Christmas is a distant memory leaving behind only trails of half-eaten mince pies, an expanding waistline and another dreary trip to the loft to stuff the trimmings back in.
New Year’s Eve is now a hangover you would rather forget, the stench of apple Sourz still lingering on your breath, a vague recollection of a drunken sloppy (regretful) snog still haunting you and the ringing in our earlobes of “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?” (we sing it every year, and still, end up doing that classic mumbly thing during the verses as we forget the words once again). Yes 2017 has been well and truly left in the shadows and 2018 is here, may it bring success, courage and prosperity.
When I awoke on New Year’s Day all I saw was social media being inundated with statuses about how people are glad that 2017 is finally over and how 2018 is going to be so much better. I for one must disagree, I had a very splendid year. OK so Prince Harry choosing to marry Meghan Markle instead of me was a bit of a setback and I didn’t win the lottery so I am still currently in my overdraft begging for the end of dry January and payday to arrive, but apart from that, I had a pretty god damn good year. I wanted to cheer you all up and wash away those January blues by touching on some of the high points of 2017 for the LGBT community.
Cast your minds back to January 2017 whilst we were all worried about the extra Christmas pounds we had piled on in 2016 and the fact that we had thrown all our hard earned cash away at the Christmas bar, the UK government issued posthumous pardons for thousands of gay/bisexual men. Thousands of men convicted of offences that once criminalized homosexuality but are no longer on the statute book were posthumously pardoned under a new law. This meant that if you were prosecuted for gay activity which happened before 1967, your criminal record was wiped clean.
In April 2017 just in time for the Easter bunny bringing you some sweet treats. The Children and Social Work Bill returned to the House of Lords and it was passed. Soon it will become mandatory to teach about same-sex relationships and sex education. This will be implemented in all schools in England and Wales from 2019.
In June there was a victory in the Supreme Court as it was decided that the discrimination against same-sex couples on pension’s rights needed to end immediately. The law had previously only required pension providers to pay out on contributions made since 2005 when same-sex couples were first able to form a Civil Partnership, rather than when individuals started contributing to their pension in many cases this was decades ago. This means that people in same-sex marriages and partnerships were entitled to much less if one of the partners died.This was a very different story to married opposite-sex couples. This was clearly unfair and discriminatory, the change is something that Stonewall have been campaigning towards for many years. Now the supreme court has ruled that the UK was in breach of the EU equality laws and that same-sex couples should immediately benefit from equal protection.
In July just as we were all worried about our summer bodies and slipping into our budgie smugglers for a day at the beach. The law was changed regarding the blood and organs donation from gay men. Gay men will now be allowed to give blood three months after having sex. The rule is in line with improved NHS testing measures, which can establish whether someone has a blood infection such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or syphilis within that time period. Previously Fears over infections through blood donations from gay men led to an outright ban during the AIDS epidemic, but in 2011 the law shifted, allowing us to donate if we abstained from sex for a year. I for one will not be donating blood on principal. I go by the moto if it wasn’t good enough for you before then you’re not having it now. However, if someone I love (ie family or friends) really need a transfusion then they can bleed me dry like a vampire bleeds a virgin.
2017 was a phenomenal year. Not only did it mark the 50 year anniversary of when the law was changed which allowed two men to be in a relationship together without the fear of being arrested, it also marked 50 years of change, 50 years of sanity and 50 years of freedom. Let’s hope that 2018 can only bring more change, more equality and realisation of the good old phrase that starting all those years ago “Were here, we’re queer so get used to it”
Words by Lee Mears