Over the last 70 years, the UK government has made repeated attempts to address the many inequalities faced by LGBT+ people and their diverse communities within all its constituencies. The foundations of change in Britain began following the Wolfenden Report (1957), which was commissioned by the UK government in response to growing concerns surrounding the treatment of LGBT+ people, alongside several high-profile arrests gaining public interest and mass attention at the same time (British Library, 2020).
After ten years following the recommendations from the famous Wolfenden Report was published, The Sexual Offences Act (1967) superseded the previous Criminal Law Amendment Act (1885), this update to legislation partially legalised homosexuality for the first time, but only if any “queer” acts were carried out strictly between two men over the age of 21 in private. The legal age of consent was set at 18 in Scotland under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act (1980) and in Northern Ireland with Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order (1982) retroactively.
Political advancements during this time quickly became overshadowed by the medicalisation of gay men following World Health Organization (WHO) updates to the Diagnostic Statistics Manual (DSM II, 1968), which listed homosexuality as a mental disorder alongside serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This shifted the status quo from gay men being criminals to being “sick” or mentally ill. However, The next few years became a turning point for awareness and support around global LGBT+ communities, with the famous 1969 Stonewall Riots provoking a negative response from LGBT+ people and their allies around the world due to the decades of abuse, oppression, humiliation, torture and neglect faced by gay men. Lesbians avoided castigation with the general attitude that they “simply do not exist” as quoted by Queen Victoria (British Library, 2020).
According to research, general attitudes towards LGBT+ communities was neutral given that people were abiding by the law. However, things quickly changed following the first case of AIDS disease in the UK during 1981. There were 108 recorded cases of AIDS and 46 deaths across the UK between 1981 and 1984, and by 1985, every region on our planet had at least one registered case of infection (Haynes, 2021). The UK government acted in 1987, by broadcasting public health advertisements of gravestones with the words “AIDS” engraved on, which fuelled fear, misconceptions, hatred towards LGBT+ communities, targetted attacks and other negative experiences that have since been proven to be based on fiction (British Library, 2020) additional to medical interventions made available through accessing NHS.
The UK government subsequently banned the promotion of LGBT+ culture within any public sector organisation and in response to the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government
Act (1988), Sir Ian McKellen famously “outed” himself live on BBCRadio 3 before founding Stonewall UK in 1989. At the time homosexuality was still classified as a mental disorder in DSM:II, and so it remained a taboo subject across general society despite the fact that it was legal to engage in sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex – Section 28 remained enforceable under Scottish law until 2000, with the rest of the UK abolishing the legislation later in 2003 after the UK government issued (yet another!) official apology for its treatment of LGBT+ people.
As a result of these changes, the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse was lowered from the age of 21 to 18 across England and Wales, in line with the pre-existing Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act (1980). Some of the most successful policies that followed include abolishing the ban that prevented LGBT+ people from serving within the armed forces in 2001, the Adoption and Children’s Act (2002), the Employment Equality Regulations (2003), the Civil Partnership Act (2004), the Gender Recognition Act (2004), the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (2008), and the Equality Act (2010) which shows the UK’s basic commitments towards international laws and making a more equal society.
In 2017, the UK government also formed its first LGBT+ Advisory Panel that was tasked with identifying the needs of LGBT+ people across the UK. With the government’s promise to end some of the most prominent issues affecting LGBT+ people in the UK within a 4 year period.the government published the largest National LGBT Survey (2017) that had been carried out within the global LGBT+ community. Findings from 100,000 participants in this survey were used to create LGBT Action Plan (2018). Organisations such as Stonewall UK and LGBT+ activists have persistently called for the government to address these issues since; however, no significant steps have been taken yet.
The Equality Act (2010) offers a basic framework of legal protection from discrimination, harassment, abuse, and victimisation that may occur within the workplace and wider society. It combines previous laws while strengthening current legislation and making the law easier to understand. The public sector has additional responsibilities under Section 149 of the equality act (2011) updates. The equality duty is applied to all public bodies and organisations that carry out functions within the public sector. Guidance states that public bodies have due regard to eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity, and fostering good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.
