Battles won can be quickly forgotten.
One thing we have learned through the process of creating our exhibition is that LGBT history is often not passed to the next generation. Younger members of the choir were sometimes unaware of much of the work for LGBT equality in the last 30 years.
Groups like the Pink Singers that bring together people from several generations are an important force in ensuring that the history of the community is remembered and that the rights which have been won are not taken for granted and lost. All it takes is one government to introduce a single piece of legislation – like Section 28 – to undo years of work.
This photo shows choir members learning how to set up the kit for one of the oral history interviews we carried out for the exhibition.
2000: Age of Consent equalised
The journey to legal equality has involved the dedication of lots of people.
Many campaign groups have been set up over the years pulling people from all stages, ages and walks of life. From the Gay Liberation Front to Stonewall and OutRage!, hundreds of thousands of people have played their part in changing society and winning rights such as an equal age of consent.
This has involved actions of all kinds: radical publicity stunts like storming BBC news studios, individual public acts like doctoring this Lloyd’s Bank advert, or doggedly writing letter after letter to politicians, journalists and opinion-formers. The Pink Singers’ contributions to the equal age of consent campaign included recording backing vocals on Bronski Beat’s album, the Age of Consent. It made it into the Top 40!
2003: Out at work
Rights in the workplace do not have the glamour of single issue campaigns like the age of consent, but are vital to everyday wellbeing.
Thanks to the zappily-titled ‘Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003’, LGBT people had, for the first time, legal protection against discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation. This was reinforced in the 2010 Equality Act.
2004: the first civil partnerships
Originally LGBT civil rights campaigns broadly focused on gaining recognition of difference, now they are often focused on gaining recognition of similarity.
The Civil Partnership Act was passed under the Labour Government in November 2004, giving people in same-sex relationships the right to the same legal recognition as those in heterosexual relationships. This fell short of allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples, but nevertheless was a great step forward. This photo is from the CP of two our members, Cass and Cat.
Some think that a different type of recognition is required for a different type of relationship and are not interested in pursuing ‘equal marriage’. For others, the right to marry signals acceptance. In any case, this debate – and, many would say, the whole LGBT rights movement – is significantly less socially radical than it was 30 years ago.
2004: Gender Recognition Act
Although the trans community has often struggled for visibility, recent legislation moves towards improving rights.
The 2004 Gender Recognition Act established a procedure to enable transsexuals to change the sex on their birth certificates. Provided they could get the agreement of two psychiatrists (that they had Gender Dysphoria), an individual could apply to a panel for a Gender Recognition Certificate.
The GRA was one of the reasons why civil partnerships were introduced in 2004. If you were a married transsexual, you had to have your marriage dissolved before you could change your birth certificate (otherwise you would be in a same sex marriage). To counteract accusations of ‘splitting up happy couples’, the government decided it should be possible for the couple to have a civil partnership within hours of their divorce. Hence the GRA was passed just before the Civil Partnership Act.
2013: Equal Marriage
The community politicises individuals; individuals politicise the community.
The choir was founded at a time of heightened political awareness. This focus has shifted until we might generally be described as a choir first, LGBT organisation second. However where there are issues which individuals feel strongly about, the group has followed. One of our members prepared a group submission for the equal marriage consultation following a choir debate.
In July 2013, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed. The Pink Singers were invited to perform at a celebratory reception at 10 Downing Street.