I watch, in wonder, as I observe the male homosexual (gay) community, grappling with issues of longevity in defining identity, relationship and purpose. In the 50 years since the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, so beautifully illustrated by the BBC’s #GayBrittania series, the community appears still to be the ‘kid with the new toy’.
As I ponder these 50 years, longer than my own lifetime, I feel my frustration grow within me. Why, after 50 years, has the gay community not matured beyond a state of play?
Yet, whilst it’s 50 years since this Act decriminalised some behaviours, it has not been a period of plain sailing. The constructs generated by the establishment, church and state are still being challenged, with some battles won and other battles still left to be fought. Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, repealed in 2003 in England, being such an example. Thus reducing the 50 years of liberation to perhaps 18 years at best for those untouched by the discriminatory nature of section 28.
Surely, I wonder, this is still a significant period of time for the growth of maturity within the gay community? However, when I put this into context of the legal history, with the Buggery Act 1533 bringing into civil law the actions of the ecclesiastical courts; condemning homosexuality since the time of the Romans. 50 years is no more than a blink of an eye in the previous two millennia of decriminalisation, with 18 years hardly the start of the blink. Indeed, the tasks of debating and reconstructing the aspects of establishment, church and state remaining on the list. With identity, relationship and purpose still being explored in these contexts.
In reality, the gay community is just doing what it’s always done, only it’s more public now. Public in the sense of being a community and not of public humiliation, prosecution and shame. The community has just started to learn what it is, and how it can be, in place of (greater) acceptance. As with all communities, there will be those who live within the construct, and those who help to define this construct.
Let them play, I say, let them play. Lest they forget, however, what has been gained can, so easily, be lost, whilst the difficult battles remain.