LGBT rights topic is one of the most controversial topics throughout history. Many people have different opinions on that topic. Homosexuality existed as far back as ancient times with many evidences which suggest that most ancient dynasties were accepting homosexuality and in fact embracing it in many cases. In Ancient Egypt many pictures and curvatures were found that showed two men kissing or being affectionate. According to Parkinson, Smith, and Carocci (2013: 39), Egyptians recognized the existence of homosexuality desires especially on the carvings of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep in the Old Kingdom tomb. In the carvings, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were illustrated as embracing and exchanging homosexual kiss. The illustration is controversial since it does not clearly depict whether the same-sex intimacy was a sexual desire expression or not. Such an illustration raises questions and ideas. For instance, the illustration is a physical evidence that homosexuality was indeed around for a long time and is a natural phenomenon contrary to what many thought at that time or still think up until today. Secondly, the illustration raises questions on the extent of social acknowledgement of same-sex couples at the time. Many people have different interpretations or opinions on that topic and how much rights they should receive. Getting married is a basic human right which many people enjoy but not the LGBT community. Dasgupta and Luis (2008: 112-123) note that the LGBT community have been unable to marry lawfully prior to the LGBT laws that were enacted globally in 2000s. Netherlands was the first country to enact laws on same-sex marriages which was enacted in 1st November 2001 (Moynihan, Smeeding, and Rainwater, 2004: 88). Perhaps due to the fact that the majority members of society were always against the arrangements for no plausible reason. Marriage equality is not always defined or pegged on what the majority in the society take as acceptable. For Marriage Equality to be achieved in real terms, the different sexual orientations would be allowed to make their choices freely irrespective of their majority or minority statuses in the society. People have to call for these basic human rights and march in protest and do various other things in order to ask for their right. The LGBT community has gone a long route during these years to come closer to their goal as much as possible. In the 19th century, activists such as Jeremy Bentham and Karl Heinrich Ulrichs led the early LGBT movements against an imperialized world (Blasius and Phelan, 1997: 15-63). The 20th century, especially the 1990s, saw a wave of LGBT movements globally. LGBT movements were led by groups such as Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists’ Alliance in the US and Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire in France (Blasius and Phelan, 1997: 85). They were able to achieve scientific and cultural acceptance, decriminalizing homosexuality, protection from any discrimination and in some countries such as Netherlands and Germany allowed same sex unions. In the 2000s, most LGBT laws were passed in countries such as Brazil, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, USA, Ireland, and Mexico (Smith and Haider-Markel, 2002: 87).
Success for The LGBT community was to achieve marriage equality and gain all the rights that heterosexual people have. The LGBT has also gained acceptance. They were able to achieve scientific and cultural acceptance, decriminalizing homosexuality, protection from any discrimination and in some countries allowing same sex unions. Unfortunately, though they weren’t able to legalize same sex marriage at that time but they were very close to making it a reality.
In Europe homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness and the European LGBT community’s first goal was that they wanted the World Health Organization to declassify homosexuality from the list of mental diseases. At the end of the 1940s was a very hard time for the world just coming out of the Second World War. This was especially a harder time for Europe that has just suffered many losses during World War II after the Nazis and other dictator leaders that were leading many European countries during the interwar years up until the Second World War. Being a member of the LGBT community at that time in Europe was not socially and culturally accepted. People were still very narrow minded when it came to this topic. Reading and Tamar (2015: 1-31) acknowledge that during this time, the LGBT community had to lay low and allow for a continuation of abuses to their rights as a result of the political situation that existed. The LGBT population in Europe was heavily persecuted in Europe at the time of the Nazis. Their first goal was to inform people that this is normal and gain acceptance from society that this is indeed natural and normal. The LGBT community started creating organizations in order to advocate for their rights
In many European societies many members of the LGBT community were forced into “conversion therapy” which was proved to be ineffective and that it destroys a human’s mental health completely often ending with suicide or self-harm of some kind. Many sexologists like Alfred Kinsey were starting to research and prove that being gay was indeed natural and was not at all a mental illness or a disease “Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual… only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into pigeonholes.” Kinsey et al. (2003: 894). This quote shows that it is indeed natural to be homosexual and humans create categories in order to justify their prejudices against certain people. According to Kinsey (2003: 894), prejudices against The LGBT community were happening widely throughout Europe at the time. Therefore, the fact that a faction of the community terms an action or behavior as a vice does not necessarily mean that is the case- there may be bias to approach of issues that members of the community may make either conscious or unconsciously.
