As the LGBTQ+ Association, one of our aims for LGBTQ+ History Month 2021 is to share knowledge about past activism and struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. We do this to reflect on the privilege our ancestors won for us as we continue to fight for our futures. Welcome to our brief history of some events that shaped LGBTQ+ lives in 2021.
Celebrating Significant LGBTQ+ Individuals
This booklet features some figures who are well-known activists, and others who weren’t much involved in activism at all, but are still LGBTQ+ icons of (somewhat) recent history. Click on the image below to view the booklet.
A timeline of LGBTQ+ History
- 1909: The transgender writer Irene Clyde publishes Beatrice the Sixteenth, a science fiction utopian novel set in an egalitarian post gender society.
- 1912: London's first gay pub Madame Strindgberg's The Cave of the Golden Calf opens in Heddon Street, off Regent Street.
- 1945: Sir Harold Gillies and his colleague Ralph Millard carried out female-to-male confirmation surgery on Michael Dillon. Initially developed as reconstructive surgery, phalloplasty is now offered as a genital surgery option for trans men. Dillon underwent at least 13 surgeries between 1946 and 1949 and was elected for surgery on the pretext of treating a malformation of the Urethra (hypospadias), in order to conceal the exact nature of the surgery.
- 1951:Roberta Cowell becomes the first British person to undergo male-to-female confirmation surgery on 16 May.
- 1956: The Sexual Offences Act recognises the crime of sexual assault between women.
- 1959: Alan Horsfall, Labour councillor for Nelson, Lancashire, tables a motion to his local Labour party to back the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The motion is rejected, but Horsfall and fellow activist Antony Grey later form the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee.
- 1959: ITV, at the time the UK's only national commercial broadcaster, broadcasts the UK's first gay TV drama; South, starring Peter Wyngarde.
- 1965: In the House of Lords, Lord Arran proposed the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts (lesbian acts had never been illegal).
- 1969: Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) formed as the first British Gay Activist Group. In Scotland, Gay Rights Organisation the Scottish Minorities Group is founded by Ian Dunn (later known as Outright Scotland).
- 1972: The First British Gay Pride Rally was held in London with 1000 people marching from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park.
- 1972: Gay News, Britain's first gay newspaper was founded.
- 1974: Maureen Colquhoun comes out as the first Lesbian MP for the Labour Party.
- 1977: The first gay lesbian Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference took place to discuss workplace rights for Gays and Lesbians.
- 1980: The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age "in private" in Scotland. British documentary A Change of Sex aired on BBC2, enabling viewers to follow the social and medical transition of Julia Grant. This programme also provided a snapshot of the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London.
- 1982: Terry Higgins dies of AIDS in St Thomas' Hospital London, his friends and partner Martyn Butler set up the Terry Higgins Trust (which became the Terrence Higgins Trust), the first UK AIDS charity.
- 1988: Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 is enacted as an amendment to the United Kingdom's Local Government Act 1986, on 24 May 1988 stated 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". The Act was introduced by Margaret Thatcher
- 1989: The campaign group Stonewall UK is set up to oppose Section 28 and other barriers to equality.
- 1991: Gay Activist, Derek Jarman makes the Christopher Marlowe play Edward II from the early 1590s into a film which used modern costumes and made overt reference to the gay rights movement and the Stonewall riots. Queen singer Freddie Mercury announced that he had AIDS; he dies the following day.
- 1996: A breakthrough is made in the area of AIDS treatment; Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is found to significantly delay the onset of AIDS in people living with HIV. The NHS makes the treatment available in the UK. HAART has a dramatic effect and many bed ridden AIDS patients return to work.
- 1997: Angela Eagle, Labour MP for Wallasey, becomes the first MP to come out voluntarily as a lesbian. Gay partners were given equal immigration rights. Equality Network established in Scotland.
- 2001: The last two pieces of unequal law regarding gay male sex are changed.
- 2002: Same-sex couples are granted equal rights to adopt. Alan Duncan becomes the first Conservative MP to admit being gay without being pushed. Brian Dowling becomes the first openly gay children's television presenter in the UK on SMTV Live.
- 2003: Section 28, which banned councils and schools from intentionally promoting homosexuality, is repealed in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.
- 2004: The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed by the Labour Government, giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed by the Labour Government. The Act gives binary trans people legal recognition as members of the sex appropriate to their gender allowing them to acquire a new birth certificate, affording them full recognition of their acquired sex in law for all purposes, including marriage.
