Timeline of LGBT history in the United Kingdom

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This is a timeline of notable events in the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the United Kingdom.

1st century[edit]

2nd century[edit]

  • 117  – Emperor Hadrian, from AD117 to 138, who openly slept with boys, ruled England. Hadrian's particular favourite, Antinous, died under mysterious circumstances. Hadrian had him deified.[2]

4th century[edit]

  • 342 – The Roman emperors Constantius II and Constans issued an imperial decree to the Codex Theodosianus, which imposes an "exquisite punishment" for the crime which occurs "when a male gives himself in marriage to an effeminate [femina, literally 'a woman'] and what he wants is for the effeminate to play the male role in sex [literally 'project the male parts']", thus for himself to play the female role.[1][3]
  • 390 – The Roman emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius I, and Arcadius issued an imperial decree to the Codex Theodosianus, that criminalises "all persons who have the shameful custom of condemning a man's body, acting the part of a woman's to the sufferance of alien sex (for they appear not to be different from women), shall expiate a crime of this kind in avenging flames in the sight of the people".[1]

8th century[edit]

12th century[edit]

14th century[edit]

  • 1327  – The deposed King Edward II of England is killed. The popular story that the king was assassinated by having a red-hot poker thrust into his anus has no basis in accounts recorded by Edward's contemporaries.[6] Edward II had a history of conflict with the nobility, who repeatedly banished his former lover Piers Gaveston, the Earl of Cornwall. The Annales Paulini claims that Edward loved Gaveston "beyond measure", while the Lanercost says the intimacy between them was "undue".[7] The Chronicle of Melsa states that Edward "particularly delighted in the vice of sodomy", without making special reference to Gaveston.[8] Chroniclers called the King's relationship with Gaveston as excessive, immoderate, beyond measure and reason and criticised his desire for wicked and forbidden sex.[9] It was hinted at by medieval chroniclers, and has been alleged by modern historians, that the relationship between Gaveston and Edward was homosexual.
  • 1395  – John Rykener, known also as Johannes Richer and Eleanor, a transvestite prostitute working mainly in London (near Cheapside), but also active in Oxford, was arrested for cross-dressing and interrogated.

16th century[edit]

  • 1533 – King Henry VIII passes the Buggery Act 1533 making all male–male sexual activity punishable by death. Buggery related only to intercourse per anum by a man with a man or woman or intercourse per anum or per vaginum by either a man or a woman with an animal. Other forms of "unnatural intercourse" amounted to indecent assault or gross indecency, but did not constitute buggery.[10] The lesser offence of "attempted buggery" was punished by two years of jail and often horrific time on the pillory.
  • 1541 – The Buggery Act 1533 only ran until the end of the parliament. The law was re-enacted three times, and then in 1541 it was enacted to continue in force "for ever".[11]
  • 1543 – Henry VIII gives royal assent to the Laws in Wales Act 1542, extending the buggery law into Wales.
  • 1547 – King Edward VI's first Parliament repealed all felonies created in the last reign of King Henry VIII.[11]
  • 1548 – The provisions of the Buggery Act 1533 were given new force, with minor amendments. The penalty for buggery remained death, but goods and lands were not forfeit, and the rights of wives and heirs were safeguarded.[11]
  • 1553 – Mary Tudor ascends the English throne and repeals all of Edward VI of England's acts.[11]
  • 1558 – Elizabeth I ascends the English throne and reinstates the sodomy laws[12] of 1533 (not 1548), which were then given permanent force.[11]
  • 1580 – King James VI of Scotland, King James I England, made his formal entry into Edinburgh and began a relationship with Franco-Scottish Lord Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox. Lennox was a relative and 24 years senior to James, married and the father of 5 children. The influence Lennox his "favourite" had on politics, and the resentment at the wealth they acquired, became major political issues during his reign.[13] Scottish nobles ousted Lennox by luring the young king to Ruthven Castle as a guest but then imprisoned him for ten months. The Presbyterian nobles forced King James to banish Lennox to France. Lennox and James remained in secret contact. Lennox remained in France. He died in Paris in 1583. William Schaw took Lennox's heart back to James in Scotland, since in life its true place had been with the King.

