Third year for gay history month

EMMA LEE February is Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender History Month. EMMA LEE finds out more.

EMMA LEE

Imagine what it must be like having to keep the person you really are under wraps because you're scared that it will make you a target for bullying and hostility.

We may see ourselves as a tolerant society, but the sad fact is that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (people who are having or have had a sex change) people choose to keep the fact that they are in same-sex relationships a secret for fear of reprisals.

Throughout history, LGBT people have often been singled out for their lifestyle choice.


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The truth is that this is born out of a lack of understanding about LGBT culture, and which in turn has led to the creation of myths about sexuality and gender.

LGBT people generally live what are probably very ordinary lives.

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To promote understanding, LGBT History Month was created in an attempt to break down the barriers and educate people about LGBT culture and the contribution the LGBT community makes to our lives.

LGBT History month is in its third year. In its first year there were around 150 events around the country. This year there are around 600. Same-sex relationships are now recognised by law - the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which came in at the end of 2005, allows gay and lesbian couples to register their partnership. Sir Elton John and David Furnish and Little Britain star Matt Lucas and his long-term partner, TV producer Kevin McGee have undertaken this legal ceremony. But it has taken hundreds and hundreds of years to achieve.

Homosexuality was illegal in this country until 1967 - and the first mention of a punishment for it in English Common Law was in 1290.

Famously, in 1895 the writer Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour after being convicted of gross indecency.

In 1897 the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the world's first organisation aimed at ending the legal and social intolerance of homosexuals, was founded in Germany, but in 1933 the Nazis dissolved the Scientific Humanitarian Committee and destroyed its library. During the war they sent thousands of homosexuals to concentration camps. In the camps prisoners were made to wear coloured cloth triangles to denote their 'crime' or origin. Homosexuals had to wear pink triangles.

In 1957 the Wolfendon Report was published, which made recommendations about legalisation of homosexuality for consenting adults over 21 in private and the following year the British Homosexual Law Reform Society was founded to campaign for the introduction of the recommendations of the report.

In 1963 the first gay rights demonstration took place in New York in protest at discrimination in the military.

In 1967, the Sexual Offences Act 1967 became law in this country, decriminalising consensual homosexual acts in private between adults aged 21 and over and in 1969 the Committee for Homosexual equality was founded. The same year the Stonewall Rebellion started in New York after a gay bar was raided by police. The first Lesbian and Gay Pride March was held in the city the following year.

London followed suit, holding its first gay march in 1971, with the first Gay Pride march and carnival in 1972. The same year Gay Times, the first gay newspaper, was founded, followed by the first gay helpline in 1973.

In 1977 a bill to reduce the homosexual age of consent to 18 was defeated in the House of Lords, and in 1982 the Terrence Higgins Trust was launched, named after one of the first men to have died with Aids in the UK.

In 1988 Section 28, which prevented the 'promotion' of homosexuality by local authorities came into force - the Stonewall Group was set up in response to Section 28.

The same year, Denmark became the first country to recognise same-sex partnerships.

During the 1990s there were several more landmarks - in 1990 the action group OutRage was set up by Peter Tatchell following the murder of actor Michael Boothe and the following year the Lesbian and Gay Police Association was formed.

In 1999 tragedy struck when a bomb exploded in the London gay pub the Admiral Duncan, killing three people.

As the 21st century began, the government lifted its ban on gays in the military. And the Sexual Offences (amendment) Act lowered the homosexual age of consent to 16, in line with the heterosexual age of consent. The government had to use the Parliament Act to force through the legislation after the Lords rejected the Bill.

In 2002 equal rights were granted to lesbian and gay couples applying for adoption and in 2003 Section 28 was repealed. Discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation was made illegal by the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and in 2004 homophobic assault was recognised as a hate crime.

LGBT History Month spokesman Paul Patrick said: “LGBT History Month was set up by School's Out which is the LGBT equality organisation in education. We were very concerned that LGBT issues in education were only being addressed through homophobic bullying. We reinforce the notion of LGBT people as victims. And to do that we wanted to celebrate the achievements of the LGBT community and the contribution it makes.”

For more information about LGBT History Month visit www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk

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