Welcome, one and all, to this month’s first Pride Month posting! Of course, you’ll see plenty of QUILTBAG books covered through the various tours that stop by the site, but there’s something else I wanted to speak about here. You see, Pride Month provides balance in my eyes, shedding light on both the good and the bad out there.
Let’s start with a little history though. Pride Month is celebrated in June every year as a way to honour the Stonewall Riots. Taking place in Manhattan in 1969, this is generally accepted as one of the most important events in the lead up to the gay liberation movement. So, what actually happened?
On Saturday, June 28th, 1969, 8 police officers entered the Stonewall Inn and declared, “Police! We’re taking the place!” Raids were common back then, and tip-offs usually came beforehand, but this night, things were different. No tip-off came, and everyone was caught unawares. If you’re wondering why a raid was deemed necessary, that’s because the climate was very different. In the 1960’s the FBI and various local police departments were required to keep lists of known homosexuals, their friends, and where they frequented. Crossdressing was illegal in some place, and suspected homosexuals lost their jobs, and homosexuality was deemed to be a mental health disorder. So, raids were common. The standard procedure during one was to line up the patrons of the raided bar, check their ID, and have female officers take female-presenting people to the bathroom to determine their gender.
That night, things did not go as normal, and the vents escalated quickly. Those dressed as women refused to go and have their gender checked. Men refused to produce ID. The police began to ‘feel up’ some of the lesbians when frisking them. Crossdressers were forcibly moved to a back room in the bar. 28 cases of beer and 19 bottles of liquor was seized, but there was a delay getting the patrol wagons there to take it all. Those that were not arrested stopped outside the bar rather than leaving quickly, as had happened previously. Within minutes, around 150 people had gathered outside the bar, most of them egging on the patrons that were dealing with their release by saluting the police in an exaggerated manner. By the time the first patrol wagon arrived, the crowd had grown to ten times the size, and everything had gone quiet.
A police officer shoved a transvestite, who responded by hitting him with her purse. Then, a lesbian complained that her cuffs were too tight, and the police responded by hitting her over the head with their baton. She fought the police then, as she was being thrown into the wagon, yelled tot eh crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something?” That was when mass violence broke out.
The police were outnumbered by about 600 people at this point. Some of those arrested escaped, and patrol wagons were flipped. People began throwing things at the building itself. The police inside drew their guns, and someone set the place on fire. By this time, many of those involved had nothing left to lose, and for those 45 minutes, they fought for what little they had.
Finally, the Tactical patrol Force turned up and aided the retreating officers. Forming a phalanx (a rectangular military formation), they began to force the rioters back while the police made as many arrests as they could. By the time that the crowd had dispersed, the total arrests numbered only thirteen.
A second night of rioting ensued, and sporadic activity continued thereafter. People were taking notice, and the news coverage was building. Not everyone was happy about that though; for some of the older members of the QUILTBAG community, this was a travesty. They had spent much of the 1960’s trying to lobby that they were no different to heterosexual people, and so the ramped flamboyance and violence was something that flew in the face of that. Whether you agree with the violence or not though, the Stonewall Riots did signify a shift in attitudes. For a good run down of the events that followed immediately after, this Wikipedia article is pretty good.
Ever since the riots, there has been a hefty push for equality, and that continues to this day, almost 50 years on. Let that sink in. It has been 49 years, and the struggle still continues. In truth, the fact that equal rights movements – and not just QUILTBAG related – still exist at all saddens me a little. It saddens me because they’re still needed. For all the great advancements that we have made as a species, all the things that we create, all the things that we discover … we still need groups to stand up for those that do not deserve persecution but suffer it anyway. For all the things that we can do, we still cannot seem to let go of prejudice. Until we can, we will always need equal rights movements somewhere. But even so, the world is not entirely full of hate. That there are people willing to stand up for the rights of others, regardless of whether or not they fit into the same group as them, proves that. That is why events like Pride Month are so important, and how they provide the balance that I mentioned earlier. They help us remember that things still aren’t the way they should be. But they also help us remember that things are better for many people.
That is what I want to focus on here. We may still have a way to go, certainly more so in some places than others, but there have been a lot of positive steps made. 50 years ago, I would not have been able to be who I am without living in fear. That I can do so now is something that I am grateful for. So, let’s look at some of the good things have happened since the Stonewall Riots. As a note, many of these will relate to the UK as that’s where I live. I have tried to include some significant international events too though. These were sourced from the Stonewall UK site and a quick search for 2018 events.
- 1972: The first London Pride takes place, attracting roughly 2,000 people.
- 1974: The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard is founded. Maureen Colquohoun comes out at the first lesbian Labour MP. The First national TV/TS Conference is held in Leeds.
- 1977: The first gay and lesbian Trade Union Congress conference takes place to discuss workplace right.
- 1979: The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (now the World Professional Association for Transgender Health) is founded.
