On the 50 anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, Attitude’s Editor Cliff Joannou explains what he has learned from decriminalisation…
The fragile male ego has a lot to answer for
Buggery (anal sex) was made illegal and punishable by death in 1533 by King Henry VIII, a man so desperate to assert his masculinity he worked his way through six wives (executing two of them) in an effort to produce an heir worthy of continuing his 54in waistline. His effort to be the planet’s most fragile male ego ever remained unchallenged until Donald Trump came waddling along. Had Henry not been such an insecure twunt, so desperate to pass on his miserable genetic makeup and assert his masculinity, things would have worked out much less horrrific for the gays. (Ya’ listening, Donald?)
It was bum sex — not love — that was taboo
It’s interesting to consider how the concept of two men being in a loving relationship was never technically illegal. It was the bum-sex bit that the law of the land decried as unspeakable. (Oral sex was added in the 1828 Offences Against The Person Act). When the fight for gay marriage gathered pace, religious institutions started to actively challenge the idea of love between two men as unconscionable.
Fifty years is not a long time
It may be twice as long as many of you have been alive, but for all our delusions of being a progressive country, just 50 years ago the government considered gay sex to be an act worthy of imprisonment. Men were even offered aversion therapy — essentially torture — to force them to “change.” This is something that wouldn’t be out of place today in countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Chechnya.
The people the law once persecuted are still with us
Tens of thousands of older gay men alive today who spent their young lives hiding their identity also suffered in the Eighties’ Aids crisis, watching friends die.
When you see them at Pride, take a minute to say hello. The freedom you enjoy today was something they could once never have imagined.
Politicians will try to hijack Pride
Politicians this year will flock to Pride around the UK to remind us about the huge leaps that they made in support of the gays. But their efforts have been embarrassingly slow. Twenty years ago, on 1 July 1997, the European Commission published its findings following the case of Sutherland v United Kingdom. Without this case, it’s unlikely we would have achieved an equal age of consent in 2001, just 16 years ago. Yes, shockingly, it took until the 21st century for us to gain true sexual equality.
Pardon me? Fuck off
This year, the government announced pardons for men arrested under its vile old laws. A pardon, excuse me please? Fuck you. They deserve an apology.
This is a moment to reflect, not celebrate
As galleries, media and the rest are eager to mark the 50th anniversary, you won’t find me celebrating the decriminalisation of homosexuality on 27 July 1967. To celebrate is to find joy in the moment. All that runs through my mind when I think about that date are the centuries of injustice millions of gay men have faced, and continue to face around the world. Until we are all free, none of us are free.