17th century[edit]

  • 1606 – King James I of England began a relationship with Robert Carr,[14] who had broken his leg at a tilting match at which the king was present. The king instantly fell in love with the young man, even helping nurse him back to health all the while teaching him Latin. Entirely devoid of all high intellectual qualities, Carr was endowed with good looks, excellent spirits, and considerable personal accomplishments. These advantages were sufficient for James, who knighted the young man and at once took him into favour. James made his lover Viscount of Rochester (1611), Knight of the Garter and Earl of Somerset (1613).[15]
  • 1614 – King James met the last of his three close male lovers, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, the son of a Leicestershire knight. Villiers could dance well, fence well, and speak a little French. In August, Villiers, reputedly "the handsomest-bodied man in all of England",[16] was brought before the king, in the hope that the king would take a fancy to him, diminishing Carr's power at court. Villiers gained support as the king's preferred lover from those who opposed Carr.
  • 1615 – King James knighted Villiers as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. Restoration of Apethorpe Hall, undertaken 2004–2008, revealed a previously unknown passage linking the bedchambers of James and Villiers.[17]
  • 1617 – King James made Villiers Earl of Buckingham
  • 1618 – King James made Villiers Marquess of Buckingham.
  • 1623 – King James made Villiers Earl of Coventry and Duke of Buckingham. Villiers was now the highest-ranking subject outside the royal family.[18]
  • 1682 – A same-sex marriage is annulled. Arabella Hunt had married "James Howard" two years earlier but the marriage was annulled on the ground that Howard was in fact Amy Poulter, a 'perfect woman in all her parts', and two women could not validly marry.[19]
  • 1690 – King William III of England had several close, male associates, including two Dutch courtiers to whom he granted English titles: Hans Willem Bentinck became Earl of Portland and Arnold Joost van Keppel was created Earl of Albemarle. These relationships with male friends and his apparent lack of more than one female mistress led William's enemies to suggest that he might prefer homosexual relationships. Keppel was 20 years William's junior, described as strikingly handsome, and rose from being a royal page to an earldom with some ease.[20]
  • 1697 – The Earl of Portland wrote to King William III that "the kindness which your Majesty has for a young man, and the way in which you seem to authorise his liberties ... make the world say things I am ashamed to hear".[21] This, he said, was "tarnishing a reputation which has never before been subject to such accusations". William tersely dismissed these suggestions, saying, "It seems to me very extraordinary that it should be impossible to have esteem and regard for a young man without it being criminal."[21]

18th century[edit]

18th century illustration of a "Molly" (contemporary term for an effeminate homosexual)
  • 1722 – John Quincy writes about lesbianism in his second edition of the Lexicon Physico Medicum. According to Quincy, confricatrices or confictrices were terms used by authors for lesbians "who have learned to titulate one another with their clitoris, in imitation of venereal intercourse with men".[22]
  • 1724 – Margaret Clap better known as Mother Clap, ran a coffee house from 1724 to 1726 in Holborn, London. The coffee house served as a Molly House for the underground gay community.[23][24] Her house was popular,[25] being well known within the gay community. She cared for her customers, and catered especially to the gay men who frequented it. She was known to have provided "beds in every room of the house" and commonly had "thirty or forty of such Kind of Chaps every Night, but more especially on Sunday Nights".[26]
  • 1726 – Three men (Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin, and Thomas Wright) were hanged at Tyburn for sodomy following a raid of Margaret Clap's Molly House.[27]
  • 1727 – Charles Hitchen, a London Under City Marshal, was convicted of attempted sodomy at a Molly House. Hitchen had abused his position of power to extort bribes from brothels and pickpockets to prevent arrest, and he particularly leaned on the thieves to make them fence their goods through him. Hitchen had frequently picked up soldiers for sex, but had eluded prosecution by the Society for the Reformation of Manners.[28]
  • 1730 – The term “lesbian” to describe same sex relationships between women comes into use around the 1730s.[29]
  • 1735 – Conyers Place wrote "Reason Insufficient Guide to Conduct Mankind in Religion".[30]
  • 1736 – Love letters from Lord John Hervey to Stephen Fox PC, a British peer and Member of Parliament, show that they had been living in a homosexual relationship for a period of ten years, from 1726 to 1736.[31]
  • 1749 – Thomas Cannon wrote "Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified".[32]
  • 1772 – The first public debate about homosexuality began during the trial of Captain Robert Jones who was convicted of the capital offence of sodomising a thirteen-year-old boy. The debate during the case and with the background of the 1772 Macaroni prosecutions considered Christian intolerance of homosexuality and the human rights of men who were homosexual.[33][34] Jones was acquitted and received a pardon on condition that he leave the country. He ended up living in grandeur with his footman at Lyon, in the South of France.
  • 1773 – Charles Crawford wrote "A Dissertation on the Phaedon of Plato".[35]
  • 1785 – Jeremy Bentham becomes one of the first people to argue for the decriminalisation of sodomy in England, which was punishable by hanging.[12] The essay Offences Against One's Self,[36] written about 1785, argued for the liberalisation of laws prohibiting homosexual sex. He argued that homosexual acts did not weaken men, nor threaten population or marriage. The essay was never published in his lifetime.
  • 1797 – The Encyclopedia Britannica published a brief mention of homosexuality in the article about Greece.[37]

19th century[edit]

