This article was written by Bethany Morris, a content writer for the UK’s Immigration Advice Service
Before the end of the 19th century, gay rights movements were practically nonexistent. Prior to the 20th century, religious admonitions against same-sex relations dominated society, and most legal policies either didn’t acknowledge homosexuality or made acts like sodomy capital offenses punishable by death or loss of civil rights. The terms ‘transvestite’ or ‘transexual’ weren’t officially coined until 1910, and those seeking gender reassignment surgery like Lili Elbe in 1930, faced a barrage of abuse and painful, life-threatening procedures to live their lives authentically. In 1931, Lili Elbe died following complications from her largely experimental surgeries.
For most of us, the pivotal turning point for LGBT acceptance began with the US Stonewall Riots in 1969. The movement, started by black trans women and other people in the LGBTQ+ community, began with a series of demonstrations in response to a police raid from the 28th of June to July 3rd at the Stonewall Inn. When Marsha. P. Johnson supposedly threw the first brick in the Stonewall Riots, she became the catalyst for the world’s first large-scale gay rights movement which helped change the face of LGBT rights forever.
Since the Stonewall Riots, the LGBT community has faced an uphill battle for equal rights, and fought leaps and bounds to make it happen. From the days of capital punishment and death sentences to legal marriages, equal job opportunities and more, the world is arguably more open and accepting of the LGBT community today than it has ever been.
The Most Historic Moments In The Fight For LGBT Acceptance
- 1930 and 1951 – Some of the first-ever gender reassignment surgeries take place (Lili Elbe in 1930 and Roberta Cowell in 1951)
- 1957 – The Wolfenden Committee publishes a report recommending that “homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence”.
- 1958 – The Supreme Court rules in favor of gay rights. The U.S Post Office refused to deliver America’s pro-gay publication ‘ONE: The Homosexual Magazine’, and the case went to the Supreme Court. For the first time in America’s legal history, the court ruled in favor of gay rights.
- 1964 – The North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee (NWHLRC) is formed. This group helped to promote legal and social equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people – this is now known as “The Campaign for Homosexual Equality”
- 1966 – The Beaumont Society is formed, a trans-support group focused on providing more accessible and information and awareness about trans people.
- 1967 – The Sexual Offences Act of England and Wales decriminalizes sexual relations between two men over 21 in ‘private’.
- 1969 – The Stonewall Riots spark the beginning of the LGBT movement
- 1970 – The first-ever Pride event took place in New York, known as Christopher Street Liberation Day.
- 1973 – Homosexuality is no longer declared a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.
- 1978 – Gilbert Baker, artist and gay rights activist, designs the Pride flag.
- 1979 – The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association is founded with the aim to understand and provide effective treatment for gender dysphoria.
- 1980 – 1983 – A wave of decriminalization happens throughout Scotland and Guernsey around sexual relations between gay men. Northern Ireland’s criminalization of same-sex acts is found to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- 1992 – World Health Organization declassifies homosexuality as a mental illness.
- 2000 – UK government lifts ban on lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from serving in the armed forces, and Vermont becomes the first American state to give same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions
- 2002- Equal rights are given to same-sex couples in the adoption process.
- 2011 – President Obama revoked the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevented openly gay people serving in the U.S armed forces.
- 2013 – Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act passed in England and Wales
- 2015 – Mozambique decriminalizes same-sex relationships
- 2015 – The Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage a nationwide right, and the US allows transgender Americans to serve openly
- 2020 – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Northern Ireland
Despite the successes of the LGBT community undoubtedly, there’s still a way to go before we can achieve total societal acceptance. With recent statistics revealing that young people are becoming less tolerant of the LGBT community and hate-crime reports still making headlines worldwide, the future of LGBT acceptance stands on shaky ground.
Today, members of the LGBT community who face legal discrimination in their own countries are encouraged to apply for citizenship to escape persecution. We’re also witnessing soaring rates of hate crimes against transgender people and a decline in the acceptance of gay sex that’s so steep, we haven’t seen anything like it since the AIDS crisis.
Despite the victories, there’s still an underlying crisis of bigotry and ignorance that cannot be allowed to prevail. The future of LGBT acceptance may be unsteady, but history has shown that love and determination can always win.