A timeline of LGBTQ+ history

A timeline of LGBTQ+ history

June is Pride month – a time when we celebrate LGBTQ+ communities around the world, recognise their history and achievements, and take pride in who we are. It’s the perfect time to look back at how far we’ve come in the journey towards equality – and raise awareness about issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community today. 


Pride is all about love and acceptance, and it’s usually celebrated with marches, parades and, of course, the rainbow flag. But it’s also important to remember that LGBTQ+ rights have been very hard won. 


So take a look at our timeline to find out more about the people who fought for LGBTQ+ rights, and the key dates and events that have increased awareness, understanding and equality in the last hundred years. 


1928: The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is published. For decades it remains the best-known lesbian novel in English. 


1951: Roberta Cowell becomes the first known British trans woman to undergo gender confirmation surgery and have her birth certificate changed. 


1952: Christine Jorgensen is the first American to speak about her experience of being transgender. 


1962: Illinois becomes the first US state to decriminalise homosexuality.


1967: In the UK, the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminialises private homosexual relationships between men over the age of 21. 


1969: In the US, police raid New York City’s Stonewall Inn. The ensuing riots mark the birth of the LGBTQ+ movement. 


1970: In the US, Brenda Howard (known as ‘The Mother of Pride’) organises the first Pride parade in New York on 27th June. 


1972: London’s first Pride parade attracts 2,000 participants. 


1977: In the US, Harvey Milk becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. 


1978: American artist Gilbert Baker designs Pride’s iconic rainbow flag. He refuses to trademark it, saying that it belongs to everyone. It is first flown on Gay Pride Day in San Francisco on 25th June. 


1981: In the US, professional tennis player and Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King is outed as a lesbian. She becomes the first openly gay athlete. 


1992: The World Health Organisation no longer classifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness. 


1997: Ellen Degeneres and her TV character Ellen Morgan come out, and Ellen becomes the first TV show to feature a gay or lesbian lead character. 


1999: Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is founded in the US, in memory of Rita Hesler, a transgender woman who was murdered in 1988. It takes place every year on 20th of November to memorialise those whose lives were lost to violence, and to increase visibility of the issues faced by the trans community. 


2000: The UK government lifts the ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces. 


2000: In the US, Vermont becomes the first state to recognise civil unions between same-sex couples. 


GoHenry Pride timeline


2001: In the UK, the age of consent for gay men is lowered to 16 (it was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1994), bringing it in line with the age of consent for straight people.


2002: In the UK, equal rights are granted to same-sex couples applying to adopt children. 


2003: Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations become law in the UK. It is now illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gay and bi people at work. 


2003: The US Supreme Court decriminalises homosexual relationships. 


2004: In the US, Massachusetts becomes the first state to legally recognise same-sex marriage.


2004: In the UK, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed, giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married straight couples. 


2004: The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed in the UK. This allows trans people to have a new birth certificate, giving legal confirmation of their gender. 


2007: In the UK, The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 legally protects people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. 


2008: In the UK, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 recognises same-sex couples as the legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. 


2009: In the US, President Obama signs the Matthew Shepard Act into law. This expands on existing hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s the first federal law to include legal protections for transgender people. 


2011: Ruth Davidson is elected to lead the Scottish Conservative Party. She is the first openly gay leader of any mainstream UK political party. 


2011: The US military lifts its ban on openly gay or lesbian service people. 


2012: In the UK, the Protection of Freedoms Act allows historic convictions relating to consensual homesexual relationships between men to be removed from criminal records. 


2012: Homophobic bullying in schools is introduced into Ofsted’s school inspection framework in the UK. 


2013: The US federally recognises same-sex marriges, and extends federal benefits to couples in states that allow same-sex marriage. On the same day, California becomes the 13th state where same-sex couples can marry. 


2014: In the UK, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes into force. The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales take place on 29th March. 


2015: The US Supreme Court legalises same-sex marriage in all 50 states. 


2015: Ireland votes to legalise same-sex marriges, and becomes the first country in the world to do so by a referendum. 


2015: In the UK, Prince William appears on the cover of gay magazine Attitude, and says that no one should be bullied as a result of their sexuality. 


2019: In the UK, a new PSHE curriculum is introduced in schools. Lessons must now include acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ rights and protect the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ children. 


2021: The US federal government now recognises a third gender option on passports and other identity documents.


2022: In the UK, Jake Daniels becomes first UK male footballer to come out as gay since 1990. 


2022: Trans actress Laverne Cox has Mattel’s first ever transgender Barbie doll made in her image. 



For more information and support on LGBTQ+ issues, our charity partner The NSPCC recommends the following resources:





Written by Ceri Roberts Published May 31, 2022 ● 5 min read