In this article
LGBTQ+ stands for
- Lesbian: A female homosexual who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to another female.
- Gay: A term that is most often referred to in the context of homosexual males but can refer to females as well.
- Bisexual: A romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour towards both males and females.
- Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex that they were assigned at birth.
- Questioning: A reference to some individuals who are questioning of their gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation or all three of these.
- The ‘+’ aspect of the LGBTQ+ abbreviation is an all-encompassing representation of sexual orientations and gender identities.
Section 28 legislation
Section 28 of the Local Government Act was enacted in May 1988. It aimed to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher defending it by stating that “children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life. Yes, cheated”.
The legislation and Thatcher’s personal comments about it brought outrage and there were mass protests by LGBTQ+ campaigners. Three protestors abseiled from the public gallery of the House of Lords to the chamber, and others stormed the BBC, handcuffing themselves to a TV camera, disrupting the broadcast of the Six O’Clock News.
The legislation was seen as a disturbing step backwards for tolerance and inclusivity after great strides had been made since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1960s. It was said to stigmatise anyone within the LGBTQ+ community but, at the same time, served to galvanise them into action against to ensure that such attacks on the community would not be allowed to happen again.
Eventually the law was repealed in 2000 in Scotland with the rest of the UK following in 2003. In 2009 Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the legislation, declaring it to have been ‘a mistake’, and in 2018 Baroness Knight who had been largely responsible for introducing the legislation said she was sorry if the law had hurt anyone and that its intention had been for the well-being of children.
The Human Rights Act 1998
Human rights within the United Kingdom are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998, which means that if an individual believes that their human rights have been breached, they can take action against this in a court of law.
Examples of rights that are contained within the Act, known as ‘Articles’ are:
- The right to freedom from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
- The right to liberty and security.
- The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
- The right to freedom of expression.
- The right of access to an education.
All LGBTQ individuals are covered by the Human Rights Act, setting out a range of entitlements that are applicable within the UK.
For example, the Act enables LGBTQ individuals to:
- Start a family.
- Serve in the military.
- Access healthcare.
- Get married.
It is also widely accepted that the Human Rights Act 1998 was the foundation of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, enabling transequality, and that in the UK, anyone who identifies as being LGBTQ cannot be discriminated against or persecuted because of their gender and/or sexual identity.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004
This Act enables transgender individuals to have their preferred gender legally recognised. It gives the individual an opportunity to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) which is the document that is issued showing that an individual has met the criteria for legal recognition of their acquired (preferred) gender.
In order to receive a GRC an individual must satisfy four criteria:
- They must have been living permanently in their preferred gender for at least two years.
- They have been under medical supervision and assessed as having gender dysphoria now or in the past.
- They are currently unmarried.
- They are able to declare that they intend to live permanently in their new gender role for the remainder of their life.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004
This Act enables same-sex couples to register a civil partnership, which has almost the same legal rights and obligations as marriage does for mixed-sex couples – it was an Act that came into force before same-sex couples could legally marry, which did not happen until nine years later.
Legally, it is not a marriage but a separate system, but the differences between a civil partnership and a marriage are not thought to be legally relevant.
Interestingly, although this Act was passed with the intention of enabling same-sex couples to be in a legal relationship without being married, the Act now applies to mixed-sex couples who want to be in a relationship that is acknowledged as legally binding but without being formally married.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
Among other stipulations, this Act recognises same-sex couples as the legal parents of children who are conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. These stipulations enable, for example, the same-sex partner of a woman who carries a child via IVF to be recognised as the child’s legal parent.
Prior to this Act, the ‘need for a father’ had been used by some fertility clinics to refuse treatment to female same-sex couples and single women. Now, fertility clinics must account for the child’s needs for ‘supportive parenting’ as part of their considerations around the welfare of the child.
The Equality Act 2010
This Act came into force and replaced many previous Acts with the aim of making the rights of individuals easier to understand.
Acts that it replaced include:
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 & 2005.
- The Equal Pay Act 1970.
- The Race Relations Act 1976.
- The Equality Act 2006.
- The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect people or groups of people who have one or more ‘protected characteristics’. These protected characteristics are features of people’s lives upon which discrimination, in the UK, is now illegal.
The protected characteristics listed in the Act are:
3. Sexual orientation
5. Gender reassignment
6. Marriage and civil partnership
7. Pregnancy and maternity
9. Religion and belief.
This means that equal and fair treatment to everyone must be applied in a variety of aspects of everyday life including work, leisure and health and social care.
It stipulates the following with regards to how individuals should be treated equally and fairly:
- Every individual has the right to be treated equally and fairly and not be discriminated against regardless of any ‘protected characteristics’.
