A Century of Firsts For LGBT+ Activism


Whilst many monumental events have occurred in the LGBT+ movement prior to the 21st century, such as France being the first Western European country to decriminalise homosexual acts and the first gay pride march in US history happening in 1970, the movement has vastly progressed in the current era.

Beginning strongly, the UK finally equalised the age of consent regardless of sexual orientation in 2001 and in that same year in The Netherlands, Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus become the first two women to get legally married.  In 2004, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon become the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the US. Simultaneously in the US, Julie Anne Peters became the first author to publish a young adult book, ‘Luna’ with a strong transgender character.

Another monumental event of the 2000s occurred in Turkey in 2003, where the first ever gay pride in a Muslim-majority country occurred in Istanbul. Then in 2009 a Michigan based transgender activist Rachel Crandall, reacting to the lack of LGBT+ representation in federal holidays, declared that the 31st of March would be the “International Transgender Day of Visibility”.

Istanbul LGBT pride parade in 2013 / Credit: Lubunya [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Governmental bodies were also proved to be progressing, as can be seen by the election of the first openly gay head of state, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was elected as the Icelandic Prime Minister in 2009. This was quite a monumental occasion and since then only four other world leaders have been gay: Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium in 2011; Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxemburg in 2013; Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland in 2017; Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia in 2017.

Nonetheless, the 2010s also proved to be a great decade for the LGBT+ movement, commencing with Russia’s first ever legal gay pride parade in St. Petersburg in 2010. Moreover, 2011 proved to be widely successful politically when Fred Karger, despite being unsuccessful in becoming the Republican nominee for the presidential elections in 2012, achieved the honour of becoming the first openly gay Republican presidential candidate.

Across the globe, South Africa submitted in 2011 a resolution requesting a study on discrimination and sexual orientation to the UN Human Rights Council. This resolution triumphantly passed 23 to 19, marking the first time that any United Nations body approved such a resolution affirming the rights of LGBT+ people in 2011. This success was then carried off into 2012, with Barack Obama becoming the first US president to publicly announce support for same-sex marriage.

Krista Siegfrids in Eurovision Semi-Finals 2013 / Credit: Albin Olsson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Moreover, some great strides were made culturally, particularly in Europe where Krista Siegfrids who sang “Marry Me” in Eurovision 2013 ended her semi-final performance by kissing one of her female dancers; a first for the European singing competition. This spirit of embracing LGBT+ values was carried over to the UK where in 2013, Rehana Kausar and Sobia Kamar, both from Pakistan, became the first Muslim lesbian couple to enter a civil partnership in the UK.

The 2010s’ then faced leaping developments in 2014, when Mauricio Ruiz became the first serving member of the Chilean army to announce he was gay, while Zakhele Mbhele became the first gay black Member of Parliament in any African nation, and the world’s first lesbian cemetery was established in Berlin. The decade then reached its peak in 2015 when Malta became the first country to outlaw sterilisation and invasive surgery on intersex people, and the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage, spurring world-wide celebrations for many weeks.

While the LGBT+ community may be plagued by much discrimination, the world is now moving onto a more progressive and embracing era. While there are many battles still left to be won, undoubtedly the community have achieved many great accomplishments and surely there are many more to come over the following decades.


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