It is fair to say that the LGBTQ community has come a long way in gaining rights and respect, even within the first eighteen years of the twenty-first century. Specifically, the last five years, since legislation to allow same-sex marriage was approved in July 2013, have been instrumental in determining the way members of the LGBTQ community has come to be regarded today in schools, workplaces and the wider community.

The legalisation of gay marriage came into being in March 2014, with the first wedding ceremonies being held on the 29th. This is likely due to the increase in number of those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual in the most recent generation. In 2015, it was measured by the Office for National Statistics that only 0.6% of people over 65 identified as LGB, compared to the 16-25 category, who, at 2.3%, had quadruple the number of LGB members. However, this rise in numbers could also be due to the growing acceptance for same-sex couples which, while not perfect, has improved from 1967, the year in which Britain first reformed its gay laws, though this by no means meant that gay relationships were legalised. On the contrary, the remaining laws surrounding homosexuality, such as that which stated the age of consent for sex between men to be 21, rather than 16 (as it was for sex between men and women), were policed more viciously than before.

Now however, not only has there been the legalisation of same-sex marriage and adoption, but it is now illegal to discriminate based on someone’s sexual orientation. Despite this, being lesbian, gay or bisexual is still not as straight forward as one would like to think. Social acceptance of same-sex couples, while growing, remains limited, with only 64% of people saying that they believe same-sex partnerships are ‘not wrong at all’ (as of 2016). This leaves over one third of the population with at least some degree of prejudice towards those in a same-sex partnership, which can often result in everyday discrimination and often forms of abuse.  

Sophie Robson, a twenty-one-year-old student, who identifies as bisexual, described her experience.

Sophie states that, though she has never been the victim of physical abuse, “the last time [my girlfriend and I] were at the station, I felt more people glaring at me. It made me feel uncomfortable – as if I can’t be who I am or happy”. She also feels like she and her girlfriend are unable to act the way heterosexual couples can: “I feel like we can’t be an ordinary couple if I am being stared at, because I’m quite self-conscious as it is,” she says, adding “I want to live like everyone else does”.

Sophie’s statement is just a single piece of evidence in the countless that shows that, while legally approved, same-sex couples have yet to be wholly accepted by society. In 2017, 16 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation and, of that 16 percent, eighty percent did not report it to the police.

“I wonder if straight people know how lucky they are,” says Sophie, “to be able to go out with their partner and not have to worry about who is around, because it’s awful, wondering whether or not you’re going to be attacked by someone who thinks they have a right to decide whom you love.”

Emily Thompson – Heathfield Community College