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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) social movements is a political ideology and social movement that advocate for the equalized acceptance of LGBT people in society. In these movements, LGBT people and their allies have a long history of campaigning for what is now generally called LGBT rights, sometimes also called gay rights or gay and lesbian rights. Although there is not a primary or an overarching central organization that represents all LGBT people and their interests, numerous LGBT rights organizations are active worldwide.
A commonly stated goal among these movements is social equality for LGBT people. Some have also focused on building LGBT communities or worked towards liberation for the broader society from biphobia, homophobia, and transphobia. LGBT movements organized today are made up of a wide range of political activism and cultural activity, including lobbying, street marches, social groups, media, art, and research.
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Sociologist Mary Bernstein writes: "For the lesbian and gay movement, then, cultural goals include (but are not limited to) challenging dominant constructions of masculinity and femininity, homophobia, and the primacy of the gendered heterosexual nuclear family (heteronormativity). Political goals include changing laws and policies in order to gain new rights, benefits, and protections from harm." Bernstein emphasizes that activists seek both types of goals in both the civil and political spheres.
As with other social movements there is also conflict within and between LGBT movements, especially about strategies for change and debates over exactly who comprises the constituency that these movements represent. There is debate over to what extent lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people, intersexed people and others share common interests and a need to work together. Leaders of the lesbian and gay movement of the 1970s, 80s and 90s often attempted to hide masculine lesbians, feminine gay men, transgender people, and bisexuals from the public eye, creating internal divisions within LGBT communities.
LGBT movements have often adopted a kind of identity politics that sees gay, bisexual and/or transgender people as a fixed class of people; a minority group or groups. Those using this approach aspire to liberal political goals of freedom and equal opportunity, and aim to join the political mainstream on the same level as other groups in society. In arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity are innate and cannot be consciously changed, attempts to change gay, lesbian and bisexual people into heterosexuals ("conversion therapy") are generally opposed by the LGBT community. Such attempts are often based in religious beliefs that perceive gay, lesbian and bisexual activity as immoral.
However, others within LGBT movements have criticised identity politics as limited and flawed, elements of the queer movement have argued that the categories of gay and lesbian are restrictive, and attempted to deconstruct those categories, which are seen to "reinforce rather than challenge a cultural system that will always mark the nonheterosexual as inferior."
After the French Revolution the anticlerical feeling in Catholic countries coupled with the liberalizing effect of the Napoleonic Code made it possible to sweep away sodomy laws. However, in Protestant countries, where the church was less severe, there was no general reaction against statutes that were religious in origin. As a result, many of those countries retained their statutes on sodomy until late in the 20th century.
In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, same-sex sexual behaviour and cross-dressing were widely considered to be socially unacceptable, and were serious crimes under sodomy and sumptuary laws. There were, however, some exceptions. For example, in the 17th century cross dressing was common in plays, as evident in the content of many of William Shakespeare's plays and by the actors in actual performance (since female roles in Elizabethan theater were always performed by males, usually prepubescent boys).
Thomas Cannon wrote what may be the earliest published defense of homosexuality in English, Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplify'd (1749). Although only fragments of his work have survived, it was a humorous anthology of homosexual advocacy, written with an obvious enthusiasm for its subject. It contains the argument: "Unnatural Desire is a Contradiction in Terms; downright Nonsense. Desire is an amatory Impulse of the inmost human Parts: Are not they, however constructed, and consequently impelling, Nature?"
Social reformer Jeremy Bentham wrote the first known argument for homosexual law reform in England around 1785, at a time when the legal penalty for buggery was death by hanging. His advocacy stemmed from his utilitarian philosophy, in which the morality of an action is determined by the net consequence of that action on human well-being. He argued that homosexuality was a victimless crime, and therefore not deserving of social approbation or criminal charges. He regarded popular negative attitudes against homosexuality as an irrational prejudice, fanned and perpetuated by religious teachings. However, he did not publicize his views as he feared reprisal; his powerful essay was not published until 1978.
