he felt he would not receive a fair trial due to his sexuality.
The death of Justin Fashanu sparked several campaign groups, one of which is still campaigning today. The Justin Campaign started an initiative called “Football v Homophobia” in 2010 with the aims of “to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation gender identity and expression at all levels of football”. This has since been taken over by LGBT Sports Development and Equity organisation Pride Sports www.pridesports.org.uk which continues to campaign for inclusion across all sports and includes a directory of gay friendly sports venues for people to attend.
Currently there is one out active professional footballer in the world; Anton Hysen of Sweden.
1990 Candlelit vigil is held in London after five gay men are murdered within months of each other. The formation of Outrage! was prompted by two things. First, escalating queer-bashing violence, including a wave of homophobic murders:
- September 1989, Christopher Schliach a Gay Barrister stabbed more than 40 times
- Three months Later, a gay hotelier, Henry Bright was stabbed to death at home
- The following month gay hotel porter William Dalziel was found unconscious on a roadside in Acton. He died soon after from severe head injuries
- April 1990, Actor Michael Booth was found clinging to park railings shouting his leg had been broken after being attacked by a group of six men. Eight hours later, Michael died from massive internal bleeding.
OutRage! called for police to start protecting and not persecuting gay and bi men instead of arresting them. 35 people attended the first meeting at the Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon, and the organisation was set up by Keith Alcorn, Chris Woods and Simon Watney, including many such as Peter Tatchell who had been active in the Gay Liberation Front and other campaigns. OutRage! continued to campaign for equal rights and against homophobia until it closed in 2011.
You can read more about the organisation here: http://outrage.org.uk/
Sir Ian McKellen comes out as gay on the UK’s BBC Radio in response to the government’s Section 28 in the British Parliament. Stonewall UK is formed in response to Section 28 and other barriers to equality. Founding members include Sir Ian McKellen and (The Rt. Hon.) Michael Cashman.
Stonewall is renowned for its campaigning and lobbying. Some major successes include helping achieve the equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on LGB people serving in the military, securing legislation which allowed same-sex couples to adopt and the repeal of Section 28. More recently Stonewall has helped secure civil partnerships and then same-sex marriage, and ensured that the recent Equality Act protected lesbian, gay and bi people in terms of goods and services.
In their later lives Sir Ian McKellen has been given awards of Companion of Honour, a CBE, was knighted and is a freeman of the city of London. (The Rt. Hon.) Michael Cashman was awarded a CBE and was made a life peer with the title of Baron Cashman. As a life peer Baron Cashman went on to get involved in, and invest In, the LGBT social network Suitlink.
This year marks #50years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. You probably already know that, but what you might not know is that we’ve teamed up with some very special folks to bring you a night of LGBT+ celebration. The Sexual Offences Act came into force on 27th July 1967, and so on Friday 28th July, we’re proud to present a very special night of LGBT+ goodness as part of our year-long celebrations.
First up, starting at 7pm sharp is LGB-QWERTY, hosted at the QUAD, and partnership with Twisted Tounges and Furthest from the Sea, it promises to be a veritable vocal banquet of six poets and spoken word artists who have been commissioned to write new works on what LGBT+ life is like now. Come join the fabulous compere Dan Webber, volunteers and staff from Derbyshire LGBT+ in reflecting on the aspects and experiences of LGBT+ life.
Following our spoken word feast, QUAD are showing Victim (1961) a film seminal in changing the UK law. QUAD are offering a discount on your tickets, just quote ‘LGBTPLUS’ when booking in person or over the phone. The film starts at 8.30pm, and will be introduced beforehand by Ian Robson, CEO of Derbyshire LGBT+. To book tickets, just call 01332 290606
Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the 1987 Conservative Party Conference, issued the statement “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay”. Backbench Conservative MPs and Peers had already begun a backlash against the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality and, in December 1987, Clause 28 is introduced into the local government bill by Dame Jill Knight, Conservative MP for Birmingham Edgbaston.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 is passed. The Act states that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
While the law was overturned by a successive government it was still being reported in 2013 that some Academy schools had been adopting policy statements which echo the bill caused outrage amongst MP’s and activists alike. This prompted OFSTED to include the following supplementary advice into school guidelines into Sex Relationship Education curriculum in 2014:
- is inclusive of difference: gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, culture, age, faith or belief, or other life experience*