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Do you know your LGBTQ history?

As a counsellors working in the LGBTQ community, it’s so important we think about LGBTQ history. The timeline below shows a very brief whistle-stop account of some of the key points in LGBTQ history.

Whilst reading the list, think about what age each of your LGBTQ clients would have been in each year and consider how the laws might have affected each them.

Age is an important factor to consider in our counselling work as depending on what generation a client is in, they will have been affected in different ways.

Try to step into the frame of your clients and imagine how it might feel to have been gay at a time when it was a criminal offence to have sex with another man.

How might it have been for your clients who were not allowed to adopt a child, get married or donate blood? How might it have been to be trans and this not be a protected characteristic in the workplace? And how might it have been for it to be illegal to ‘promote homosexuality’ in schools? I write more about my experience of gay shame and Section 28 in my blog here.

As much as LGBTQ rights and laws have progressed over the past 50 years for LGBTQ folks, there is still a long long way to go. In particular, trans rights are at risk and transphobia is rising by the day in the UK.

To read more about what’s been happening over the past 5 years for trans rights, see Pink News article 'How did Britain become so transphobic? A brief history of government lies, media profit and trans suffering'.

A whistle-stop of key points in LGBTQ history

Please Note: This is a very brief history. Many other major things have happened which it's important to be aware of.

  • 1967: The Sexual Offences Act decriminalises sex between two men over 21 ‘in private’

  • 1969: The Stonewall riots occur in the USA.

  • 1979: The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (now known as World Professional Association for Transgender Health) is founded.

  • 1983: Men who have sex with men are asked not to donate to UK blood banks amid the AIDS crisis.

  • 1988: The introduction of Section 28 of the Local Government Act. Read about my experience as a child growing up with this law in place in schools on my blog here.

  • 1992: The World Health Organisation declassifies homosexuality as a mental illness.

  • 2000: Section 28 is repealed in Scotland. In 2003 England, Wales, and Northern Ireland follow suit. Read my experience as a primary school teacher in the shadow of the Section 28 here.

  • 2001: The ban on lesbian, gay, and bisexual people serving in the army is lifted by UK Government.

  • 2002: Same-sex couples in the UK received equal rights for adoption as straight couples. However, non-binary folks are still not able to marry. Check out the film below, to learn more.

  • 2004: The Gender Recognition Act is passed, allowing transgender people to legally identify with their ‘chosen’ gender, as well as acquire a new birth certificate.

  • 2010: The Equality Act 2010 adds gender reassignment as a protected characteristic.

  • 2014: The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act comes into effect in England and Wales. Scotland followed suit later in the same year and couples could marry in 2015.

  • 2017: The 1-year ban on gay and bi men for donating blood is changed to 3 months.

  • 2019: The World Health Organisation declassifies transgender health issues as a mental illness.

  • 2019: The UK Government announces new regulations for teaching Relationships and Sex Education in England.

I wonder how many of the dates you know and what ones were particularly shocking to read?

If you are LGBTQ yourself think about how these laws have affected you and your life and how this might inform your work with your LGBTQ clients.

If you are not LGBTQ, then think about your own privilege and how it might have been to have not had these rights at the points in your life you used them, e.g. would you have been able to get married in the year you did if you were LGBTQ?

If you enjoyed this and want to read more, check out my other blogs on this site and sign up to get notified of my latest articles.


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