The emerging currents of secular humanist thought which had inspired Bentham also informed the French Revolution, and when the newly formed National Constituent Assembly began drafting the policies and laws of the new republic in 1792, groups of militant "sodomite-citizens" in Paris petitioned the Assemblée nationale, the governing body of the French Revolution, for freedom and recognition. In 1791, France became the first nation to decriminalize homosexuality, probably thanks in part to Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, who was one of the authors of the Napoleonic code. Under Napoleonic influence, the Duchy of Warsaw decriminalized
In 1830, the new Penal Code of the Brazilian Empire did not repeat the title XIII of the fifth book of the "Ordenações Philipinas", which made sodomy a crime.
In 1833, an anonymous English-language writer wrote a poetic defense of Captain Nicholas Nicholls, who had been sentenced to death in London for sodomy:
Three years later in Switzerland, Heinrich Hoessli published the first volume of Eros: Die Männerliebe der Griechen (English: "Eros: The Male Love of the Greeks"), another defence of same-sex love.
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In many ways, social attitudes to homosexuality became more hostile during the late Victorian era. In 1885 the Labouchere Amendment was included in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which criminalized 'any act of gross indecency with an other male person'; a charge that was successfully invoked to convict playwright Oscar Wilde in 1895 with the most severe sentence possible under the Act.
From the 1870s, social reformers began to defend homosexuality, but due to the controversial nature of their advocacy, kept their identities secret. A secret British society called the "Order of Chaeronea" campaigned for the legalisation of homosexuality, and counted playwright Oscar Wilde among its members in the last decades of the 19th century. Ives met Oscar Wilde at the Authors' Club in London in 1892. Oscar Wilde was taken by his boyish looks and persuaded him to shave off his moustache, and once kissed him passionately in the Travellers' Club. The society was founded by George Cecil Ives, one of the earliest gay rights campaigners, who had been working for the end of the oppression of homosexuals, what he called the "Cause". In 1893, Lord Alfred Douglas, with whom he had a brief affair, introduced Ives to several Oxford poets whom Ives also tried to recruit. In 1897, Ives created and founded the first homosexual rights group, the Order of Chaeronea. Members included Charles Kains Jackson, Samuel Elsworth Cottam, Montague Summers, and John Gambril Nicholson.
John Addington Symonds was a poet and an early advocate of male love. In 1873, he wrote A Problem in Greek Ethics, a work of what would later be called "gay history." Although the Oxford English Dictionary credits the medical writer C.G. Chaddock for introducing "homosexual" into the English language in 1892, Symonds had already used the word in A Problem in Greek Ethics.
Symonds also translated classical poetry on homoerotic themes, and wrote poems drawing on ancient Greek imagery and language such as Eudiades, which has been called "the most famous of his homoerotic poems". While the taboos of Victorian England prevented Symonds from speaking openly about homosexuality, his works published for a general audience contained strong implications and some of the first direct references to male-male sexual love in English literature. By the end of his life, Symonds' homosexuality had become an open secret in Victorian literary and cultural circles. In particular, Symonds' memoirs, written over a four-year period, from 1889 to 1893, form the earliest known self-conscious homosexual autobiography.
Another friend of Ives was the English socialist poet Edward Carpenter. Carpenter thought that homosexuality was an innate and natural human characteristic and that it should not be regarded as a sin or a criminal offence. In the 1890s, Carpenter began a concerted effort to campaign against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, possibly in response to the recent death of Symonds, whom he viewed as his campaigning inspiration. His 1908 book on the subject, The Intermediate Sex, would become a foundational text of the LGBT movements of the 20th century. Scottish anarchist John Henry Mackay also wrote in defense of same-sex love and androgyny.