The act also clearly states that employers must take steps towards promoting inclusivity by publishing relevant information, making reasonable adjustments, and ensuring their services are widely accessible to a broad demographic, including people with disability and those from other cultural or religious backgrounds. Promoting equality and diversity in the workplace has many positive results; (it is no secret that people will always perform better when they are free to express themselves). Therefore, it is imperative that we only adhere to these laws but also strive to exceed the current standards to continue innovating in this area and continue to make positive changes.
There are many basic and cost-efficient ways in which we can create a more inclusive, LGBT+-friendly working environment, such as:
● Ensuring that policies are updated to reflect the Equality Act’s (2010) guidance and (2011) updates. This includes pensions, family and leave policies, health insurance, and relocation allowances. You should also make sure your policies specifically mention LGBT+ people where relevant.
● Set up a LGBT+ network or steering group. They will help you make improvements and let you know when you are reaching goals
● Decide upon a clear strategy – It’s important to know where you want to be as an organisation and how you’re going to get there!
● Engage staff members who don’t identify as LGBT+; allies are a crucial element of ensuring inclusion for all. They can help spread the message that diversity is celebrated by your organisation.
● Ensure there is support from senior management and leadership teams – Gaining the support of the senior leadership team ensures that changes can be implemented and sustained in the long term.
● Speak to your staff; Consulting both LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ people about what inclusion could look like within your organisation will help ensure your strategy is appropriate and that all staff share your vision towards a common goal.
● Get to know the make-up of your individual staff members through techniques such as monitoring, team-building exercises, supervisions, and appraisals to ensure that you are aware of any needs they may have.
● Celebrate your successes. Making sure your organisation is LGBT+ inclusive is an ongoing journey, so it’s important to celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how big or small they may be. Every step is a step towards acceptance without exception for LGBT+ people.
Further resources and guidance are widely available online, including the Stonewall website. During the coming months, we are delivering own unique courses (please see below), both online and in person.
Join us for an awareness raising online session on LGBTQ+ experiences of intimate partner violence which are often invisible within societal policy and service provision.
Join us for an exploration of LGBTQ health and wellbeing. This comprehensive one day course will provide service providers with the knowledge and skills to support the LGBTQ community.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
References and additional reading sources:
British Library, (2014).
A short history of LGBT rights in the UK.
Available online: https://www.bl.uk/lgbtq-histories/articles/a-short-history-of-lgbt-rights-in-the-uk#authorBlock1
British Library, (2020).
A timeline of LGBT communities in the UK.
Available online: https://www.bl.uk/lgbtq-histories/lgbtq-timeline#Autobiography%20of%20the%20first%20transgender%20man
Wolfenden Report, (1957). UK Parliament.
Available online: https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/relationships/collections1/sexual-offences-act-1967/wolfenden-report-/
Criminal Law Amendment Act (1885).UK Parliament.
Available online: : https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/relationships/collections1/sexual-offences-act-1967/1885-labouchere-amendment/
Sexual Offences Act (1967). UK Parliament.
Available online: https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/relationships/collections1/sexual-offences-act-1967/sexual-offences-act-1967/
Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act (1980). Legislation.gov.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1980/62/contents
DSM II (1968). World Health Organisation.
Available online via: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/dsm-ii
Policing and Crime Act (2017). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/3/contents/enacted/data.htm
Stonewall, (2017). What does the government’s apology mean?.
Available online: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/node/41320
Haynes, (2021). Time Magazine. How a new British drama is telling the story of the AIDS crisis.
Available online: https://time.com/5939522/its-a-sin-history-hiv-transphobia/
Section 28 Local Government Act (1988). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/9/section/28/enacted
Human Rights Act (1988). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents
Adoption and Children’s Act (2002). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/38/contents
Employment Equality Regulations (2003). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/2827/contents/made
Civil Partnership Act (2004). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/33/contents
Gender Recognition Act (2004). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/7/contents
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (2008). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/22/contents
Equality Act (2010). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
Same Sex Couples Act (2013). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/30/contents
Marriage and Civil Partnership Act Scotland (2014). Legislation.gov.uk.
Available online; https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/3229/contents
National LGBT Survey (2017). UK Gov.
Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report
LGBT Action Plan (2018). UK Gov.
Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lgbt-action-plan-2018-improving-the-lives-of-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-people