50 Years of Love
In June of 1969 an influential group of people rioted in reaction to a police raid in the Greenwich Village Stonewall Inn, New York City. Seen as a major turning point for the LGBT+ community, the riot sparked a movement that, from small beginnings, has over time become unstoppable.
Just one year later in June 1970, Pride Day was established, with organised demonstrations in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London, where 150 people walked with Pride through Highbury fields.
Now, nearly 50 years later, and in celebration of our sponsorship of Manchester Pride, we’ve gathered together over 1,000 historical moments from over 100 countries that map the progress of this powerful worldwide movement, shining a light on how Pride has grown alongside the legislative and societal changes that have taken place.
Progress during the seventies was slow but steady with countries like Austria, Costa Rica, Finland and Malta decriminalising homosexuality, following the example of England and Wales who did so in 1967. Sweden became the first country to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, Ellen Barrett became the first lesbian priest in the USA, and Gilbert Baker introduced the rainbow flag as a symbol for the LGBT+ community.
Following Canada’s Stonewall riots in 1981, Lesbian and Gay Pride Day was established in Toronto and attracted 1,500 participants in its first year. The same year Norway was the first country in the world to pass a law preventing discrimination against the LGBT+ community.
1984 saw the first openly gay Member of Parliament in the UK, and West Hollywood, CA became the first known US city to elect a city council where the majority of members were openly gay or lesbian. Also in the 80s, countries including Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Channel Islands, Belize and Israel decriminalised homosexual sex between men, and in 1989 Denmark became the first country to enact registered partnership laws.
In 1988 Margaret Thatcher introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act which stated that councils should not “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”, meaning teachers couldn’t speak about same-sex relationships with their students. This included students coming out to their teachers or tackling homophobic bullying. The Act prompted Sir Ian McKellen to come out as gay on BBC Radio.
Yet more change, including the declassification of same-sex attraction as a mental illness by The World Health Organisation (WHO). The entertainment world gave us the first lesbian kiss on TV between characters CJ Lambe and Abby on LA Law, the first lesbian wedding on TV when Carol and Susan tied the knot in ‘Friends’ and Wilson Cruz becoming the first gay actor to play an openly gay character in a leading role in television series, ‘My So-Called Life’.
In sport, Justin Fashanu became the first prominent player in English football to come out as gay, the Kings Cross Steelers, the world’s first gay rugby club, was founded in England, and the first EuroGames, an LGBT+ sports-for-all-event open to everyone, irrespective of sex, age, sexual identity or physical ability was held in the Netherlands. Politics saw Roberta Achtenberg become the first openly gay or lesbian person to be appointed to the position of Assistant Secretary, and Deborah Batts became the first openly gay or lesbian federal judge appointed to the U.S. District Court in New York.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in many countries including Estonia, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Serbia, Bermuda, Albania, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Gibraltar, Macedonia, Romania, Tasmania, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, southern Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Chile; and these years also saw the end of the ban on gay people in the military in Malta, Canada, Romania, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This decade also saw the red ribbon make its first appearance as a symbol of the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
The 21st Century
The year 2000 heralded the lifting of the UK Government ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces. In 2001 same sex marriage was legalised in the Netherlands – Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie thus becoming the first two women in the world to legally marry – and homosexual couples in the Netherlands were legally permitted to a joint-adopt a child.
The US Supreme Court finally struck down the ‘homosexual conduct’ law decriminalising same-sex sexual conduct, and many states across the US and Canada legalised same sex marriage, along with countries including South Africa, Argentina, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. Over the decade, homosexuality was decriminalised in many more countries across the world.
In Australia in 2003, Alex MacFarlane reportedly became the first person to obtain a birth certificate and passport showing an indeterminate gender while judges in the UK ruled that the UK Government should issue new birth certificates to accommodate the needs of trans people.
The Simpsons became the first cartoon series to dedicate an entire episode to the topic of same-sex marriage when Marge’s sister Patty came out as a lesbian and revealed that she was going to marry a woman named Veronica.
In 2007 Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, told an audience at Carnegie Hall that Hogwarts Headmaster, Dumbledore, was gay.
Ventura Place in Studio City was renamed Dr. Betty Berzon Place after an American author and psychotherapist known for her work with the LGBT+ community, making the street the first ever to be officially dedicated to a known lesbian in California.
2010 saw the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Argentina, Iceland and Portugal and in 2011 President Obama officially revoked the anti-gay, discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevented openly gay Americans from serving in the U.S. armed forces. Many more countries legalised same sex marriage through the decade to date including Denmark, Brazil, France, Luxembourg, USA, Colombia, Finland, New Zealand, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
U.S. Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter, announced that the military would lift a ban that prevented transgender Americans from serving in the country’s armed forces and in 2018 The Pentagon confirmed that a transgender person had signed a contract to join the US military, making them the first ever trans person to do so.
In 2018 an unknown Maltese person made history after becoming the first person in the country to be officially recognised as gender neutral. Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms, Julia Farrugia, announced in a tweet that Identity Malta has issued its first ID card and passport marked with a gender-neutral ‘X’ instead of the standard ‘M’ or ‘F’. This right to be a gender-neutral citizen, in addition to previous reforms is just one of the many things that has contributed to Malta’s ranking first in terms of LGBT+ rights out of 49 observed European countries, with some of the others including the right to change your own legal gender and the legalisation of same sex adoption.
All the events that have taken place over these last 50 years have increased the acceptance and celebration of Pride, with new events coming on stream every year and growing in strength and numbers along the way – with nearly 300 events taking place in the USA alone.
Attendance at World Pride 2017 held in Madrid reportedly exceeded 3,500,000. It’s a matter of Pride, just how far we’ve all come – and it’s onwards and upwards from here.