William Blake's Lot and His Daughters, Huntington Library, c. 1800
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852
  • 1800 – William Blake paints "Lot and His Daughters". The Book of Genesis in chapters 11–14 and 18–19 describes Lot and his family, living through the fire and brimstone sent against Sodom and Gomorrah apparently for either rape, transgression of the laws of hospitality, or homosexuality. "Lot and His Daughters" however portrays the part of the story that involves incest, not homosexuality: the story in Genesis describes how the daughters of Lot, along the road as they fled from Sodom and Gomorrah, got their father drunk so that after he fell asleep they could have sex with him and in this way get children from him.
  • 1806Yorkshire gentlewoman Anne Lister starts writing love letters to and from Eliza Raine. Lister actively participated in and wrote about her lesbian relationships. Although she did not use the word lesbian, at age thirty, she wrote, "I love and only love the fairer sex and thus, beloved by them in turn my heart revolts from any other love but theirs.”[38]
  • 1810 – The nineteenth century began with a wave of prosecutions against homosexual men. On 14 January, a farmer in West Yorkshire wrote in his diary that capital punishment seemed an unacceptably cruel response to a sexual behavior that nature or God had ordained in an individual. (The diary entry was discovered in 2020.)[39] On 8 July, the Bow Street Runners raided The White Swan, a tumbledown pub of Tudor origin near Drury Lane. Twenty-seven men were arrested on suspicion of sodomy and attempted sodomy.[40]
  • 1811 – The Scottish court case Woods and Pirie vs Dame Cumming Gordon showed two teachers are accused of having a lesbian relationship by a pupil, claiming they had indecent sexual relationships.[41] However, one judge found that sex between women was "equally imaginary with witchcraft, sorcery or carnal copulation with the devil”, illustrating notions at the time that tied sexuality with masculinity.[42]
  • 1812 – James Miranda Barry graduated from the Medical School of Edinburgh University as a doctor. Barry went on to serve as an army surgeon working overseas. Barry lived as a man but was found to be female-bodied upon his death in 1865.[43]
  • 1828 – The Buggery Act 1533 was repealed and replaced by the Offences against the Person Act 1828. Buggery remained punishable by death.[44]
  • 1835 – The last two men to be executed in Britain for buggery, James Pratt and John Smith, were arrested on 29 August in London after being spied upon while having sex in a private room; they were hanged on 27 November.
  • 1852 – John Martin paints The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorah. Sodom was (supposedly) destroyed for the sin of sodomy, although a strong case has been made that violence against persons and transgression of the laws of hospitality, including a demand that he hand over his houseguests (who happened to be angels) to the ruffian citizens of the town, were more important at the time of the composition of the story in Genesis, chapter 19.
  • 1861 – The death penalty for buggery was abolished. A total of 8921 men had been prosecuted since 1806 for sodomy with 404 sentenced to death and 56 executed.[45]
  • 1866 – Marriage was defined as being between a man and a woman (preventing future same-sex marriages). In the case of Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee (a case of polygamy), Lord Penzance's judgment began "Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others."[46]
  • 1871 – Ernest 'Stella' Boulton and Frederick 'Fanny' Park, two Victorian transvestites and suspected homosexuals, appeared as defendants in the celebrated Boulton and Park trial in London, charged "with conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence". The indictment was against Lord Arthur Clinton, Ernest Boulton, Frederic Park, Louis Hurt, John Fiske, Martin Cumming, William Sommerville and C. H. Thompson. The prosecution was unable to prove either that they had committed any homosexual offence or that men wearing women's clothing was an offence in English law.[47] Lord Arthur Clinton killed himself before his trial.
  • 1872 - Sheridan Le Fanu publishes the novella Carmilla, which depicts the tale of a lesbian vampire luring young women for her mother to sacrifice
  • 1885 – The British Parliament enacted Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, section 11 of which, known as the Labouchere Amendment, prohibited gross indecency between males. It thus became possible to prosecute homosexuals for engaging in sexual acts where buggery or attempted buggery could not be proven.[48][49]
    Katherine Harris Bradley & Edith Emma Cooper
  • 1885 – A collection of the poems of Sappho were translated and published in English by Henry Thornton Wharton as Sappho: Memoir, Text, and Selected Renderings. Wharton maintained a homosexual interpretation of “Ode to Aphrodite”.[50]
  • 1889 – The Cleveland Street scandal occurred, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, London, was raided by police after they discovered telegraph boys had been working there as rent boys. A number of aristocratic clients were discovered, including Lord Arthur Somerset, equerry to the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales's son Prince Albert Victor and Lord Euston were also implicated in the scandal.[51]
  • 1895 – Oscar Wilde, tried for gross indecency over a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour.[52]
  • 1895 – The gay English poet A. E. Housman writes a poem about the trial of Oscar Wilde. Due to its content, it was not published until after Housman's death.[53]
  • 1897 – George Cecil Ives organises the first homosexual rights group in England, the Order of Chaeronea. Dr Helen Boyle and her partner, Mabel Jones, set up the first women-run general practice in Brighton, including offering free therapy for poor women. Helen Boyle also founded the National Council for Mental Hygiene (which subsequently became MIND) in 1922.[43] British sexologist Havelock Ellis publishes Sexual Inversion, the first volume in an intended series called Studies in the Psychology of Sex. He argues that homosexuality is not a disease but a natural anomaly occurring throughout human and animal history, and should be accepted, not treated. He describes lesbians as being more like men, possessing male intelligence and propensity for independence.[54] The book is banned in England for being obscene; the subsequent volumes in the series are published in the US and not sold in England until 1936.[43]
  • 1898 – George Bedborough is convicted of obscenity, for selling a copy of Havelock Ellis's book Studies in the Psychology of Sex Vol. 2, on the topic of homosexuality.[55]

