Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month

Toby Sawyer
February 16, 2021

At MF we are committed to making great, empowering leadership the norm, not the exception. A crucial part of this is enabling leaders to create cultures where everyone feels that they belong – truly championing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

LGBTQ+ History Month provides a great chance to celebrate LGBTQ+ people in all their diversity, to raise awareness and to combat prejudice via education.

MF’s Toby Sawyer explains why this month is so important…

Today we are much more aware of LGBTQ+ people, our contribution and our place in UK society. But the UK hasn’t always been like this, and there is still much to do to include all LGBTQ+ people.

As LGBTQ+ people, it reminds us of what and who have gone before us.

The trailblazers and the people living their lives in plain sight.

Unless we speak out and share our lives, we are invisible.

LGBTQ+ History Month is not only for the LGBTQ+ community. It is also for those of us who are allies and have friends, family members and work colleagues who are LGBTQ+.

History Matters.

Here are a few examples of why it matters, although there are many more:

  • Before Civil Partnerships, before Marriage Equality, LGBTQ+ relationships weren’t recorded in the UK. At best, our relationships didn’t officially exist; at worst, we were regarded as criminals and risked imprisonment. Sexual Orientation will be included in Census Data for the first time ever in 2021.
  • Before 1967, all gay men faced imprisonment. The 1967 Sexual Offences Act decriminalised gay sex between consenting men over the age of 21. Even the name of the Law itself reveals how we were perceived by the State at that time. Offensive. Criminalised.
  • If you were a man under 21 and had sex with a man over 21, the older man could go to jail. Many did. The Age of Consent wasn’t changed until 1994 when it was lowered to 18, and finally to 16 in 2000. Only 21 years ago.
  • There was no law against lesbianism as apparently Queen Victoria didn’t believe lesbians existed, so no criminal laws were brought to Parliament. According to UK Law, Lesbians didn’t exist.
  • The AIDS crisis during the 1980s & 1990s meant that many LGBTQ+ people faced job, health & housing discrimination, as well as a health pandemic which was inaccurately described by authorities and the media as “A gay plague”. There was no cure for AIDS and no vaccine. Combination Therapy was made available in 1995.
  • LGBTQ+ people and our allies mobilised to fight gay prejudice. The Terrence Higgins Trust was formed in 1982, Act Up in 1987, and the Stonewall Organisation in 1989 (named after the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969).
  • In 1988, the UK Government passed Section 28 of the Local Government Act, making it law “to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality” for Local Authorities. This Law remained in place until 2003.
  • At the time, PM Margaret Thatcher said “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life."
  • LGBTQ+ people have only been allowed to openly serve in the Armed Forces since 2000. Prior to 2000 people would lose their job, and risk Court Martial.
  • The Church of England doesn’t recognise sexually active same-sex relationships. The Catholic Church still considers gay sex to be a sin.
  • In 70 countries in the world, it is still illegal to be gay.

And here’s a bit about me…

I have been out since 1987, and in 1994 became the first openly gay actor to play a gay character in a UK soap opera.

Here’s a couple of photos of my LGBTQ+ history, campaigning for Lesbian & Gay rights in 1991 in Newcastle:

1991 We hung a banner on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle to campaign for lesbians & gay men to be included in the Census. This is finally happening for the first time in 2021, 30 years later.A banner on the war memorial in the centre of Newcastle asking for recognition for LGBT servicemen & womenProtesting outside the Civic Centre in Newcastle, 1991
A banner on the war memorial in the centre of Newcastle asking for recognition for LGBT servicemen & womenProtesting outside the Civic Centre in Newcastle, 1991
Protesting outside the Civic Centre in Newcastle, 1991

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