English sexologist Havelock Ellis wrote the first objective scientific study of homosexuality in 1897, in which he treated it as a neutral sexual condition. Called Sexual Inversion it was first printed in German and then translated into English a year later. In the book, Ellis argued that same-sex relationships could not be characterized as a pathology or a crime and that its importance rose above the arbitrary restrictions imposed by society. He also studied what he called 'inter-generational relationships' and that these also broke societal taboos on age difference in sexual relationships. The book was so controversial at the time that one bookseller was charged in court for holding copies of the work. It is claimed that Ellis coined the term 'homosexual', but in fact he disliked the word due to its conflation of Greek and Latin.
These early proponents of LGBT rights, such as Carpenter, were often aligned with a broader socio-political movement know as 'free love'; a critique of Victorian sexual morality and the traditional institutions of family and marriage that were seen to enslave women. Some advocates of free love in the early 20th century, including Russian anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman, also spoke in defence of same-sex love and challenged repressive legislation.
An early LGBT movement also began in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, centering around the doctor and writer Magnus Hirschfeld. In 1897 he formed the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee to campaign publicly against the notorious law "Paragraph 175," which made sex between men illegal. Adolf Brand later broke away from the group, disagreeing with Hirschfeld's medical view of the "intermediate sex," seeing male-male sex as merely an aspect of manly virility and male social bonding. Brand was the first to use "outing" as a political strategy, claiming that German Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow engaged in homosexual activity.
The 1901 book Sind es Frauen? Roman über das dritte Geschlecht (English: Are These Women? Novel about the Third Sex) by Aimée Duc was as much a political treatise as a novel, criticising pathological theories of homosexuality and gender inversion in women. Anna Rüling, delivering a public speech in 1904 at the request of Hirschfeld, became the first female Uranian activist. Rüling, who also saw "men, women, and homosexuals" as three distinct genders, called for an alliance between the women's and sexual reform movements, but this speech is her only known contribution to the cause. Women only began to join the previously male-dominated sexual reform movement around 1910 when the German government tried to expand Paragraph 175 to outlaw sex between women. Heterosexual feminist leader Helene Stöcker became a prominent figure in the movement. Friedrich Radszuweit published LGBT literature and magazines in Berlin (e.g., Die Freundin).
Hirschfeld, whose life was dedicated to social progress for people who were transsexual, transvestite and homosexual, formed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexology) in 1919. The institute conducted an enormous amount of research, saw thousands of transgender and homosexual clients at consultations, and championed a broad range of sexual reforms including sex education, contraception and women's rights. However, the gains made in Germany would soon be drastically reversed with the rise of Nazism, and the institute and its library were destroyed in 1933. The Swiss journal Der Kreis was the only part of the movement to continue through the Nazi era.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 decriminalised homosexuality and recognised same-sex marriage. This was a remarkable step in Russia at the time – which was very backward economically and socially, and where many conservative attitudes towards sexuality prevailed. This step was part of a larger project of freeing sexual relationships and expanding women's rights – including legalising abortion, granting divorce on demand, equal rights for women, and attempts to socialise house-work. With the era of Stalin, however, Russia reverted all these progressive measures – re-criminalising homosexuality and imprisoning gay men and banning abortion.
In 1928, English writer Radclyffe Hall published a novel titled The Well of Loneliness. Its plot centers around Stephen Gordon, a woman who identifies herself as an invert after reading Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, and lives within the homosexual subculture of Paris. The novel included a foreword by Havelock Ellis and was intended to be a call for tolerance for inverts by publicizing their disadvantages and accidents of being born inverted. Hall subscribed to Ellis and Krafft-Ebing's theories and rejected Freud's theory that same-sex attraction was caused by childhood trauma and was curable.
In the United States, several secret or semi-secret groups were formed explicitly to advance the rights of homosexuals as early as the turn of the 20th century, but little is known about them. A better documented group is Henry Gerber's Society for Human Rights formed in Chicago in 1924, which was quickly suppressed.