20th century[edit]

Christopher Isherwood (left) and W. H. Auden (right), photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1939


  • 1950  – On 31 July in Rotherham, an English schoolteacher, Kenneth Crowe, aged 37, was found dead wearing his wife's clothes and a wig. He approached a man on his way home from the pub, who upon discovering Crowe was male, beat and strangled him.[69] The killer, John Cooney, was found not guilty of murder and sentenced to five years for manslaughter.[70] In response to the violence and unfair treatment of gay men, the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed seventeen years later.
  • 1951  – Roberta Cowell becomes the first British person to undergo male-to-female confirmation surgery on 16 May.
  • 1952  – Sir John Nott-Bower, commissioner of Scotland Yard began to weed out homosexuals from the British Government[71] at the same time as McCarthy was conducting a federal homosexual witch hunt in the US.[72] During the early 1950s as many as 1,000 men were locked into Britain's prisons every year amid a widespread police clampdown on homosexual offences. Undercover officers acting as 'agents provocateurs' would pose as gay men soliciting in public places. The prevailing mood was one of barely concealed paranoia.[citation needed]
  • 1953  – John Gielgud, the actor-director, was arrested on 20 October in Chelsea for cruising in a public lavatory, and was subsequently fined. When the news broke he was in Liverpool on the pre-London tour of a new play. He was paralysed by nerves at the prospect of going onstage, but fellow players, led by Sybil Thorndike, encouraged him. The audience gave him a standing ovation, showing that they didn't care about his private life. The episode affected Gielgud's health and he suffered a nervous breakdown months later. He did not acknowledge publicly that he was gay.
  • 1953  – Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood were arrested and charged with having committed specific acts of "indecency" with RAF airmen Edward McNally and John Reynolds; they were also accused of conspiring with Edward Montagu (the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) to commit these offences. The Director of Public Prosecutions gave his assurance that the witnesses Reynolds and McNally would not be prosecuted in any circumstances, but Pitt-Rivers, Montagu and Wildeblood were tried and imprisoned at Winchester in 1954.[73]
  • 1954  – Alan Turing, an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist, influential in the development of computer science, committed suicide. He had been given a course of female hormones (chemical castration) by doctors as an alternative to prison after being prosecuted by the police because of his homosexuality.[74] The trial of Edward Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood began on 15 March in the hall of Winchester Castle. All three defendants were convicted. The Sunday Times published an article entitled "Law and Hypocrisy" on 28 March that dealt with this trial and its outcome. Soon after, on 10 April, the New Statesman printed an article called "The Police and the Montagu Case". A month after the Montagu trial the Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe agreed to appoint a committee to examine and report on the law covering homosexual offences (this would become known as The Wolfenden report).
  • 1956  – The Sexual Offences Act recognises the crime of sexual assault between women.[75]
  • 1957  – The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden report, after Lord Wolfenden) was published. It advised the British Government that homosexuality should be made legal.[76]
  • 1958  – The Homosexual Law Reform Society is founded in the United Kingdom following the Wolfenden report the previous year, to begin a campaign to make homosexuality legal in the UK.[77]
  • 1959  – Alan Horsfall, Labour councillor for Nelson, Lancashire, tables a motion to his local Labour party to back the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The motion is rejected, but Horsfall and fellow activist Antony Grey later form the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee.[43] ITV, at the time the UK's only national commercial broadcaster, broadcasts the UK's first gay TV drama, South, starring Peter Wyngarde.[78]


