I was so excited to see I would be writing a blog around sexuality this week! This topic hits super close to home, being a member of the LGBT+ community and having it as a big goal on my manifesto for my job as student president at my university.
I've had a lot of experiences (good and bad) because of my sexuality. I think it's really important to be aware of LGBT history and icons that have endured due to the sacrifices they made for the community. While I've just picked 5 there's loads more icons you can read up on here!
Keep reading to find more out about my top 5 amazing people!
Turing was a mathematician who cracked something called the Enigma code, which is thought to have shortened WW2 by several years. He was also a victim of mid-20th Century attitudes to homosexuality and in 1952 was arrested because being homosexual was illegal in Britain at this time.
In 2013 he was pardoned for this 'crime', and in 2017 the government agreed to officially pardon men accused of 'crimes' like this, meaning they will no longer have a criminal record. This pardoning has come to be known as the Alan Turing law. In 2019 Turing was named the most "iconic" figure of the 20th Century and his face now appears on the £50 note.
These days he's often called the grandfather of the gay rights movement, for openly campaigning as a gay man when homosexuality was still illegal. In 1964 Allan Horsfall and a group of friends set up the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee, even giving out his home address as the base for the organisation.
It became the first campaigning organisation outside of London set up and run by gay men, and its work directly led to homosexuality no longer being illegal. Later the North West Committee was transformed into the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which was the largest LGBT organisation there has ever been in the UK, with more than 5,000 members and 120 local groups all over the country when it was at its biggest. Its role in the removal of stigma of criminality from homosexuality remained his crowning achievement.
In 1984 Chris Smith became the UK's first male openly gay MP and later, the first gay cabinet minister. After announcing that the was gay, he received a five-minute standing ovation. His actions and the positive reaction he received he received has undoubtedly helped pave the way for many other MPs to be open about their sexuality as well.
There have since been lots of other gay cabinet members. There are currently 54 LGBT MPs in the House of Commons, and in 2015 it was declared the gayest parliament in the world due to its proportion of LGBT members.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, better known as Lady Phyll, is a British LGBT+ rights activist and anti-racism campaigner. She is the co-founder of UK Black Pride, which began in 2005 as a day trip to South-on-Sea in England. It now attracts nearly 8000 people every year.
Lady Phyll created the event to promote unity and no co-operation among all LGBT+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent in the UK, as well as their friends and families. She is also the Executive Director of the charity Kaleidoscope Trust, which campaigns for the human rights of LGBT+ people in countries around the world where they are discriminated against.
Oliver Alexander is a British singer, musician, songwriter, actor, activist and screenwriter. He has used his platform to be an amazing activist for the LGBT+ community, most recently acting as 'Ritchie' in the hit drama 'It's a Sin'. The drama tells of the troubles and discrimination faced by the LGBT+ community because of the AIDS pandemic.
He's also a mental health advocate, releasing 'Growing Up Gay' for BBC 3. He talks about mental health, and his own experience of being bullied and ashamed of who he was, including his struggles with bulimia and self harm.
Something to consider!
To conclude, I'd love to share the below quote to sum up why having an awareness about LGBT history and people is super important.
"You don’t have to be part of an LGBT movement to fight oppression... Your awareness of what LGBT+ people have gone through and continue to experience and being supportive of LGBT+ rights is one of the most effective ways to help make LGBT oppression history." - Liz Burton Hughes.