That decade saw a major shift towards the emergence of a global gay culture. The gay genie came right out of its little pink bottle and into the streets (and the media…and politics…and the arts…)
Ironically, much of this was driven by adversity. The appearance of HIV/AIDS was most certainly a factor: it ripped through our communities but, at the same time, engendered a spirit of unity and resistance that transcended national borders.
But there were many other storms – great and small – that had to be weathered too. For example, in the US, the Court of Appeal ruled that there was no ‘fundamental right’ to be gay.
In the UK, the Thatcher government created Clause 28 of the Local Government Act, making it illegal for local authorities to support anything that might promote homosexual relationships as a viable alternative to heterosexual ‘family life’.
The battle was on – at a global, national, and local level. And I’m proud to say I was in there doing my bit!
Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom; every now and then there was a glimmer of hope.
Some regional legislators in places like the UK, US and Australia introduced anti-discrimination laws.
And even the US Army, who had declared homosexuality to be “incompatible with military service” in 1982, were forced to admit in 1989 that gay recruits were “just as good or better” than heterosexuals. (A finding that the US government tried – unsuccessfully – to conceal).
LGBT history during that period was, indeed, a rich tapestry. And that’s basically what I’m trying to document here.
Maybe it’s a sign of my advancing years but I’m increasingly coming to appreciate the value of knowing our history.
It’s not just reminiscing about ‘the good old, bad old days’, it’s also about recognising what we’ve been up against and how we’ve come through it (not least because we’re still going to be up against it for a while yet).