Immediately following World War II, a number of homosexual rights groups came into being or were revived across the Western world, in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the United States. These groups usually preferred the term homophile to homosexual, emphasizing love over sex. The homophile movement began in the late 1940s with groups in the Netherlands and Denmark, and continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s with groups in Sweden, Norway, the United States, France, Britain and elsewhere. ONE, Inc., the first public homosexual organization in the U.S, was bankrolled by the wealthy transsexual man Reed Erickson. A U.S. transgender rights journal, Transvestia: The Journal of the American Society for Equality in Dress, also published two issues in 1952.
The homophile movement lobbied to establish a prominent influence in political systems of social acceptability. Radicals of the 1970s would later disparage the homophile groups for being assimilationist. Any demonstrations were orderly and polite. By 1969, there were dozens of homophile organizations and publications in the U.S, and a national organization had been formed, but they were largely ignored by the media. A 1962 gay march held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, according to some historians, marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Meanwhile in San Francisco, the LGBT youth organization Vanguard was formed by Adrian Ravarour to demonstrate for equality, and Vanguard members protested for equal rights during the months of April–July 1966, followed by the August 1966 Compton's riot, where transgender street prostitutes in the poor neighborhood of Tenderloin rioted against police harassment at a popular all-night restaurant, Gene Compton's Cafeteria.
The Wolfenden Report was published in Britain on 4 September 1957 after publicized convictions for homosexuality of well-known men, including Lord Montagu. Disregarding the conventional ideas of the day, the committee recommended that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence". All but James Adair were in favour of this and, contrary to some medical and psychiatric witnesses' evidence at that time, found that "homosexuality cannot legitimately be regarded as a disease, because in many cases it is the only symptom and is compatible with full mental health in other respects." The report added, "The law's function is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others ... It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour."
The report eventually led to the introduction of the Sexual Offences Bill 1967 supported by Labour MP Roy Jenkins, then the Labour Home Secretary. When passed, The Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in England and Wales.
Bisexual activism became more visible toward the end of the 1960s in the United States. In 1966 bisexual activist Robert A. Martin (aka Donny the Punk) founded the Student Homophile League at Columbia University and New York University. In 1967 Columbia University officially recognized this group, thus making them the first college in the United States to officially recognize a gay student group. Activism on behalf of bisexuals in particular also began to grow, especially in San Francisco. One of the earliest organizations for bisexuals, the Sexual Freedom League in San Francisco, was facilitated by Margo Rila and Frank Esposito beginning in 1967. Two years later, during a staff meeting at a San Francisco mental health facility serving LGBT people, nurse Maggi Rubenstein came out as bisexual. Due to this, bisexuals began to be included in the facility's programs for the first time.
The new social movements of the sixties, such as the Black Power and anti-Vietnam war movements in the US, the May 1968 insurrection in France, and Women's Liberation throughout the Western world, inspired some LGBT activists to become more radical, and the Gay Liberation movement emerged towards the end of the decade. This new radicalism is often attributed to the Stonewall riots of 1969, when a group of transsexuals, lesbians, drag queens, and gay male patrons at a bar in New York resisted a police raid.
Immediately after Stonewall, such groups as the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Gay Activists' Alliance (GAA) were formed. Their use of the word gay represented a new unapologetic defiance—as an antonym for straight ("respectable sexual behaviour"), it encompassed a range of non-normative sexualities and gender expressions, including transgender street prostitutes, and sought ultimately to free the bisexual potential in everyone, rendering obsolete the categories of homosexual and heterosexual. According to Gay Lib writer Toby Marotta, "their Gay political outlooks were not homophile but liberationist". "Out, loud and proud," they engaged in colourful street theatre. The GLF’s "A Gay Manifesto" set out the aims for the fledgling gay liberation movement, and influential intellectual Paul Goodman published “The Politics of Being Queer” (1969). Chapters of the GLF were established across the U.S. and in other parts of the Western world. The Front Homosexuel d'Action Révolutionnaire was formed in 1971 by lesbians who split from the Mouvement Homophile de France.
