THEGAYUK

We Are Gay UK

OPINION | It may not be an obligation to learn LGBT history, but you really should

Next year sees the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, which I’ve written about before here, yet still, there are some people out there who feel that the younger generation doesn’t need to care about the violent history of struggling for gay rights because they are too busy having a good time.

“What they fail to understand is that they can have that “good time” because of countless LGBT+ men and women who have lived through hell and to this day still fight to protect the rights of the community.”

Having a fluff piece opinion that completely misses the point of what Pride stands for is utterly disgraceful. And it saddens me that people who are only a few years younger than me have absolutely no clue about why that is. I have a huge amount of respect for the generations that gave me the rights I have today, and I also understand exactly why they would get angry at a group of gays who don’t show that level of respect or a willingness to learn about their own community’s history.

They aren’t asking anyone to know every tiny little detail about gay history, but a basic knowledge of the big events certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Just to afford these brave men and women from all walks of life an iota of dignity and a thank you. An unsettling thing that I have been witness to, is when an older generation LGBT+ person is in a bar or club, and the younger gays either laugh at them, ignore them or worse, insult them and say they shouldn’t be there and even call them gross. We’re not asking you to hook up with them, we’re asking you to acknowledge them.

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You don’t even need to make a song and dance about it, just be willing to talk to them if they talk to you. You never know, you could make a new friend. One has to remember that it was only in 1967 that homosexual acts were decriminalised in the UK. There are people alive today that lived through the fear that they could be arrested, simply for being who they are and to see younger people completely ignore that fact because they are too busy having fun must really hurt them.

Men and women in the UK were some of the earliest to form well organised groups such as the Homosexual Law Reform Society, (founded in 1958) which surprisingly was started by many non-homosexual members, such as Sir Stephen Spender and MP Kenneth Younger and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, an offshoot of the HLRS founded in Manchester in 1964 by more prominently homosexual people like Allan Horsfall and Colin Harvey. It was a direct result of these groups that the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was passed in the UK.

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I don’t pretend to fully understand what it was like because I didn’t live through it, but I have empathy for anyone that did and I’m always willing to be told something new. It helps me grow as a person. And you can be damn sure that next year I will be finding any events that honour and remember the events and people of Stonewall, and I’ll be there waving my rainbow flag with pride and with respect.

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“I’m not for one second saying we shouldn’t have fun, of course, we should.

Enjoy life, go to the clubs, wear a pair of heels and a dress, sing bad karaoke, have a regrettable hookup at a Pride event, but please stop and think about why these things can be done, and learn from the past.”

But I digress, why has this irked me so much? It seems like the social media generation has this shocking sense of entitlement, everything is very much “Me, Me, Me and Kylie Jenner” There’s such a disconnect from people, that real and horrifying events are forgotten because they weren’t a Twitter moment. But this stuff happened, and it’s time that they understood who people like Marsha P Johnson, Gilbert Baker and anyone else from that era are.

I’m not here to belittle the people who subscribe to the social media way of thinking, it is kinda the way of the world now, but I feel that having such a selfish attitude, not only hurts them, it hurts a whole community. Now I’m not for one second saying we shouldn’t have fun, of course, we should. Enjoy life, go to the clubs, wear a pair of heels and a dress, sing bad karaoke, have a regrettable hookup at a Pride event, but please stop and think about why these things can be done, and learn from the past. There’s already this underlying feeling of separation within the community if we don’t look or act a certain way.

We are ALL a part of this beautiful Rainbow Community, let’s treat everyone who is a part of it, or who is an ally, as a friend and learn from each other’s experiences. It’s not a crime to not know something, but it’s a wise choice to educate oneself by talking, being open and learning. It could be something that really opens your eyes to a world that you didn’t know about.

Seek out the people who can enrich you, learn their story and tell them yours.

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