LGBT movements are largely social, cultural and political activism that advocate for the acceptance of the LGBTQ people in the larger society and assurance of their safety, security and equal rights.
While the social activities work towards eradication of the preconceived notions, stigmas and taboos which lead to homophobia, heteronormativity and determination of gender roles; cultural activities are mostly to uphold the beauty of such equality through art and make space for the LGBT community in the artistic world.
The political activism involves petitions and trials for new or modified laws and rules for the development and protection of the community.
The world has by now seen a long history of LGBT movements, or what is popularly called ‘lesbian and gay rights’ and ‘trans rights’ movements, but there lies ahead an even longer a road. Homosexuality and gender-queerness existed since the inception of human civilisation, but it was around late 19th-early 20th century that the word slowly began to take rounds in the so-called ‘rebellious’ societies of Europe and then in America, followed by other countries.
Here are some of the memorable LGBT movements that turned out to be turning points for the community.
- THE HOMOPHILE MOVEMENT (1945-69)
After the Second World War, a number of LGBT rights groups came into existence or were revived across the Western world, in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the United States. They preferred the term ‘homophile’ to homosexual, emphasising love over sex.
The Homophile movement began in the late 1940s with groups in the Netherlands and Denmark, and continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s. ONE, Inc., the first public homosexual organisation in the U.S was established during this time. The movement gave birth to many LGBT organisations in different countries, and made way to a gay pride march in 1962 in front of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which probably marks the beginning of the modern gay rights movements.
The Wolfenden Report, published in Britain on September 4, 1957 after publicised convictions for homosexuality of well-known men, eventually led to the introduction of Sexual Offences Bill 1967 that decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in England and Wales. Contrary to the conventional ideas of the day, the committee recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence”.
An important aspect of this time is the publication of The Ladder – the first nationally distributed lesbian magazine in the United States. It was published monthly from 1956 to 1970, and once every other month in 1971 and 1972. It was the primary publication and method of communication for the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organisation in the US. It was supported by ONE, Inc. and the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights group in US.
In 1963 Barbara Gittings (above right) took over editor’s responsibility and added the words “A Lesbian Review” under the title, thus giving it a political perspective and a stronger and honest voice.
- GAY LIBERATION MOVEMENT (1969-74)
The Gay Liberation Movement was probably inspired by the various social movements that spread across the globe in the sixties like Black Power, Anti-Vietnam and Women’s Liberation movements. It also attributes to the Stonewall Riots that took place in 1969, when the LGBT community got together to protest a police raid in a New York gay bar.
The Stonewall incident once again gave rise to any such activities for the community, including the first pride march and celebrations in New York in 1970, coordinated by bisexual activist Brenda Howard.
Considered as a part of this movement, in 1972, Sweden became the first country to allow sex-change surgeries and hormone replacement therapies, and permitted the age of consent for same-sex partners to be 15, making it equal to heterosexual couples.
Also, the American Psychiatric Association removed “homosexuality” from the diagnostics manual of mental illness in 1973.
- THE INDIAN LGBTQ MOVEMENT
In India, we can trace back the LGBTQ movement way back to 1999, when a small group of people gathered to walk the first gay pride march of the country. It was called the Friendship Walk and was held in Kolkata.
In 2001, Naz Foundation, an organization working for the LGBT community filed a petition seeking legalisation of gay sex among consenting adults. After several dismissals, finally in 2009, Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 which criminalises homosexual acts, but only for the decision to be reversed by the Supreme Court in 2013.
As of yet, the fight for decriminalising homosexuality and banning Section 377 is still going on and the Supreme Court is yet to pass any judgement on the review petition, but in 2014, transgenders were accepted legally as a third gender of the society and a socially backward community, thus entitled to certain benefits in education and employment. Recently, the Supreme Court has also declared that an individual’s sexuality is subject of personal choice and falls under right to privacy.
Though these have not yet been fully executed, there is a hope that they will soon.