Well it’s here again, LGBT History Month.
Most people will leave this particular aspect of February unmarked in their diary. After all, unless you identify as part of the rainbow alphabet you may be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t apply to you. However, if you dig a little deeper you find that LGBT history is the history of us all. There have been plenty of notable figures over the centuries who have been LGB or T. It was just that they couldn’t tell us at the time. We often only discover such truths when they drop dead and a dusty diary of hidden desire is plucked from the bottom of a long forgotten trunk.
This year is very special one. It marks 60 years since the Wolfenden Report recommended the legalisation of consensual homosexual acts between two men (it was never illegal between two women). Yes, you heard right bitchas! The WOLFENDEN report. How cool is my name now? Yeah, you can touch me. It is also 50 years since parliament acted on the report. OK, it did take a decade to get through parliament. Better late than never I suppose…and the age of consent was set at a ludicrous 21 and stayed that way until 1994. Which makes me technically a criminal. What with that and the home taping.
Anyway, before 1967 homosexuality was very illegal. In fact the police were so obsessed with catching men who touched each other’s winkles, they would hang about in lavatories dangling their own like worms on a fish hook. They still did that until recently..to be honest I think they just liked it.
If you were caught in the bad old days, your punishment would be deeply unpleasant. Between 1533 and 1828, you would be hanged. After 1828 you would probably spend a few years behind bars doing hard labour. Believing as they did, that picking apart tarred ropes and smashing rocks would have any hardened bummer desiring wholesome boobies in a jiffy*.
The first half of the 20th Century wasn’t much better, what with imprisonment or chemical castratration awaiting you if you so much glanced at another man’s meat and two veg. If you happened to be over the sea in Germany during WW2 you may have found yourself in a concentration camp. Which, considering how many Nazi commanders were found in bed with blonde boys during the night of the long knives, was just a little bit hypocritical.
Transgender people are conspicuous by their absence in our history books. Often misgendered or misidentified as effeminate men or butch women, they have been overlooked or forgotten by eager historians only interested in tales of forbidden sexuality. So you may be forgiven for thinking that transgender people are a recent invention, especially as they have only been allowed to change their legal gender since 2005. It is telling that even now the word ‘misgendered’ is showing as unrecognised on this computer’s spellchecker. However trans people have been around for..well, how long has humanity been around?
Let’s face it. Attitudes to bi people have been in the Stone Age for a very long time. They were considered by many gay and lesbian people to be tourists. Thought to be simply unwilling to commit to a single binary identity, bi people would often find a less than warm welcome in the community. At this point I would like to a tell you that I never shared those views. However I did. In fact I remember once saying to a bisexual man who asked me out in the 1990s ‘sorry, I just don’t trust bisexuals’. What a stupid young man I was. Fearful that we would fall in love and he would leave me for a more convenient life with a wife and 3 kids.
Since then I have examined that prejudice and discovered that bisexuality is not a fear of commitment to one person but simply an attraction to multiple genders. Believe me, if a bi person picks you to spend their life with, you’d better be grateful. Because they had all of humanity to choose from.
So LGBT history hasn’t been a picnic and recent events in the United States have reminded us that people will always want to take hard won rights away. The monsters will be defeated eventually but until then, we all need to be strong. Not only those of us who are part of this community but our friends and allies who are so very vital to permanently securing those rights.
This blog post has only scratched the surface of LGBT history and let’s face it, it’s not just LGBT anymore. The alphabet gets bigger every year with more and more people discovering who they are and adding letters and new colours to a rainbow that will shine on long after Donald J.Trump has turned to orange dust.
*Wholesome Boobies in a Jiffy is the unmade sequel to Se7en.
- For some more information here is a graphic sent to me by a purveyor of rude things.