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LGBT: A story of prejudice, persecution and persistence

Dydd Mercher 4 Ebrill 2012Trends

We explore the history of the LBGT campaign and how students have contributed towards it.

“It doesn't matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M / Just put your paws up / 'cause you were born this way, baby”

So intones Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the 2011 song that became the anthem for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans community internationally. "When people ask me: ‘How gay are you, Lady Gaga?’ my answer is: 'I am a child of diversity'." And so an iconic, successful, multi-million-dollar selling artist advocates freedom in sexuality.

The fact that her message is well-received and largely unchallenged is symbolic of a culture increasingly accepting of diverse sexual orientations. This acceptance derives from the work of peoples fighting for fairness under the banner of LGBT rights.

But we only have to look back to a pre-1967 Britain to see that homosexual sex was an act prohibited by law. It took until 1993 for the government to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders and the millennium finally saw the age of consent for homosexual sex equalised with heterosexual sex.

Such starkly unequal treatment has been addressed by the LGBT rights movement, first seen in the 1960s when groups identified themselves as such, and campaigned for social and legal equality.

The first organisation to protect gay rights on campus was the Queer Alliance of Columbia University, established in 1967. The Stonewall riots of 1969, which saw gay customers fighting against discrimination at a pub in Greenwich Village, marked the beginning of the LGBT movement in Britain.

Since then, groups protecting gay rights in businesses, services and organisations are increasingly commonplace. Societies for those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans stand alongside the sports teams, religious societies and thespian groups of universities.

The Oxford University LGBTQ society ‘aims to provide a safe space for all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community and is focused on providing welfare and social events.’ This is a typical manifesto of LGBT organisations.

Although legal and social prejudice is ever declining, the societies offer protection against discrimination that certainly still exists. As recently as February this year the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Britain, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, described government’s plans to advocate gay marriage as a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right".

The LGBT campaign clearly still has a huge job to do, and will for a long time: the history of the struggle of people marginalised for sexual preference and variance is still being written. People can stand strongly unified under Gaga’s widely-shared message: “No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgendered life, / I'm on the right track baby, / I was born to survive.”