Stonewall Reflects on a Decade of Change

Stonewall 50th image

We’ve just begun a new decade. This should give us all time to pause and reflect on what’s happened over the past 10 years, says Paul Twocock, Stonewall Interim Chief Executive.

While we’ve seen great progress towards equality, there’s also been pain. And that reminds us why it’s more important than ever that our community stands together.

Growing up as a gay boy in Kent under Section 28, my school couldn’t even acknowledge the existence of LGBT people, let alone talk about the challenges we faced. I felt totally isolated and afraid of being found out. I could never have imagined how far LGBT people and equality would come in my lifetime. I never thought I would see a lesbian become the first openly LGBT leader of a British political party (Ruth Davidson), or pick up a copy of TIME magazine to find a black trans woman on the cover.

The 2010s brought with it immense change socially, politically and culturally for LGBT people both in the UK and across the globe. The UK hosted its first ever Trans Pride in Brighton back in 2013. That same year, Alan Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon for his conviction of ‘gross indecency’. Just one year later, same-sex couples in England, Scotland and Wales were granted the right to say ‘I do’ with the person they love. A right that is coming to our LGBT siblings in Northern Ireland from January 2020.

It wasn’t just the UK that passed same-sex marriage legislation. Over 18 nations, including the United States, Ireland, Germany, Australia and Ecuador, made marriage equality a reality throughout this past decade. Not only that, but human rights defenders across the globe also saw landmark victories for equality when countries like Mozambique and India got rid of colonial-era laws and decriminalised same-sex relationships.

We’ve achieved a lot as a community that we should be very proud of. But that’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing by any means. If anything, some of the backlash we’ve seen in the past 10 years is a clear reminder that the rights and freedoms we’ve fought so long and hard for are fragile.

In 2010, then-President Obama took the courageous step to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – allowing LGBT people to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces. But since taking office, we have seen the Trump-Pence administration adopt a broad anti-LGBT agenda that threatens the rights of millions of lesbian, gay, bi and trans Americans.

The United States was not the only country who saw their progress on LGBT equality threatened. In countries like Russia, Nigeria and Brazil, we saw and continue to see devastating crackdowns against local LGBT communities.

Even here in Britain, a vocal minority have gained a platform with anti-diversity rhetoric that seeks to target LGBT people and divide communities. Whether that’s through debates about LGBT-inclusive education or trans equality. This means it’s more important than ever that our community and allies stick together.

However, if we’ve learnt anything, not just from the past decade, but from the very beginning of our movement that started 50 years ago at the Stonewall Inn, it’s that unity and solidarity are the keys to our liberation. True equality will never exist unless it includes everyone, so we must stand together.


Paul Twocock, Stonewall Interim Chief Executive.


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