It is considered inappropriate for any person to term any member of the LGBT community as suffering from a mental disorder. The only difference between homosexuals and straights is that; there are more straights than there are homosexuals. In the year 1956 in the UK, The Wolfendum Committee (an organization protecting LGBT rights that was established a few years before that) suggested that homosexuality should no longer be considered a “mental condition” and that it is completely normal. This issued report was agreed supported by the British Medical Association and the association thought that the government should support this idea and change the law when it comes to this matter. In 1972 in Sweden many people started the “Homosexual Flu protest”. This was an effort done by many people that they would usually call sick from work, schools, universities etc. because they got the “homosexual flu” this was done in order to pressure the Swedish Health Authority to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. These series of protests were successful in Sweden because later that same year “The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare” removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses becoming the first European country to do so.
Sweden’s action on LGBT was a surprise to many other European countries since homosexual had previously been considered as a serious crime. Around that time, majority of the European LGBT population were unjustly sent to concentration camps and were left there to suffer and that will eventually lead to their slow death. After the end of the Second World War many LGBT were desperate and wanted to start the fight in order to get their rights back. an organization named “Center for Culture and Leisure” in Amsterdam was used in the struggle for equal treatment of The LGBT This was a cover name for it as gay rights were not still widely accepted throughout Europe and the Netherlands so in order for them to keep it low-key they have used a cover name for its real purposes. The organization’s goals were to promote gay rights including equal opportunities of education, decriminalization of being LGBT, give support to LGBT youth in need and most importantly give the LGBT youth activities so that they do not feel different or alienated and that they also get the chance to socialize and perform various arts activities. This organization worked heavily towards getting acceptance in the Netherlands and then further on making it more widespread throughout Europe. It also gave them a chance to meet with the rest of their community so that they become more united. The organization eventually wanted to advocate for equal marriage rights starting with the Netherlands but then making it widespread abroad. This organization was the first LGBT organization in the world.
The formation of organizations (though secretive in their agenda at the start) symbolizes the start of the long journey that is the fight towards equal rights for the LGBT community in Europe. It further means that some members of the society had decided to come out and fight against a historic injustice. As expected, the fight was not going to be easy-there were many setbacks along the way. However, the end results are there to speak for themselves today. The fact that people can freely talk and write about homosexuality and get audience speaks volumes about the achievement of the struggle. Courtesy of the push to have The LGBT community accorded equal rights as others, the society is more informed about the biological influences to sexual orientation and are now embracing the resultant diversity in people.
In 1933, Denmark has decriminalized same sex sexual activity at a time when Europe was at its peak of homophobia and LGBT imprisonments and punishments were happening. In 1944 Sweden had decriminalized same sex sexual activity. Shortly after that an LGBT rights organization was established in Denmark. Then this slowly started to grow throughout Europe. Those LGBT groups in Europe often liked to be referred to as “homophiles” instead of “homosexuals” emphasizing that their organizations and the rights they are fighting for the love they have towards each other and not just a sexual feeling they have towards each other. The emphasis of a shift from the term “homophiles” to “homosexuals” is seen as an attempt to present the matter to members of the community in a different light. The connotative effect of the term “homophile” was detrimental and thus made dents on the character of homosexuals. According to this organizations, there was need to give a new name to “homophiles” that would not suggest evilness as haters of The LGBT community would want. For the LGBT community to earn respect an acceptance from other members of society, there is need to give themselves a worthy identity. In 1980 a while after that a first time thing happens in the UK. Sex between mature men over the age of twenty one was decriminalized in Scotland in Northern UK. At that time more and more marches were starting through most European capitals most were peaceful and were not violent but there were some cases when violence happened from opposition or from the government. This was sometimes problematic as it created a huge clash between people. Such clashes can be taken as the ripple effects that results from the continued campaign from The LGBT community for equal rights that had in turn appealed to a good many of people in the society. In addition, the clashes signal that more people were slowly subscribing to the idea of allowing for equality of all sexual orientations a continued push from members and representatives of the LGBT community earned them an audience and slowly, things they were agitating for were put into consideration. In 1958 the “Homosexual Law Reform” was founded in the UK to advocate for same sex relationships and then eventually for marriage and this officially marked the first step in the big journey towards marriage equality in the UK. From there it took them lots of effort and time in order to come as close to their dream as possible. They started organizing marches which are the pride events as we know them today. The first pride to ever take place in London was in 1972 and it took place in the bustling Trafalgar Square in Central London where they were visible and seen to all the British society. The next year the British LGBT rights organization has its first conference in Morecambe, Lancashire. That was a very big step ahead in LGBT rights in the UK because for the first time ever they were allowed to openly discuss LGBT issues and granting the LGBT people equal rights. That was also very controversial as a lot of the people in the British Society were still very religious and also very conservative therefore, they were not really accepting of the LGBT community and they thought they should not have an organization that promotes their equal rights or even for them to be seen publicly because they were considered a taboo. Going by the fact that the church holds LGBT as sin, the campaign would definitely meet incredible opposition before finally being considered as worthy. Nowhere in the bible are issues of LGBT treated with respect as the dominant sexual orientation. Thus, to a very large extend, Christianity too as a religion has been unfair to the LGBT community, to them, any acts of love or feeling for any person not of the opposite sex is sin, period.
