A message from Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive Stonewall
This month is LGBT History Month, a time to stop and reflect on how far we’ve come as a movement, where we are now, and what is left to do. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have experienced so much over the last sixty years.
Men were persecuted through the fifties and sixties – afraid they would be punished for being gay or bisexual. The HIV epidemic of the 1980s required us a community to pull together against a further barrage of hatred. And this all took place against a backdrop of gross legal inequality threatening our rights to live, work, love, socialise and simply be ourselves.
The legacy of those times remains. Young people experience bullying in school and hate crime against us is as high as ever. We feel the effects of this legacy but we don’t necessarily remember the reasons why it was created. That is why this month we are celebrating historic moments in LGBT history. For me, my moment was in 2000 when the age of consent was reduced from 18 to 16. Overnight, the men I was at university with, who’d spent much of their adolescence acutely aware that what they were doing might be illegal, were equal to their heterosexual friends.
None of these changes would have been possible without the tireless efforts of groups, individuals and activists who worked in a range of ways to achieve change. We need to act now to preserve the history made by those groups. We shouldn’t forget the vital role that the gay pubs and clubs played, creating a space where we could be ourselves. The Birmingham Village saved me as a teenager, and this month I’ll be raising a pint in Soho where the pubs and clubs continue to create a welcoming space for all of us.
At Stonewall, we know that the fight for equality is far from over, but our movement is built on strong foundations which will serve us well in the battles to come.
With best wishes, Ruth Hunt (CEO)