  • 1961  – Victim was the first English-language film to use the word "homosexual". It premiered in the UK on 31 August 1961.
  • 1963  – The Minorities Research Group (MRG) became the UK's first lesbian social and political organisation. They went on to publish their own lesbian magazine called Arena Three.[75]
  • 1964  – The North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee was founded, abandoning the medical model of homosexuality as a sickness and calling for its decriminalisation. The first meeting was held in Manchester. The North West branch of the national Homosexual Law Reform Committee became the national Committee for Homosexual Equality in 1969.[43] and in 1971 after the advent of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970, changed its name to Campaign for Homosexual Equality.
  • 1965  – In the House of Lords, Lord Arran proposed the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts (lesbian acts had never been illegal). A UK opinion poll finds that 93% of respondents see homosexuality as a form of illness requiring medical treatment.[43]
  • 1966  – In the House of Commons Conservative MP Humphry Berkeley introduce a bill to legalise male homosexual relations along the lines of the Wolfenden report. Berkeley was well known to his colleagues as a homosexual, according to a 2007 article published in The Observer and was unpopular.[79] His Bill was given a second reading by 164 to 107 on 11 February, but fell when Parliament was dissolved soon after. Unexpectedly, Berkeley lost his seat in the 1966 general election, and ascribed his defeat to the unpopularity of his bill on homosexuality. The Beaumont Society, a London-based social/support group for people who cross-dress, are transvestite or who are transsexual, was founded.[43]
  • 1967  – Ten years after the Wolfenden Report, MP Leo Abse introduced the Sexual Offences Bill 1967 supported by Labour MP Roy Jenkins, then the Labour Home Secretary. When passed, The Act decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in England and Wales.[80] The 1967 Act did not extend to Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, where all homosexual behaviour remained illegal. The privacy restrictions of the act meant a third person could not be present and men could not have sex in a hotel. These restrictions were overturned in the European Court of Human Rights in 2000.[81]
The book Homosexual Behavior Among Males by Wainwright Churchill breaks ground as a scientific study approaching homosexuality as a fact of life and introduces the term "homoerotophobia", a possible precursor to "homophobia".[82] The courts decided that transsexuals could not get married; Justice Ormerod found that in the case of Talbot (otherwise Poyntz) v. Talbot where one spouse was a post-operative transsexual their marriage was not permitted. Justice Ormerod stated that Marriage is a relationship which depends on sex, not on gender.[83][84]


  • 1970  – Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was established at London School of Economics on 13 October, in response to debates many gay men and lesbians were having in Britain about the way they were treated. The formation of GLF also influenced by the Stonewall Rebellion in the USA that started on 28 June 1969. In the case between April Ashley and Arthur Cameron Corbett, their marriage was annulled on the basis that Ashley, a transsexual woman, was a man under then-current British law. This set a legal precedent for trans people in Britain, meaning that the birth certificates of transsexual and intersex people could not be changed.[43]
  • 1971  – The Nationwide Festival of Light supported by Cliff Richard, Mary Whitehouse, Malcolm Muggeridge and Lord Longford was held by British Christians who were concerned about the development of the permissive society in the UK and in particular, homosexuality and out of wedlock sexual activity. The GLF interrupted the festival with a series of demonstrations. Lesbians invaded the platform of the Women's Liberation Conference in Skegness, demanding recognition[75] The Nullity of Marriage Act was passed, explicitly banning same-sex marriages between same-sex couples in England and Wales.[86] The parliamentary debates on the 1971 act included discussion on the issue of transsexualism but not homosexuality.[87]
  • 1972  – The First British Gay Pride Rally was held in London with 1000 people marching from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park.[88] Gay News, Britain's first gay newspaper was founded.[89]
  • 1973  – London Icebreakers forms, offering a 24-hour helpline staffed exclusively by LGB people and offered gay-affirmative support. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality holds the first British gay rights conference in Morecambe, Lancashire. The Manchester Gay Alliance formed by the University's Lesbian & Gay Society, CHE, a lesbian group and transvestite/ transsexual group.[43] In late 1973 Dr. Carol Steele and another transsexual woman (Linda B.) formed the Manchester TV/TS Group (a group for transvestites and transsexuals).[Ref: Trans Britain - Our Long Journey from the Shadows - Unbound Books 2018]
  • 1974  – Maureen Colquhoun came out as the first Lesbian MP for the Labour Party. When elected she was married in a heterosexual marriage. After coming out, her party refused to support her.[90] The First National TV/TS (Transvestite/Transsexual Conference) is held in Leeds. Jan Morris, one of Britain's top journalists who has covered wars and rebellions around the globe and climbed Mount Everest in 1952, publishes Conundrum, a personal account of her transition, widely hailed as a classic.[43]
  • 1975  – The groundbreaking film portraying homosexual gay icon Quentin Crisp's life, The Naked Civil Servant (based on the 1968 autobiography and starring John Hurt) was transmitted by Thames Television for the British Television channel ITV. British journal Gay Left begins publication.[91] British Home Stores sacked openly gay trainee Tony Whitehead; a national campaign subsequently picketed their stores.[89] The Liberal Party passed a conference resolution in support of equality for gay people including an equal age of consent.[92]
  • 1976  – Britain's political pressure group Liberty, under its original name National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), called for an equal age of consent of 14 in Britain.[93] The term Gay Bowel Syndrome was coined to describe a range of rectal diseases seen among gay male patients; in the pre-AIDS era, this is the first medical term to relate to gay men.[43]
  • 1976  – The London Gay Teenage Group was established by Phillip Cox and Paul Welch. It was chaired and run by Steven Power, a 1970s gay activist, from its inception until 1980 when he became 21. It was the first gay youth group in the world.[94]
  • 1977  – The first gay lesbian Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference took place to discuss workplace rights for Gays and Lesbians.
  • 1978  – The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) was founded as the International Gay Association (IGA) on 8 August during the conference of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in Coventry, England, at a meeting attended by 30 men representing 17 organisations from 14 countries. The Coventry conference also called upon Amnesty International to take up the issue of persecution of lesbians and gays.