The problem that the marginalized community faces is as large as there exist the number of staunch Christians in the world. For as much as people will seek to consult the bible on matters it is against and never care to consider a rational argument about the issue, their view will always remain the same. There is need for members of the church to venture out of their comfort zones and critically study the case in question. This is not saying that there is a stalemate in the process, no, just that there needs to be readiness from members of the community to embrace open-mindedness. Members of communities enjoying huge support in terms of numbers should climb down from their high places and reach out to the oppressed, lend them audience and see if they agree with their views. The church should open up a conversation with issues being expressed rather than take sides without deliberating upon the real issues involved. Today, there are churches in Europe who have come out to support homosexuality and are very open about their stand. The response from other non-supportive churches has been condemning and damning towards churches that have found reason in the quest to allow the LGBT community equal rights. However, it makes them (other churches) curious to understand why some churches make such drastic decisions and in the process, they too become exposed to the truth. The process of embracing the LGBT community is gradual and will take time to materialize. For the British society at that time the LGBT community was seen as unnatural and “disease” like. They thought that these people must stay low key and seek help and treatment in order for them to become normal again.
In 1989 another major milestone happened in the history of LGBT rights in Europe (Eskridge and Darren, 2006: 5). Denmark was the first country in Europe and worldwide to introduce registered partnerships for same sex couples. For various reasons, it was the gay and lesbian movements in Scandinavia that first succeeded in introducing the idea of a legal regulation of same-sex relationships in the general in the general political debate, but it was far from self-evident that marriage was what the gay and lesbian movement wanted. That was the first step towards getting closer to marriage equality because same sex relationship unions were now legal and that means that two people of the same gender can now legally have a joint relationship and have something official to tie them together. However, the LGBT community was aiming for much more as success for them meant having equal marriage rights. It stayed the only country in Europe allowing same sex unions for quite a while up to the 1990s when other Nordic countries started following Denmark’s footsteps. Norway introduced registered partnerships in 1993 followed by Sweden shortly after in 1995. Those countries were the ones that advanced most in LGBT rights from the 1950s to the 1990s. Denmark demonstrates that it is societies that set interpretations for a range of issues in society.
By going ahead to openly express their own interpretation of sexuality, they succeeded in sparking a debate among other like-minded communities who in turn followed in their footsteps. Denmark’s case opens up the world into freedom of choice where emphasis on individual preferences as opposed to forcing things on people. Going forward, lives have been saved as well as rights being upheld. Person who live in countries that have legalized their sexual orientation live freely and express their feeling openly without having to fear for anything. A peaceful life for such people translates to stress-free lives and thus drastic reduction of cases of suicide and psychological challenges that stem from stress caused by unfair restriction to freedom of expressing one’s feelings.
The LGBT community has gone a long way during these years to come closer to their goal as much as possible and in Europe they have in fact gone a long way during those years. They were able to achieve scientific and cultural acceptance, decriminalizing homosexuality, protection from any discrimination and in some countries allowing same sex unions. Unfortunately, though they weren’t able to legalize same sex marriage at that time but they were very close to making it a reality. Overall the LGBT community in Europe has achieved many things from the 1950s and the 1990s unfortunately though they were unable to achieve marriage equality but they were very close to making that a dream a reality because they were going in the right direction of establishing that. The future was definitely better for the LGBT community with many countries respecting their rights and their status as human beings that are not any different from anyone else. This journey was getting more to being “pride” unlike the “shame” it was when it first started in the 1950s or even much way before that date.
- Blasius, Mark, and Shane Phelan. We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook Of Gay And Lesbian Politics. 1st ed., New York, Routledge, 1997.
- Dasgupta, Nilanjana, and Luis M. Rivera. “When social context matters: The influence of long–term contact and short–term exposure to admired outgroup members on implicit attitudes and behavioral intentions.” Social Cognition 26.1 (2008): 112-123.
- Eskridge, William N, and Darren R. Spedale. Gay Marriage: For Better or for Worse? : What We’ve Learned from the Evidence. Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 2006.
- Kinsey, Alfred C. et al. “Sexual Behavior in The Human Male.” American Journal Of Public Health, vol 93, no. 6, 2003, pp. 894-898. American Public Health Association, doi:10.2105/ajph.93.6.894.
- Moynihan, Daniel P, Timothy M. Smeeding, and Lee Rainwater. The Future of the Family. New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 2004.
- Parkinson, R B, Kate Smith, and Max Carocci. A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World. New York, Columbia University Press, 2013.
- Reading, Anna, and Tamar Katriel. “Introduction.” Cultural Memories of Nonviolent Struggles. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015. 1-31.
- Smith, Raymond A, and Donald P. Haider-Markel. Gay and Lesbian Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif., ABC-Clio, 2002.