- Every individual has the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
- Health services have a duty to ensure that services are fair and meet the needs of everyone, regardless of their background or current circumstances.
In specific relation to LGBTQ, the Equality Act 2010 maintains that sexual orientation discrimination is illegal. This applies when someone is treated differently (usually negatively) due to their sexual orientation. This could be a one-off incident or be an ongoing set of incidents, which may be deliberate or unintentional.
The Equality Act 2010 maintains therefore that an individual cannot be discriminated against because:
- They are heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.
- Someone thinks that an individual has a particular sexual orientation (discrimination by perception).
- They are connected to someone who has a particular sexual orientation (discrimination by association).
In the Equality Act, sexual orientation includes how an individual chooses to express their sexual orientation, for example by their appearance or the places that they choose to visit.
There are four main kinds of sexual orientation discrimination that may take place:
- Direct discrimination – Where an individual is treated worse than another person because of their sexual orientation.
- Indirect discrimination – Where a policy or decision puts someone at a disadvantage because of their sexual orientation.
- Harassment – Where an individual is treated in a way that makes them feel humiliated, offended or degraded.
- Victimisation – Where an individual is treated badly because they have made a complaint of sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013
This Act extends marriage to same-sex couples in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legislation on marriage.)
The Act enables the following:
- Same-sex couples to be married in accordance with civil marriage laws.
- Same-sex couples to be married in register offices and approved premises such as hotels.
- Civil partnerships still to be recognised when same-sex couples marry – the partnership can be converted into a marriage if this is what the couple wishes.
It is, however, still illegal for same-sex couples to be married in places of worship unless these have been registered for that purpose with the consent of the religious organisation’s governing authority.
Actions by schools and colleges
In 2019, the government announced new regulations for teaching Relationships and Sex Education in England. This means that the school curriculum will not reflect the full diversity of the world in which children and young people live.
This includes teaching about LGBTQ individuals and themes. It ensures that LGBTQ children and young people and those who grow up in LGBTQ families see themselves reflected in the content of what they are learning. It enables children and young people to grow up with more inclusive and accepting attitudes. This became compulsory in all settings from September 2020.
As well as extending the curriculum in this way, the government also announced that it intends to carry on with its work tackling bullying against LGBTQ young people in schools and colleges and that educational settings would get good guidance about how to support LGBTQ pupils as well as how to support LGBTQ teachers. The government also pledges to ensure that proper support is available to pupils who have experienced hate crimes and harassment because of their sexual identity.
Schools and colleges should have policies in place in relation to the rights of LGBTQ pupils and how these will be upheld within their settings. The aims of the policy and how the aims will be met should be clear to pupils and parents and there should be appropriate resources available within the setting that relate to LGBTQ awareness.
Language and terminology related to LGBTQ+
Other language and terminology is vast and it would be impossible to cover all terms here. However, some of the most commonly used terms in respect of LGBTQ+ are outlined in the table below:
|Cisgender (CIS)||An individual whose gender identity is the same as it was at birth.|
|Coming out||When an individual first tells one or more people about their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity.|
|Deadnaming||Calling someone by their birth name after they have changed their name such as when someone transitions to the opposite sex.|
|Gender||An expression of masculinity or femininity; gender is assumed from the sex of an individual, i.e. that men will be masculine and that women will be feminine.|
|Gender identity||An individual’s sense of their own gender, whether masculine or feminine (or something else) which may or may not correspond to their sex assignment at birth.|
|Homophobia||The fear or dislike of someone who is homosexual based on negative attitudes or beliefs about this group.|
|Intersex||A term that describes an individual who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with society’s expectations about what is male or female.|
|Non-binary||An umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity does not sit with being a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.|
|Pansexual||An individual whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.|
|Sexual orientation||An individual’s sexual attraction (or lack thereof) to other people.|
|Transphobia||The fear or dislike of someone who is transsexual based on negative attitudes or beliefs about this group.|
|Transvestite||An individual who dresses as the opposite gender.|
The latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal:
- The proportion of the UK population aged 16 years and over identifying as heterosexual or straight decreased from 95.3% in 2014 to 94.6% in 2018.
- The proportion identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) increased from 1.6% in 2014 to 2.2% in 2018.
- In 2018, there were an estimated 1.2 million people aged 16 years and over identifying as LGB.
- Men (2.5%) were more likely to identify as LGB than women (2.0%) in 2018.
- Younger people (aged 16 to 24 years) were most likely to identify as LGB in 2018 (4.4%).
- Among English regions, people in London were most likely to identify as LGB (2.8%), with people in the North East the least likely (1.8%).
- More than two-thirds (68.7%) of people who identified as LGB were single (never married or in a civil partnership).