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The History of Gay Rights

CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.

Whilst people in the LGBTQIA+ community still face many problems around the world, the community has come a long way over the years, and whilst there are still many obstacles to face it is good to look back on the history of gay rights and how far the community has come. The rights of the LGBTQIA+ community differ from country to country; whilst there are still problems to face in each country some are more accepting than others, with some countries having gay pride festivals every year, and other countries completely outlawing gay people and allowing them no rights whatsoever. In the UK up until 1861, acts of sodomy were punishable by death, as gay people were persecuted by the law, and even after this, acts of sodomy would land you in prison. In 1885 The Criminal Law Amendment Act made any showing of homosexuality illegal. After years of persecution and little change to the rights of gay people, after the stonewall riots in New York, the UK gay Liberation Front was founded in 1970, protesting for the rights of LGBT people and even organised the very first pride march along with other oppressed groups in 1972, which is now an annual event at gay pride. However it was years until same-sex couples could legally enter into binding partnerships in 2004, and years after that they were allowed to marry in England and wales in 2013, with Scotland following suit in 2014, and finally Northern Ireland in 2020. It has taken years for the LGBTQIA+ community to gain a lot of the same rights they should rightfully have in the UK along with other countries, and this is only in the countries that are considered acceptance of this community, as many countries around the world still aren't.

Influential figures

There have been many influential figures in the history of Gay rights, here are just a few of those prominent figures.

Alan Turing

Famously during the second world war, Alan Turing broke the enigma code and played a crucial role in helping to enable many allied victories. Unfortunately, after the war in 1952, he was prosecuted for homosexual acts and was chemically castrated. He died 2 years after this, with many believing it to have been a suicide. Despite playing a crucial role in the world war he was unfairly prosecuted and treated disgustingly by the UK government; today he is remembered as a hero and an incredibly influential figure, but Alan never got this treatment in his lifetime.

Elliot Paige

A more recent figure in the community is Elliot Paige, a trans actor. Paige publicly came out in 2020 and is the first openly trans man to appear on the cover of the Times magazine as of 2021. Paige is an inspiration to many young people, with many of us growing up watching his films, and seeing him on the cover of such a prominent magazine gives hope and encouragement to many.

Audre Lorde

Lorde was and still is an inspiration. She was a writer, feminist, librarian, womanist, and civil rights, activist. She spent her life confronting the injustices of not just homophobia, but racism, sexism, and classism. She used her incredible creative talent as a poet to express her anger at the civil and social injustices she experienced throughout her life as a black lesbian living in America during a time when she would have been treated harshly for both things. She continues to be an inspiration and her poetry has moved many people.

How to make an impact

There are many ways to help people within the LGBTQIA+ community. Supporting charities such as stonewall and Mindout can help a great deal when contributing to the community, whether it's, mental health support or bringing about equality within a school or workplace environment. On a more personal level helping to educate the people around you and influence the people in your life to be more open-minded and supportive of everyone. To further educate yourself on the subject, refer to GLSEN; a website that, provides information to educate the youth on LGBT issues and rights. With your help and support the LGBTQIA+ community can thrive and can continue to progress toward equality and can feel a part of society as they rightfully should be.


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