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50th Anniversary of First Official UK Gay Pride Rally

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Authored by Nathaniel Andrews
Published on 5th July, 2022 2 min read

50th Anniversary of First Official UK Gay Pride Rally

A poster reading "We Are Nature's Children Too" being held at the Gay Pride March in 1974."We Are Nature's Children Too" - Gay Pride March, (1974)

This month marks fifty years since the first official UK Gay Pride rally, which took place in London on the 1st of July 1972. Now known as the annual ‘London Pride’ parade, this inaugural event was held as close as possible to the third anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising (a wave of protests that had occurred in June 1969, in response to the systemic police harassment of New York’s LGBTQ+ community). Initiated by the UK branch of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), the first Gay Pride rally in Britain formed an important landmark in the struggle for equality. 

Until 1967, homosexuality among men remained illegal throughout the country, and the Sexual Offences Act introduced that year only permitted ‘homosexual acts’ in private, between men over the age of 21 (in contrast, the age of consent for heterosexual couples was 16). All LGBTQ+ people continued to face abuse, harassment, and discrimination within British society, and they were vilified consistently in the media. On the day of the first UK Gay Pride rally, some 2,000 protestors marched through the capital in an act of defiance, affirming their right to public space. The courage of these demonstrators paved the way for annual Pride events across the country and, today, London Pride alone attracts over a million attendees each year (the turnout at Saturday’s march in London – the first since before the pandemic – is a clear testament to this).

Despite this, there is still a long way to go in the struggle for gay rights and against transphobia. Same-sex marriage has only been legal in the UK since 2014, and this did not mark the end of the struggle for equality. In fact, there has been a considerable rise in hate crimes committed against LGBTQ+ people in Britain over the past several years, especially trans people. At the same time, annual Pride events in the UK have increasingly drawn criticism from activists who reject what they consider to be the commercialisation and co-option of Pride, by both corporate sponsors and government. Instead, there are growing calls for a return to the event’s radical political roots, and an affirmation of Pride as not just a celebration, but a protest, too. In any case, it is more important than ever that both those within and outside the LGBTQ+ community stand together in pursuit of a fairer and more inclusive society. 

Authored by Nathaniel Andrews

Nathaniel Andrews

Nathaniel Andrews is Senior Editor at British Online Archives, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Between October 2018 and September 2021, he taught in the Schools of History and Languages at the University of Leeds, and between September 2021 and June 2022, he was a Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester. His research centres primarily on the history of anarchism in the Hispanic World and North America, and he has several publications on the Spanish and Argentinian labour movements. He is currently working on his first monograph.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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