Bisexual activist Brenda Howard is known as the "Mother of Pride" for her work in coordinating the first LGBT pride march; the march eventually occurred in New York in 1970. Howard also originated the idea for a week-long series of events around Pride Day which became the genesis of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world every June. Additionally, Howard along with bisexual activist Robert A. Martin (aka Donny the Punk) and L. Craig Schoonmaker are credited with popularizing the word "Pride" to describe these festivities. As bisexual activist Tom Limoncelli put it, "The next time someone asks you why LGBT Pride marches exist or why [LGBT] Pride Month is June tell them 'A bisexual woman named Brenda Howard thought it should be.'"
One of the values of the movement was gay pride. Within weeks of the Stonewall Riots, Craig Rodwell, proprietor of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in lower Manhattan, persuaded the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) to replace the Fourth of July Annual Reminder at Independence Hall in Philadelphia with a first commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. Liberation groups, including the Gay Liberation Front, Queens, the Gay Activists Alliance, Radicalesbians, and Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR) all took part in the first Gay Pride Week. Los Angeles held a big parade on the first Gay Pride Day. Smaller demonstrations were held in San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.
In the United Kingdom the GLF had its first meeting in the basement of the London School of Economics on 13 October 1970. Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter had seen the effect of the GLF in the United States and created a parallel movement based on revolutionary politics and alternative lifestyle.
By 1971, the UK GLF was recognized as a political movement in the national press, holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people. The GLF Manifesto was published, and a series of high-profile direct actions, were carried out.
The disruption of the opening of the 1971 Festival of Light was the best organised of GLF action. The Festival of Light, whose leading figures included Mary Whitehouse, met at Methodist Central Hall. Groups of GLF members in drag invaded and spontaneously kissed each other; others released mice, sounded horns, and unveiled banners, and a contingent dressed as workmen obtained access to the basement and shut off the lights.
By 1974, internal disagreements had led to the movement's splintering. Organizations that spun off from the movement included the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Gay News, and Icebreakers. The GLF Information Service continued for a few further years providing gay related resources. GLF branches had been set up in some provincial British towns (e.g., Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, and Leicester) and some survived for a few years longer. The Leicester group founded by Jeff Martin was noted for its involvement in the setting up of the local "Gayline", which is still active today and has received funding from the National Lottery. They also carried out a high profile campaign against the local paper, the Leicester Mercury, which refused to advertise Gayline's services at the time.
From 1970 activists protested the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and in 1974 it was replaced with a category of "sexual orientation disturbance" then "ego-dystonic homosexuality," which was also deleted, although "gender identity disorder" remains.
In 1972, Sweden became the first country in the world to allow people who were transsexual by legislation to surgically change their sex and provide free hormone replacement therapy. Sweden also permitted the age of consent for same-sex partners to be at age 15, making it equal to heterosexual couples.
Bisexuals became more visible in the LGBT rights movement in the 1970s. In 1972 a Quaker group, the Committee of Friends on Bisexuality, issued the “Ithaca Statement on Bisexuality” supporting bisexuals.
The Statement, which may have been "the first public declaration of the bisexual movement" and "was certainly the first statement on bisexuality issued by an American religious assembly," appeared in the Quaker Friends Journal and The Advocate in 1972.
From the anarchist Gay Liberation movement of the early 1970s arose a more reformist and single-issue Gay Rights movement, which portrayed gays and lesbians as a minority group and used the language of civil rights—in many respects continuing the work of the homophile period. In Berlin, for example, the radical Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin was eclipsed by the Allgemeine Homosexuelle Arbeitsgemeinschaft.