The red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS
  • 1980  – The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age "in private" in Scotland.[95] British documentary A Change of Sex aired on BBC2, enabling viewers to follow the social and medical transition of Julia Grant; also provides a snapshot of the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London.[43] The Self Help Association for Transsexuals (SHAFT) was formed as an information collecting and disseminating body for trans-people. The association later became known as 'Gender Dysphoria Trust International' (GDTI).[96] The first Black Gay and Lesbian Group was formed in the UK.[97] Lionel Blue became the first British rabbi to come out as gay.[98] The UK's first television series specifically aimed at a gay audience is broadcast on London Weekend Television. Called Gay Life, the programme airs late on Sundays and runs for two series.[99]


London gay pub bombing in 1999 killed three and injured 70

21st century[edit]


  • 2000  – The Labour government stops banning homosexuals from the armed forces after the European Court of Human Rights rules it unlawful.[135] The law will not actually be repealed until the Armed Forces Act 2016.[136] The Labour government introduces legislation to repeal Section 28 in England and Wales - Conservative MPs oppose the move. The bill is defeated by bishops and Conservatives in the House of Lords.[137] Scotland abolished Clause 2a (Section 28) of the Local Government Act in October though it remains in place in England and Wales. HIV charity London Lighthouse merged with Terrence Higgins Trust as the Aled Richards Trust and Body Positive London, closed. Shrinkage of the HIV charity sector occurred largely as a result of Management of HIV/AIDS HAART treatment allowing people living with HIV to be more self-sufficient.[138][139]
Tony Blair's Labour government enacted the Civil Partnership Act 2004
  • 2001  – The last two pieces of unequal law regarding gay male sex are changed.[117] In 1997 the European Commission of Human Rights found that the European Convention on Human Rights were violated by a discriminatory age of consent; the government submitted that it would propose a Bill to Parliament for a reduction of the age of consent for homosexual acts from 18 to 16. The Crime and Disorder Bill which proposed these amendments, was voted for in the House of Commons but rejected in the House of Lords. In 1998 it was reintroduced and again was voted for in the House of Commons but rejected in the House of Lords. It was reintroduced a third time in 1999 but the House of Lords amended it to maintain the age for buggery at 18 for both sexes. Provisions made in the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 made it possible to enact the bill without the Lords voting it through. The provisions of the Act came into force throughout the United Kingdom on 8 January 2001, lowering the age of consent to 16. Under the act consensual group sex for gay men is also decriminalised.[140]
  • 2002  – Same-sex couples are granted equal rights to adopt. Alan Duncan becomes the first Conservative MP to admit being gay without being pushed.[117] Brian Dowling becomes the first openly gay children's television presenter in the UK on SMTV Live.
  • 2003  – Section 28, which banned councils and schools from intentionally promoting homosexuality, is repealed in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. Employment Equality Regulations made it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gays or bisexuals at work.[141] EuroPride was hosted in Manchester. Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, both British university professors, legally married in British Columbia, Canada, however on their return their same-sex marriage was not recognised under British law. Under the subsequent Civil Partnership Act 2004, it was instead converted into a civil partnership. The couple sued for recognition of their same-sex marriage.[142]
  • 2004  – The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed by the Labour Government, giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.[117] The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed by the Labour Government. The Act gives transsexual people legal recognition as members of the sex appropriate to their gender (male or female) allowing them to acquire a new birth certificate, affording them full recognition of their acquired sex in law for all purposes, including marriage.[143]
  • 2005  –
    Francis (left) and Peter Scott-Morgan, the first civil partners in Devon, at their televised ceremony at Oldway Mansion
