History Of LGBT Rights In The UK In 5 Short Points
I have been blessed to escape the hellish nightmare that is my country of origin. A nation where fellow LGBT members are detained, reprimanded, chastise by the society before being persecuted with prejudice.
I barely escaped with my life, my mentality intact, subjected to horror beyond comprehension. Asked to consider gene modification, sexual alteration, and “religious interventions” by my own family nonetheless.
I came to the UK, a nation proud of its diversity, brimming with culture and history. Most importantly welcoming and tolerant of people belonging to all castes, religions.
As a tribute I dug out five interesting facts about LGBT rights here in the UK that you might or might not know about, essentially digging into its history so to speak. Without further ado here are my humbler findings:
- The “Buggery Act” of 1533, passed by Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII. The law marked the beginnings of criminalizing sodomy (dubbed punishable by death), and also was the first time male homosexuality was targeted for persecution in the UK. The Buggery Act 1533
- It was not until 1861 with the passing of the “Offences Against the Person Act”, that the death penalty was abolished for acts of sodomy. Sadly the refinements made were not exactly any less hostile. Sure you get to keep your life intact. But under that act if someone was found culpable of indulging in sodomy, the punishment was a minimum of 10 years imprisonment.
- Female homosexuality was never explicitly targeted by any legislation, due to beliefs that it ‘lesbianism’ (forgive me for failing to come up with a better word) occurred in an extremely small pocket of the female population. But it was briefly discussed in the British Parliament in 1921. The conversation was quickly scuppered by the House of Commons and House of Lords, out of fears that if discussions of such a taboo topic are made public, it would draw attention and encourage women to explore homosexuality.
- In May 1951 Roberta Cowell, a former World War II Spitfire pilot, became the first transgender women to undergo vaginoplasty surgery in the UK. Cowell continued her career as a racing driver and published her autobiography in 1954.
The last one is a big one.
- The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, better known as the “Wolfenden Report”, was published in 1957. It was compiled after evidence came to light that homosexuality could not legitimately be regarded as a disease. The report aimed to spark revolutionary changes in the then anti-LGBT laws of UK. It was based on the premise that the administration should focus on protecting the public, rather than scrutinising people’s private lives.
It took 10 years for the Government to implement the Wolfenden Report’s recommendations in the “Sexual Offences Act 1967”. Backed by the Church of England and the House of Lords, the Sexual Offences Act partially legalised same-sex acts in the UK between men over the age of 21 conducted in private. Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit over a decade later, in 1980 and 1981 respectively. The Sexual Offences Act represented a stepping stone towards equality, and laid the foundations I believe for the UK to legalize same sex marriage on the 29th of March 2014.