Gay and lesbian rights advocates argued that one’s sexual orientation does not reflect on one’s gender; that is, “you can be a man and desire a man... without any implications for your gender identity as a man,” and the same is true if you are a woman. Gays and lesbians were presented as identical to heterosexuals in all ways but private sexual practices, and butch "bar dykes" and flamboyant "street queens" were seen as negative stereotypes of lesbians and gays. Veteran activists such as Sylvia Rivera and Beth Elliot were sidelined or expelled because they were transgender.
In 1975, the groundbreaking film portraying homosexual gay icon Quentin Crisp's life, The Naked Civil Servant was transmitted by Thames Television for the British Television channel ITV. The British journal Gay Left also began publication. After British Home Stores sacked an openly gay trainee Tony Whitehead, a national campaign subsequently picketed their stores in protest.
In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors becoming the first openly gay man in the United States elected to public office. Milk was assassinated by a former city supervisor Dan White in 1978.
In 1977, a former Miss America contestant and orange juice spokesperson, Anita Bryant, began a campaign "Save Our Children," in Dade County, Florida (greater Miami), which proved to be a major set-back in the Gay Liberation movement. Essentially, she established an organization which put forth an amendment to the laws of the county which resulted in the firing of many public school teachers on the suspicion that they were homosexual.
In 1979, a number of people in Sweden called in sick with a case of being homosexual, in protest of homosexuality being classified as an illness. This was followed by an activist occupation of the main office of the National Board of Health and Welfare. Within a few months, Sweden became the first country in the world to remove homosexuality as an illness.
Lesbian feminism, which was most influential from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, encouraged women to direct their energies toward other women rather than men, and advocated lesbianism as the logical result of feminism. As with Gay Liberation, this understanding of the lesbian potential in all women was at odds with the minority-rights framework of the Gay Rights movement. Many women of the Gay Liberation movement felt frustrated at the domination of the movement by men and formed separate organisations; some who felt gender differences between men and women could not be resolved developed "lesbian separatism," influenced by writings such as Jill Johnston's 1973 book Lesbian Nation. Disagreements between different political philosophies were, at times, extremely heated, and became known as the lesbian sex wars, clashing in particular over views on sadomasochism, prostitution and transsexuality. The term "gay" came to be more strongly associated with homosexual males.
In Canada, the coming into effect of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1985 saw a shift in the gay rights movement in Canada, as Canadian gays and lesbians moved from liberation to litigious strategies. Premised on Charter protections and on the notion of the immutability of homosexuality, judicial rulings rapidly advanced rights, including those that compelled the Canadian government to legalize same-sex marriage. It has been argued that while this strategy was extremely effective in advancing the safety, dignity and equality of Canadian homosexuals, its emphasis of sameness came at the expense of difference and may have undermined opportunities for more meaningful change.
Mark Segal, often referred to as the dean of American gay journalism, disrupted the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite in 1973, an event covered in newspapers across the country and viewed by 60% of American households, many seeing or hearing about homosexuality for the first time.
Some historians posit that a new era of the gay rights movement began in the 1980s with the emergence of AIDS, which decimated the leadership and shifted the focus for many. This era saw a resurgence of militancy with direct action groups like AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), formed in 1987, as well as its offshoots Queer Nation (1990) and the Lesbian Avengers (1992). Some younger activists, seeing gay and lesbian as increasingly normative and politically conservative, began using queer as a defiant statement of all sexual minorities and gender variant people—just as the earlier liberationists had done with gay. Less confrontational terms that attempt to reunite the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people also became prominent, including various acronyms like LGBT, LGBTQ, and LGBTI, where the Q and I stand for queer or questioning and intersex, respectively.
On June 24, 1994, first Gay Pride march was performed in Asia in the Philippines. In the Middle East, LGBT organizations remain illegal, and LGBT rights activists face extreme opposition from the state. The 1990s also saw the emergence of many LGBT youth movements and organizations such as LGBT youth centers, gay-straight alliances in high schools, and youth-specific activism, such as the National Day of Silence. Colleges also became places of LGBT activism and support for activists and LGBT people in general, with many colleges opening LGBT centers.