- 2007: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations becomes law on 30 April making discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal.
- 2008: Treatment of lesbian parents and their children is equalised in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. The legislation allows for lesbians and their partners equal access to legal presumptions of parentage from the moment the child is born.
- 2009: The Labour Government Prime Minister Gordon Brown makes an official public apology on behalf of the British Government for the way in which Alan Turing was chemically castrated for being gay, after the Second World War. Opposition leader David Cameron apologises on behalf of the Conservative Party, for introducing Section 28 during Margaret Thatcher's third government
- 2011: England, Wales and Scotland allow gay and bi men to donate blood after a 1-year deferral period.
- 2014: Same-sex marriage becomes legal in England and Wales on 29 March under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014, received Royal Assent on 12 March 2014 and took effect on 16 December 2014. Queen Elizabeth II praises the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard for their 40-year history, the first time the Crown has ever publicly supported the LGBT community. The Switchboard receives a comment from the Queen saying: "Best wishes and congratulations to all concerned on this most special anniversary."
- 2016: There are 40 LGBT MPs in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which in 2016 is the most in any parliament around the world.
- 2018: Lord Ivar Mountbatten married his same-sex partner, James Coyle, on 22 September 2018, becoming the first member of the British Monarch's extended family to have a same-sex wedding.
- 2019: Laverne Cox was one of fifteen women chosen by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue; this made Cox the first openly transgender woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue
- 2020: On 2 January 2020, UK MP Layla Moran revealed in an interview with PinkNews that she is pansexual; she is believed to be the first UK parliamentarian to come out as pansexual.
- 2020: On 13 January same-sex marriage becomes legal in Northern Ireland. In February, the first same-sex marriage takes place in Northern Ireland.
Meet Lisa Power
Trans Aid Cyrmu Q&A
- Before Stonewall (1984) dir. Greta Schiller & Robert Rosenburg
- Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989) dir. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
- Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020) dir. Sam Feder
- How to Survive a Plague (2012) dir. David France
- Paris Is Burning (1990) dir. Jenny Livingston
- The Celluloid Closet (1995) dir. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
- The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) dir. David France
- The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) dir. Rob Epstein
- It’s a Sin (2021-present) created by Russell T. Davies
- Pose (2018-present) created by Ryan Murphy
- Queer as Folk (1999-2000) created by Russell T. Davies
- Queers (2017) created by Mark Gatiss
- When We Rise (2017) created by Dustin Lance Black
- Milk (2008) dir. Gus Van Sant
- Pride (2014) dir. Matthew Warchus
- Summerland (2020) dir. Jessica Swale
- The Imitation Game (2014) dir. Morten Tyldum
- Bad Gays (2019-present) hosted by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller
- Making Gay History (2016-present) hosted by Eric Marcus
- Before Wilde: Sex between Men in Britain's Age of Reform by Charles Upchurch (2009)
- Chasing a Ghost by D. A. Ravenscroft (2019)
- Chasing a Legacy by D. A. Ravenscroft (2020)
- Coming Out: The Emergence of LGBT Identities in Britain from the 19th Century to the Present by Jeffrey Weeks (2016)
- Disturbing Practices: History, Sexuality and Women's Experience of Modern War by Laura Doan (2013)
- Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret by Leila J. Rupp and Verta Taylor (2003)
- Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
- Forbidden Lives: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Stories from Wales by Norena Shopland (2017)
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)
- Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian & Gay Equal Rights by Eric Marcus (2002)
- Maurice by E.M. Forster
- Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman (1991)
- Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (1985)
- Pride: The Unlikely Story of the True Heroes of the Miner’s Strike ed. by Tim Tate (2017)
- Queer City: Gay London From the Romans to Present Day by Peter Ackroyd (2017)
- Queer Wales: The History, Culture and Politics of Queer Life in Wales ed. by Huw Osborne (2016)
- Reports from the Holocaust: the Making of an AIDS Activist by Larry Kramer (1989)
- Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (1993)
- Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter (2010)
- Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb (2005)
- The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo (1987)
- The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012)
- The Stonewall Reader ed. by Jason Baumann (2019)
- Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington by Walter Naegle (2019)
- When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones (2016)
UPCOMING:The House of Swann: Where Slaves Became Queens by Channing Joseph (2021)