Next year marks the 50th anniversary since consensual sex between men was decriminalised in 1967.
It is a significant milestone, marking the beginning of a long and often incredibly difficult period of slow legal change. This change reached a culmination in 2014 with lesbian, gay and bisexual people being recognised as equal in law.
Some see the decriminalization as the start of the modern “gay rights” movement, and we’re sure that the fast approaching anniversary will no doubt spark interest with museum exhibitions, art shows, films, TV dramas and documentaries.
We know that in some instances, these plans have begun to emerge. For example, the Tate Modern is planning an exhibition that spans the period from 1861 (when the death penalty for buggery was abolished) to 1967.
Queer British Art will show the tragedy as well as the joy experienced by gay men during those years and how art expressed the complexities of the time.
It’s no secret that the histories of LGBT communities are often woefully neglected or completely overlooked in schools and contemporary culture. As a result, we’re delighted at the prospect of this milestone sparking conversation about what is generally an ignored topic. However, it’s vital that the content is thorough, thought through, and will actually benefit LGBT communities. Let’s not forget the Stonewall movie.
Let’s tell a real story.
In planning how media organisations mark the momentous occasion, an intersectional viewpoint is encouraged.
For example, it’s crucial to consider, when producing a programme about the experiences of gay men specifically in 1967, that working class gay men had a different experience than aristocratic gay men.
Similarly, gay men of colour had a different experience than gay white men.
It is also important to remember the women, bisexual and trans folk ignored in this conversation too.
Consider the impact that the events over the past 50 years have had on the LGBT community in general.
Think of how it affected the trans community and the impact on the lesbians, bisexuals and trans people who stood shoulder to shoulder with their brothers through decriminalisation, Section 28 and the AIDS epidemic.
They weren’t passive witnesses, but on the front line, fighting.
Nevertheless, trans people have had entirely different experiences over the last 50 years and continue to experience legal and social inequalities. Important names in our history are erased simply because they were people of colour. Bisexual people have been and continue to be ridiculed, dismissed, diminished and forgotten.
Plan and programme – our stories need to be told. But let the community speak for itself. Be smart and be informed – we and others will be happy to help.
Were you one of the thousands of men unjustly prosecuted?
If so, Stonewall would like to hear from you - find out how we can help you tell your story