February is LGBT History Month and the theme for 2019 is Peace, Activism and Reconciliation.
Every year since its inception in 2005, events take place across the UK to raise awareness and celebrate the positive steps in law changes for the LGBTQ community. We have come so far; yet still have a long way to go in being treated as equals.
Over recent years in England there have been many progressive changes in laws and a rise in media coverage of issues relating to the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Today there are numerous LGBTQ characters on soaps and many celebrities who have ‘come out’. There have also been changes in laws, which now allow same-sex couples to marry (2013), and gay and bi men to donate blood (2011). Gender reassignment has been added as a protected characteristic to The Equality Act (2010).
These are just a few of the changes we have seen happen over the past 5 to 10 years. Although a lot of these changes have been positive, there are still many people who these laws do not protect. For example, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act only allows people who identify as either male or female to marry. This excludes everyone else who identifies as a gender that is non-binary. There is a 3-month celibacy clause on the law change to allow men who have sex with men to donate blood. And although gender reassignment became part of the 2010 Equality Act it took until 2015 for Stonewall to extend its campaigning to include trans people.
It seems we have gone full circle from 2014 being hailed at 'the transgender tipping point' to 2017 as the year of 'transgender moral panic'. Then last October saw a much-needed consultation on the reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which, sadly, created a backlash in the media storm of transphobia, which created unfounded fears for the safety of women in the event of trans people being allowed to self-define their gender legally.
This shows us that although our society in some ways is becoming less homophobic, biphobic and transphobic, we nonetheless continue to live in an environment that is heteronormative and cisnormative, meaning that most people assume, unless corrected, that we are straight and cisgender.