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Chichester Humanists talk 15th August: Being Gay in the UK

ChichesterHumanistsTalk15thAugust2011PeterCornwellReduced

Peter Cornwell of Worthing Pride gave us a well presented and interesting talk about the problems faced by the Gay and Lesbian community in the UK.

His approach was to outline the main historical changes to UK law. Queen Victoria was partlly responsible for the first anti-homosexual Act in 1885; this only applied to men, because she didn't think lesbianism was possible. A few years later, Oscar Wilde was put on trial.

In the build up to the second world war, the pink triangle was used to identify Gay people; this was later turned upside down to become the symbol for the Gay movement. After the war, the mathematical and computer genius Alan Turing committed suicide instead of prison or chemical "treatment".

 

The Kinsey reports of 1948 and 1953 showed how common homosexuality is. But the Sexual Offences Act of 1956 continued police action against homosexuals.

During the 1960s, the Gay movement flourished, and in 1967 homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private was decriminalised. New York saw the Stonweall riots of 1969.

In 1988, Section 28 prevented the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. This wasn't repealed until 2000, although its effects are still being felt today. Peter described how efforts to tackle homophobia in schools have been met with a wall of silence from Head teachers across West Sussex who are too frightened to tackle the topic of homosexuality.

In 2005, civil partnerships for same sex couples became available. But Peter waited a few years just to make sure that this would not be reversed (as in the US) before registering his partnership.

Peter explained that, because of the great changes during the last 50 years, the experiences and attitudes of Gay people vary with age. People in their 70 still hide their sexuality, scarred by their experiences. Even today, young people are frightened to "come out" for fear of ostracisation. Peter drew upon moving personal anecdotes and acquaintances to illustrate the problems Gay people are experiencing today.

There was a wide range of questions from members. Are Gays attracted to particular professions? What are the current statistics? Is our sexuality determined at birth?

Peter Cornwell represents the LGBTU community on the Worthing Community and Equality Working Group, which is where I met him. West Sussex Humanists now has links with some local LGBTU organisations and I hope we will support one another in our fight for equality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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