The 1990s also saw a rapid push of the transgender movement, while at the same time a "sidelining of the identity of those who are transsexual." In the English-speaking world, Leslie Feinberg published Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come—The Story of Ben Wells in 1992. In 1993 Cheryl Chase founded the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA). Gender-variant peoples across the globe also formed minority rights movements. Hijra activists campaigned for recognition as a third sex in India and Travesti groups began to organize against police brutality across Latin America while activists in the United States formed direct-confrontation groups such as the Transexual Menace.
The Netherlands was the first country to allow same-sex marriage in 2001. As of 2014, same-sex marriages are also recognized in Sweden, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Uruguay, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Mexico, and Israel (though not performed there), along with twenty five states in the United States: Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Delaware, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana and Colorado as well as the District of Columbia. During this same period, some municipalities have been enacting laws against homosexuality. E.g., Rhea County, Tennessee unsuccessfully tried to "ban homosexuals" in 2006.
In 2003, in the case Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down sodomy laws in fourteen states, making consensual homosexual sex legal in all 50 states, a significant step forward in LGBT activism and one that had been fought for by activists since the inception of modern LGBT social movements.
From 6 to 9 November 2006, The Yogyakarta Principles on application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity was adopted by an international meeting of 29 specialists, the International Commission of Jurists and the International Service for Human Rights. The UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2008.
Iceland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a unanimous vote: 49-0, on 11 June 2010. A month later, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.
The "Don't ask, don't tell" 1993 law forbidding homosexual people from serving openly in the United States military, was repealed in 2010. This meant that gays and lesbians could now serve openly in the military without any fear of being discharged because of their sexual orientation. In 2012, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued a regulation to prohibit discrimination in federally-assisted housing programs. The new regulations ensure that the Department's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In early 2014 a series of protests organized by Add The Words, Idaho and former state senator Nicole LeFavour, some including civil disobedience and concomitant arrests, took place in Boise, Idaho which advocated adding the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's Human Rights act.
LGBT movements are opposed by a variety of individuals and organizations. They may have a personal, moral, political or religious objection to gay rights, homosexual relations or gay people. Opponents say same-sex relationships are not marriages, that legalization of same-sex marriage will open the door for the legalization of polygamy, that it is unnatural and that it encourages unhealthy behavior. Some social conservatives believe that all sexual relationships with people other than an opposite-sex spouse undermines the traditional family and that children should be reared in homes with both a father and a mother. Since society has become more accepting of homosexuality, there has been the emergence of many groups that desire to end homosexuality; during the 1990s, one of the best known groups that was established with this goal is the ex-gay movement.
Some people worry that gay rights may conflict with individuals' freedom of speech, religious freedoms in the workplace, and the ability to run churches, charitable organizations and other religious organizations that hold opposing social and cultural views to LGBT rights. There is also concern that religious organizations might be forced to accept and perform same-sex marriages or risk losing their tax-exempt status.
Eric Rofes author of the book, A Radical Rethinking of Sexuality and Schooling: Status Quo or Status Queer?, argues that the inclusion of teachings on homosexuality in public schools will play an important role in transforming public ideas about lesbian and gay individuals. As a former teacher in the public school system, Rofes recounts how he was fired from his teaching position after making the decision to come out as gay. As a result of the stigma that he faced as a gay teacher he emphasizes the necessity of the public to take radical approaches to making significant changes in public attitudes about homosexuality. According to Rofes, radical approaches are grounded in the belief that "something fundamental needs to be transformed for authentic and sweeping changes to occur."The radical approaches proposed by Rofes have been met with strong opposition from anti-gay rights activists such as John Briggs. Former California senator, John Briggs proposed Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would require that all California state public schools fire any gay or lesbian teachers or counselors, along with any faculty that displayed support for gay rights in an effort to prevent what he believe to be " the corruption of the children's minds". The exclusion of homosexuality from the sexual education curriculum, in addition to the absence of sexual counseling programs in public schools, has resulted in increased feelings of isolation and alienation for gay and lesbian students who desire to have gay counseling programs that will help them come to terms with their sexual orientation. Eric Rofes founder of youth homosexual programs, such as Out There and Committee for Gay Youth, stresses the importance of having support programs that help youth learn to identify with their sexual orientation.