    The first civil partnership formed under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 took place at 11:00 GMT 5 December between Matthew Roche and Christopher Cramp at St Barnabas Hospice, Worthing, West Sussex. The statutory 15-day waiting period was waived as Roche was suffering from a terminal illness: he died the following day.[144] The first partnership registered after the normal waiting period was held in Belfast on 19 December.[145] The Adoption and Children Act 2002 comes into force, allowing unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt children for the first time.[146] Twenty-four-year-old Jody Dobrowski is murdered on Clapham Common in a homophobic attack. Chris Smith one of the first openly gay British MPs, (1984), becomes the first MP to acknowledge that he is HIV positive.[147][148]
  • 2006  – The Equality Act 2006 which establishes the Equality and Human Rights Commission (CEHR) and makes discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal, gains Royal Assent on 16 February. The age of consent is equalised and Section 28 "successfully repealed" in the UK Crown Dependency of the Isle of Man.[149] Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw holds a civil partnership ceremony with partner, Neal Dalgleish, a BBC Newsnight journalist. David Borrow, a Labour MP also holds a civil partnership with his boyfriend in May.[150] In May, Margot James becoming the first 'out' lesbian to be elected as a local councillor for the Brompton ward of Kensington & Chelsea. She subsequently became the first Tory Lesbian MP.[151] In total 3,648 couples formed civil partnerships in England and Wales between 21 December 2005 and 31 January 2006. Male partnerships are more popular (2,150 ceremonies) than women's (1,138).[152]
  • 2007  – The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations becomes law on 30 April making discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham declared his opposition to the act, saying that the legislation contradicted the Catholic Church's moral values. He supported efforts to have Catholic adoption agencies exempted from sexual orientation regulations (they were ultimately successful in a judgement given on 17 March 2010).[153] Some 8,728 Civil Partnerships were conducted in 2007.[154] Dr Lewis Turner and Professor Stephen Whittle publish Engendered Penalties Transsexual and Transgender People's Experience of Inequality and Discrimination (Equalities Review) which is instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of trans people in the remit of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights.[43] Channel 4 released Clapham Junction, a TV drama partially based on the murder of Jody Dobrowski almost two years after his murder, to mark the 40th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. Four openly gay, lesbian or bisexual MSPs are elected in the 2007-2011 Scottish Parliament, Ian Smith, Patrick Harvie, Margaret Smith and Joe FitzPatrick.[155]
  • 2008  – Treatment of lesbian parents and their children is equalised in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.[156] The legislation allows for lesbians and their partners (both civil and de facto) equal access to legal presumptions of parentage in cases of in vitro fertilisation ("IVF") or assisted/self insemination (other than at home) from the moment the child is born. Angela Eagle becomes the first female MP to enter into a civil partnership (with partner Maria Exall).[157][158] Parliament passes provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, creating a new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred. Some 7,169 Civil partnerships were conducted in 2008.[159] Michael Causer, a gay teenager living in Liverpool, is seriously assaulted on 25 July because of his sexual orientation and later dies in hospital, aged 18.[160][161]
  • 2009  – The Labour Government Prime Minister Gordon Brown makes an official public apology on behalf of the British government for the way in which Alan Turing was chemically castrated for being gay, after the war.[74] Opposition leader David Cameron apologises on behalf of the Conservative Party, for introducing Section 28 during Margaret Thatcher's third government.[162] Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas becomes the first known top-level professional male athlete in a team sport to come out while still active.[163] Nikki Sinclaire becomes first openly lesbian member of the European Parliament for the UK delegation. Some 6,281 Civil Partnerships were conducted in 2009.[164]


