Stonewall turned 25 in 2014. A pivotal moment in LGBT history, the year also marked the 25th anniversary since the introduction of Section 28.
Thankfully this offensive piece of legislation, designed to prevent the so-called 'promotion' of homosexuality in schools, is long since gone and we live in a different world. Stonewall received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to mark and celebrate the contributions Stonewall’s work has made to these huge achievements.
Over the last two years, we have worked with 60 volunteers who have travelled across the UK to collect interviews and archived information about LGBT history so these stories would not be lost.
For me, being part of this project was hugely inspiring, and has completely changed my understanding of the struggles LGBT people in the UK have faced and fought.
If it wasn’t for the people who challenged discriminatory legislation and prejudice I would not enjoy the freedoms I do today. These are rights I could easily take for granted, like being able to register a civil partnership, soon to be converted to marriage, being able to challenge discrimination or report homophobia as a hate crime. These rights have not easily been won, and I know how lucky I am. I am incredibly grateful.
In LGBT Voices, a publication which tells the stories of 25 older LGBT people, we hear how not so long ago, successful careers were cut short without an opportunity for redress, relationships had to remain secret for fear of blackmail and the appalling treatment LGBT people received from public services, like the police, went unchallenged.
On 2 September, Stonewall held an exhibition called 'From Section 28 to Equal Marriage', where we displayed a number of the archived pieces, films and photos collected by our volunteers. There was an amazing buzz to the night as guests shared stories and talked to volunteers about their work, a lot was learnt.
It was also a great opportunity for the 36 delegates from Stonewall’s Young Leaders programme to learn more about their history. One of the delegates’ reflected on their experience of the night;
I loved having the opportunity to learn about the actions, stories and people that have made it possible for me to be in the position of privilege that I’m in being out as LGBT.
I met so many great Stonewall volunteers that were active in campaigning against Section 28 in their local communities, and it was an honour to hear their personal stories. It has inspired me to go on to work with Stonewall and make positive changes in my own community and local area.