David Campos, author of the book, Sex, Youth, and Sex Education: A Reference Handbook, illuminates the argument proposed by proponents of sexual education programs in public schools. Many gay rights supporters argue that teachings about the diverse sexual orientations that exist outside of heterosexuality are pertinent to creating students that are well informed about the world around them. However, Campos also acknowledges that the sex education curriculum alone cannot teach youth about factors associated with sexual orientation but instead he suggests that schools implement policies that create safe school learning environments and foster support for gay and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. It is his belief that schools that provide unbiased, factual information about sexual orientation, along with supportive counseling programs for these homosexual youth will transform the way society treats homosexuality. Many opponents of LGBT social movements have attributed their indifference toward homosexuality as being a result of the immoral values that it may instill in children who are exposed to homosexual individuals. In opposition to this claim, many proponents of increased education about homosexuality suggest that educators should refrain from teaching about sexuality in schools entirely. In her book entitled "Gay and Lesbian Movement," Margaret Cruickshank provides statistical data from the Harris and Yankelovich polls which confirmed that over 80% of American adults believe that students should be educated about sexuality within their public school. In addition, the poll also found that 75% of parents believe that homosexuality and abortion should be included in the curriculum as well. An assessment conducted on California public school systems discovered that only 2% of all parents actually disproved of their child being taught about sexuality in school.
It had been suggested that education has a positive impact on support for same sex marriage. African Americans statistically have lower rates of educational achievement, however, the education level of African Americans does not have as much significance on their attitude towards same-sex marriage as it does on white attitudes. Educational attainment among whites has a significant positive effect on support for same-sex marriage, whereas the direct effect of education among African Americans is less significant. The income levels of whites have a direct and positive correlation with support for same-sex marriage, but African American income level is not significantly associated with attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
Location also affects ideas towards same-sex marriage; residents of rural and southern areas are significantly more opposed to same-sex marriage in comparison to residents elsewhere. Women are consistently more supportive than men of LGBT rights, and individuals that are divorced or have never married are also more likely to grant marital rights to same-sex couples than married or widowed individuals. Also, white women are significantly more supportive than white men, but there are no gender discrepancies among African Americans. The year in which one was born is a strong indicator of attitude towards same-sex marriage—generations born after 1946 are considerably more supportive of same-sex marriage than older generations. Statistics show that African Americans are more opposed to same-sex marriage than any other ethnicity.
Studies show that Non-Protestants are much more likely to support same-sex unions than Protestants; 63% of African Americans claim that they are Baptist or Protestant, whereas only 30% of white Americans are. Religion, as measured by individuals’ religious affiliations, behaviors, and beliefs, has a lot of influence in structuring same-sex union attitudes and consistently influences opinions about homosexuality. The most liberal attitudes are generally reflected by Jews, liberal Protestants, and people who are not affiliated with religion. This is because many of their religious traditions have not “systematically condemned homosexual behaviors” in recent years. Moderate and tolerant attitudes are generally reflected by Catholics and moderate Protestants. And lastly, the most conservative views are held by Evangelical Protestants. Moreover, it is a tendency for one to be less tolerant of homosexuality if their social network is strongly tied to a religious congregation. Organized religion, especially Protestant and Baptist affiliations, espouse conservative views which traditionally denounce same-sex unions. Therefore, these congregations are more likely to hear messages of this nature. Polls have also indicated that the amount and level of personal contact that individuals have with homosexual individuals and traditional morality affects attitudes of same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
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