In 2022, many often underappreciate the extent of the developments in LGBTQ+ rights that we have seen this century, myself included sometimes. It’s enlightening to reflect upon the historic events and changes that have taken place within my life so far. There has been momentous reform that has taken place regarding LGBTQ+ legal rights and social acceptance. Yet despite the UK declaring itself as one of the centres of the egalitarian movement of the past century, the streets of London, Manchester, Glasgow and others have still often been filled with the disquiet and protest of brave individuals with a passion to reject the misunderstandings, intolerances and discrimination against those who still deserve more not just in the UK, but globally.
Serious concerns are still being raised for LGBTQ+ spectators that plan on visiting Qatar this winter, the next host of the FIFA World Cup this year, let alone the LGBTQ+ citizens that are constantly living a life of fear and abuse, reminding us of the long road that is yet to go regarding the global fight for human rights. Qatar is a country where the death penalty still exists for queer people and where officials have made no promises or guarantees that protect any LGBTQ+ citizens or visitors. It is astounding that these fears, compiled with abhorrent human rights abuses against migrant workers and suppression of women’s rights that the games are even going ahead.
Here at home, however, the UK continues to battle with its own detriments towards absolute LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance. New Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, seeks to bring the anti-trans rhetoric of previous governments to the front and centre of his social policies, with his proposed plans for expanding women’s rights set to largely exclude trans people and suppress education and discussion of sex and gender in schools.
We can also look to the aftermath of the mid-terms in the United States, where commentators have been reporting on the tug of war in red states between regressive Republican policies targeting LGBTQ+ and abortion rights against young voters are ever-growing in both their numbers and their voice. It has already had an unexpected impact by denying the huge ‘red wave’ predicted in these elections. It is clear that the last few decades have been an era of progression, but as of late, this trend appears to be plateauing, but why? Perhaps the answers can be found by assessing the major developments in queer history since the turn of the century.
The speed of social change can be summed up by the fact that the first modern same-sex marriage law was only passed in 2000. The Netherlands were the firs to pass their bill that year and since then, 33 countries have passed it into law, with Andorra to become the 34th in 2023. In 2000,
homosexual acts between consenting adults had only been legal in England for 33 years, just 19 years in Scotland and still wasn’t until three years later in much of the United States. 2000 was also the year LGBTQ+ people were finally permitted to serve openly in Western militaries but even today, most queer former soldiers have yet to be compensated for their expulsions or withdrawn awards.
The almost total exclusion from the traditional family unit, discrimination protection and legal classroom discussion before the millennium marks a profound gap between the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in my parent’s generation compared to mine. To even see a far-right Republican like Donald Trump say in a speech in 2016 that he promised to uphold gay rights, followed by resounding applause from the audience, is something that would have been utterly unthinkable even a decade prior in the Bush administration. The issue that is highlighted here more than anything, however, is the emptiness in these words. Promises were made for the longevity of queer rights, and the development of further legislation, but we find ourselves now at a time where many are going back on their word.
From my perspective growing up, I was largely unaware of the changing world and by the time I reached an age to understand myself and my sexuality, the difference in attitude was already immense. I remember the passing of the Marriage Act in 2013 and a specific Sunday at church that year when a member called for prayer against such an outrageous idea. It was a divisive change, as many people stood up in agreement while many others did not, which I’m sure spiced up the post-service coffee chats that day!
And yet it still reminded me that times were changing like they never had before. The 2010s were personified by the media as an era of openness, and LGBTQ+ people became much more visible in daily life and we were beginning to see more awareness in education, such as Scotland’s recent
introduction of LGBTQ+ history as a mandatory module. Such a simple change that many could have benefitted from, by simply understanding that they’re not alone in those moments of self-discovery.
With the repeal of clauses of the Merchant Shipping Act in 2017, which had allowed for the dismissal of homosexuals on commercial vessels on grounds of their sexuality, the UK’s supposedly last anti-gay law was stripped from the books. But it’s not quite enough to only rid the explicit text since many practices remain ignored by the law, such as conversion therapy and particularly gender protection for those experiencing any form of gender dysphoria.
On Warwick’s campus this year, much controversy surrounded the welcoming of Nadhim Zahawi, former Education Secretary, who showed support for ‘outing’ transgender children to their parents if they sought help or advice at school. An incredibly dangerous and nonchalant rhetoric that has led to youth homelessness and physical abuse against countless children.
This ignorance of the basic protection of our nation’s children perfectly sums up what is, unfortunately, still lacking from law and the ignorance that persists among socially-disengaged politicians. Zahawi’s logic gave no consideration the young queer people that would have been, and sadly still will be, detrimentally impacted by such ideas, and ignores the mere prospect of proactively seeking a solution,
Such as, say, implementing professionals who can properly guide and advise young people with confidentiality and compassion. But of course, that would require altruistic funding, and far more optimism.
With the strength we’ve shown before, we’ve proven that we can insight change that can improve the quality of life for all those within our community, and those yet to find their place. Now is the time that we finally put issues such as sky-high levels of mental health problems and suicide rates
at the forefront of social policy. With this kind of perspective, and a willingness to help those around us, who knows what we can achieve in years to come?
Published Online: 12/11/2022