1982-1992 – Strength in Numbers

21 June 2022

As part of our Pride month blog series, I have reviewed the period 1982 – 1992; the decade in which I was born. I hope that I can still consider myself to be fairly young and so, to me, the 1980s do not seem that long ago. In researching the developments made during this decade, however, I was shocked reflecting on how out of touch and discriminatory the law, media and social views still were at the time.
 

The 1980s saw the height of the AIDS crisis in the UK which was beautifully and expertly depicted in Russell T Davies’ mini-series It’s a Sin. Staring Olly Alexander, the show followed a group of friends in London while they navigated the harm AIDS brought to the group. It is not surprising therefore that many of the milestones during the 80s centred around the pandemic.

In 1982, Terrence Higgins was thought to be one of the first people in the UK to die of an AIDS related illness in St Thomas’ Hospital. His partner and friends set up the Terrence Higgins Trust which was the UK’s first AIDS charity and remains active today. Its initial focus was on raising funds for research and awareness of the illness.

That same year, the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order was passed decriminalising male homosexual acts. This was largely thanks to Jeff Dudgeon, a gay rights activist from Belfast who filed a complaint with the European Commission for Human Rights after being interrogated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary about his sexuality.

In 1983, AIDS was first reported in depth on television as part of a wider segment about sexually transmitted diseases.

In the same year, the UK’s first national lesbian and gay TV show, One in Five, was shown on Channel 4.

In 1984, further steps were taken by the LGBT community to encourage openness and inclusivity. Chris Smith MP became the UK’s first openly gay member of Parliament, 10 years after Maureen Colquhoun. He also went on to become the first political figure to admit to being HIV positive.

In 1985, more than 20,000 people attended the Pride rally which was a huge increase in number of attendees from the decade before.

In 1986 the first issue of Black/Out magazine is published by the not for profit organisation, the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays. Black/Out was a quarterly magazine and the voice of the new movement of blacks, lesbians and gays.

Mark Reece, a trans man, brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights stating that the UK law prevented him from gaining legal status recognising him as male. He lost the case but the court began to note the seriousness of the issues facing trans people. The following year, the International Foundation for Gender Education was founded to promote acceptance for transgender people.

In 1987 Zidovudine or Azidothymidine, most commonly known as AZT, a medication used to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, first became available on prescription in the UK. It was the first drug to show any promise of suppressing the disease.

The same year, the first same sex kiss in a UK television soap airs when EastEnders’ Colin gives his boyfriend, Barry, a light kiss on the forehead.

The Pride events and the gay community rallied to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis.

The first UK specialist HIV ward was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales. Many will remember that, at the opening, she made a point of not wearing protective gloves or a mask when she shaking hands with the patients.      

In 1988, in a significant step backwards, Section 28 of the Local Government Act was introduced stating local authorities shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality or promote the teaching in any mainstream school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. As seen earlier in this blog series, Section 28 was not repealed until 2003. 

In the same year, Sir Ian McKellen came out publicly during a debate on BBC radio 3. Denmark also became the first country in the world to give legal recognition to same sex partnerships.

In 1989, Stonewall, an organisation supporting the rights of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and asexual people everywhere was formed; founded by Sir Ian McKellen, Lisa Power MBE and Lord Cashman CBE primarily in response to Section 28 of the Local Government Act.

In 1990, Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer to come out as gay. Later, in 2009, a football team, the Justin Fashanu all-stars, was named at a special event in Brighton. The team, which was named in Justin’s honour, was created by the Justin Campaign. They campaign against homophobia in football and promote the inclusion of openly gay players in the sport.

The Lesbian and Gay Police Association was founded by Constable James Bradley. It represented the needs and interests of gay and bisexual police officers and police staff across the UK.

In 1991, Pride came to Northern Ireland in the first ever public demonstration. In London, 25,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered to take part in Pride.

Huge strides were taken during this decade pioneered by, and with the support of, a number of public figures. What the other blogs in our series have shown, however, is the power that comes in numbers; people like you and me can help make changes. We need to continue the momentum so that the environment in which we live is as inclusive, kind and loving as it can and should be. 

About the author

Connie Atkinson is a Partner in Kingsley Napley's Family Law team and a member of the LGBTQ & Allies group.

 

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