  • 2010  – Pope Benedict XVI condemns British equality legislation for running contrary to "natural law" as he confirmed his first visit to the UK.[165] The Equality Act 2010 makes discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal. The Supreme Court ruled that two gay men from Iran and Cameroon have the right to asylum in the UK and Lord Hope, who read out the judgment, said: To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny him the fundamental right to be who he is.[166] Some 6,385 Civil Partnerships were conducted in Britain in 2010, 49% were men.[167] Claire Rayner, ally of the gay rights movement, dies.[43] Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling MP said that he thought bed and breakfast owners should be able to bar gay couples, however, under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 no-one can be refused goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality. Grayling subsequently was passed over as Home Secretary when the Coalition government came to power.[168]
  • 2011  – England, Wales and Scotland allow gay and bi men to donate blood after a 1-year deferral period.
  • 2012  – In the year in which London hosted the Olympic Games, London hosts World Pride but the committee fails to secure funding and has to drastically cut back the parade and cancel many of the events.[169] The coalition government committed to legislate for gay marriage by 2015, but by 2012 still had not been included in the Queen's Speech.[170] Thousands of people sign an e-petition to feature Alan Turing, father of Computing and of Artificial Intelligence on the ten pound note.[171] Government Ministers pledge to push through legislation granting same-sex couples equal rights to get married despite the threat of a split with the Church of England and the continuance of current arrangements for the state recognition of canon law.[172]
  • 2013  – The coalition government unveils its Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill[173] on 25 January. On 21 May it passes its third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 366 to 161. Altogether 133 Tories opposed the bill, along with 15 Labour MPs, four Lib Dems, eight Democratic Unionists and an independent.[174] On 17 July 2013, Royal Assent is given to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Queen Elizabeth II grants Alan Turing a posthumous pardon.[175][176][177] Nikki Sinclaire comes out as transgender, thus becoming the United Kingdom's first openly transgender Parliamentarian.[178] Civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy were successful in their case against B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull. Hall and Preddy were refused a double room at the Bulls' B&B, Chymorvah Guest House, which courts found was in contravention of the 2007 Equality Act Regulations,[179]
  • 2014  – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in England and Wales on 29 March under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014, received Royal Assent on 12 March 2014 and took effect on 16 December 2014.[180] Queen Elizabeth II praises the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard for their 40-year history, the first time the Crown has ever publicly supported the LGBT community. The Switchboard receives a comment from the Queen saying: "Best wishes and congratulations to all concerned on this most special anniversary."[181]
  • 2015  – Mikhail Ivan Gallatinov and Mark Goodwin became the first couple to have a same-sex wedding in a UK prison after marrying at Full Sutton Prison in East Yorkshire.[182] Northern Ireland's assembly voted narrowly in favour of gay marriage equality but the largest party in the devolved parliament, the Democratic Unionist Party, subsequently vetoed any change in the law.[183] The Royal Vauxhall Tavern became the first ever building in the UK to be given a special "listing" status based on its LGBT history; it was accorded Grade II listed status by the UK's Department of Culture, Media and Sport.[184] Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd's of London, became the first woman and the first openly bisexual person to be named number one in the OUTstanding & FT Leading LGBT executive power list.[185]
  • 2016  – There are 40 LGBT MPs in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which in 2016 is the most in any parliament around the world.[186] Hannah Blythyn, Jeremy Miles, and Adam Price became the first openly gay members of the Welsh Assembly.[187] Carl Austin-Behan was sworn in as Manchester's first openly gay Lord Mayor.[188] Northern Ireland allow gay and bi men to donate blood after a 1-year deferral period. Prince William became the first member of Britain's royal family to appear on the cover of a gay magazine when he appeared on the cover of the July issue of Attitude; in the cover story, he also became the first British royal to openly condemn the bullying of the gay community.[189] British Government minister Justine Greening revealed that she was in a same-sex relationship, thus becoming the first out LGB female cabinet minister.[190] Elle printed special collectors' covers for their September 2016 issue, and one of them featured Hari Nef, which was the first time an openly transgender woman had been on the cover of a major commercial British magazine.[191] The British women's field hockey team won gold at the Olympics; as Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh were both on that team, this made them the first same-sex married couple to win Olympic medals.[192] Nicholas Chamberlain became the first bishop in the Church of England to come out as gay, which occurred following threats of an outing from an unnamed Sunday newspaper. He said he lived with his partner in a celibate same-sex relationship, as required by the Bishops' guidelines, under which gay clergy must practice abstinence and may not marry.[193][194][195][196] Ivar Mountbatten came out as gay and revealed that he was in a relationship with James Coyle, an airline cabin services director whom he met whilst at a ski resort in Verbier.[197] While not being a member of the British royal family, he is the first member of the extended family to come out as gay.[198] Anwen Muston, a British Labour Party politician, was elected to Wolverhampton City Council at the 2016 elections; this makes her the first openly transgender woman to be elected as a Labour representative.[199][200] The Armed Forces Act 2016 finally repeals "homosexual acts as a grounds of discharge from the armed forces".[136]
  • 2017  – Andy Street became the United Kingdom's first openly gay, directly elected metro mayor.[201] Philippa York, formerly Robert Millar, came out as transgender, thus becoming the first former professional cyclist to have publicly transitioned; she had been one of Britain's most successful cyclists of all time.[202] British voters returned a record number of LGBTQ MPs to Parliament in the general election. Forty-five gay, lesbian or bi MPs were elected on Thursday 8 June – six more than in the previous parliament. The SNP registered the largest proportion of LGBTQ elected members in its parliamentary party, with seven of its 35 MPs identifying as such.[203] Ryan Atkin became the first openly gay official in English football.[204]
  • 2018  – Lord Ivar Mountbatten married his same-sex partner, James Coyle, on 22 September 2018,[205][206] becoming the first member of the British monarch's extended family to have a same-sex wedding.[206][207][208]
  • 2019  – Laverne Cox was one of fifteen women chosen by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue; this made Cox the first openly transgender woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue.[209][210][211] Songs of Praise showed its first gay wedding, which was the wedding of Jamie Wallace and Ian McDowall at the Rutherglen United Reformed Church in Glasgow.[212] Lucia Lucas became the first transgender singer to perform with the English National Opera in London.[213] Pride in Surrey held the first Pride event on August 10 in the borough of Woking, Surrey. It was founded by Stephen A Ireland and his Partner Charlie Watts.[214]


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Further reading[edit]

  • David, Hugh. On queer street: a social history of British homosexuals.
  • Houlbrook, Matt. Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918–1957.
  • Hyde, Harford Montgomery. The Love that Dared Not Speak Its Name: A Candid History of Homosexuality in Britain.
  • Jennings, Rebecca. A Lesbian History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Women Since 1500.
  • Jennings, Rebecca. Tomboys and bachelor girls: A lesbian history of post-war Britain 1945-71.

External links[edit]