- 1980: Scotland decriminalises ‘in private’ sex between males aged over 21. The first Black Gay and lesbian Group is formed in the UK.
- 1981: Northern Ireland’s criminalisation of same-sex acts is found to violate the European Convention on Human Rights.
- 1982: The Homosexual Offenses Order decriminalises ‘in private’ sex between two men over the age of 21 in Northern Ireland.
- 1983: UK Crown Dependency decriminalises sex between two men.
- 1984: Labour MP Chris Smith becomes the first openly gay Labour MP. BiCon launches.
- 1987: The International Foundation for Gender Education is founded and aims to promote transgender acceptance.
- 1988: Stonewall UK is formed in response to PM Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Section 28’, which prevents local authorities from intentionally promoting homosexuality, or teaching that it is an acceptable ‘pretend’ family relationship. Denmark becomes the first country in the world to give legal recognition to same-sex relationships.
- 1990: The UK Crown Dependency of jersey decriminalises sex between two men.
- 1992: The World Health Organisation declassifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness. The UK Crown Dependency of Isle of Man repeals sodomy laws.
- 1994: The age of consent for same-sex relations between men is set to 18, but no age of consent is set for women. The UK Crown Dependency of Ilse of Man decriminalises homosexuality completely.
- 1995: Mermaids, a group dedicated to helping children with gender issues, is founded.
- 1996: P vs S and Cornwall County Council is the first case to see the prevention of discrimination in employment because someone is trans.
- 1997: Stephen Twigg and Ben Bradshaw become the first MPs to be openly gay at the time of their election. The UK Government recognises same-sex partners for immigration purposes.
- 1998: Waheed Allit becomes the first openly gay member of the House of Lords and one of only a few openly gay Muslims.
- 1999: The Trans Day of Remembrance is founded in the USA (then the rest of the world)/ Michael Cashman, co-founder of Stonewall UK (with Ian McKellen) becomes the first openly gay UK member of the European Parliament. The European Court of Human Rights unanimously finds that the investigation into, and subsequent discharge of, two personnel from the Royal Navy on the basis of their sexual orientation is a breach of their right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- 2000: The UK Government lifts the ban on lesbian, gay men and bi people serving in the military. Scotland abolishes ‘Section 28’.
- 2001: the age of consent is lowered to sixteen in the UK, bringing it in line with the law for heterosexual couples.
- 2002: Equal rights are granted to same-sex couple seeking to adopt. The Goodwin v the UK case rules that the UK Government must accommodate the needs of trans people by issuing new birth certificates and permitting marriage to someone of the opposite gender.
- 2003: England, Wales and Northern Ireland repeal ‘Section 28’. The Employment Equality (Sexual orientation) Regulations become law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation.
- 2004: The Civil partnership Act is passed in the UK. The Gender Recognition Act is passed in the UK.
- 2005: Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 empowers UK courts to impose tougher sentences if offences relate to the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 gives unmarried couples including same-sex couples – the same rights as married couples in relation to adoption.
- 2006: The Isle of Man repeals ‘Section 28’.
- 2007: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation in relation to the provision of goods and services. Scotland changes their law to allow equality for same-sex couples in relation to adoption and fostering.
- 2010: The Equality Act 2010 adds gender reassignment as a protected characteristic.
- 2011: The Department of health lifts the lifetime ban on gay and bi men donating blood but adds a 12-motnh celibacy clause.
- 2012: The Protection of Freedom Act is passed in the UK, allowing for historic convictions relating to consensual sex between men to be removed from criminal records. Ofsted introduces specific references to homophobic bullying in their inspections of UK schools.
- 2013: England and Wales pass the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act. Alan Turing is given a posthumous royal pardon for his conviction of ‘gross indecency’ that lead to his chemical castration and eventual suicide. Same-sex marriage becomes legal in New Zealand.
- 2014: Scotland passes legislation to allow same-sex marriage. Malta legally recognises same-sex civil unions.
- 2015: The USA legalises same-sex marriage. Mozambique decriminalises homosexuality. Ireland legalises same-sex marriage, becoming the first country to do so via referendum.
- 2016: The Isle of man legalises same-sex marriage. Italy legalises same-sex civil unions. President Obama declares the Stonewall Inn to be the USA’s first national monument to LGBT rights.
- 2017: The UK Supreme Court rules that the discrimination against same-sex couples on pensions rights needs to end immediately. The Department of Health reduces the deferral period for gay and bi men wishing to donate blood from 12 months to three months.
- 2018: The International Court for Human Rights in Latin-American declares that Governments must allow same-sex marriages in Latin-American countries. Same-sex marriage is legalised in Jersey. Trinidad and Tobago decriminalises homosexual sex.
So, that’s a lot of good stuff that’s happened, right? We can all be happy for the things that we have gained since the Stonewall Riots. But remember, there are still those who suffer unjustly, and there are still battles to be won, and not just within the QUILTBAG community. Enjoy Pride Month, celebrate the victories, and work towards a more accepting future.