Remember when it was illegal for two men to have sex, even in the privacy of their homes? Unfortunately, it wasn't that long ago that laws criminalizing sex between people of the same gender existed.
In fact, Thursday, July 27, marks only 50 years since the U.K. amended anti-gay laws in the country in 1967. Men who were young during the years before the change spoke out in a new video about what it was like to live at a time when they could be arrested simply for being gay.
The video is a clip from a longer docu-drama coming out on BBC Two tomorrow, July 26, and features men like 89-year-old Roger Locklear.
“Being gay was a very tricky business. It was frowned upon by society, it was punishable by imprisonment," Locklear says in the video. "In the case of homosexuals, they had public opinion and the law distinctly against them. So the whole climate was opposed to the building of relationships. In fact I think many gay people half believed — because they were told so often — that if you were gay you couldn’t have a relationship.”
Other men also spoke out in the clip about how knowing that their desires were against the law made them feel that they weren't worthy of love.
“[Being gay] was a no-no, so I had to be on my own, so I’ve been used to it since childhood, being a loner," one man said. "Never enjoyed it I can tell you. It was awful. But that’s the way it is.”
This is just a moment from the longer documentary/fictional drama mashup coming to BBC Two tomorrow. The full story, Against The Law, is based on a memoir of the same name by real-life gay journalist Peter Whiteblood (played by Daniel Mays), who was tried and convicted of committing homosexual acts in Britain in 1954.
The docu-drama interweaves testimonies from men such as Locklear, who speak about having to keep their sex lives private for fear of being imprisoned and/or treated with chemical aversion therapy to change their sexuality, according to BBC Two. A former police officer who enforced these laws and a psychiatric nurse who treated gay men were also interviewed.
The idea that gay sex should be illegal seems antiquated, so it's a surprise to realize that men who lived in fear from these laws are still alive, and that they were changed in the U.K. just 50 years ago.
Still, Britain has a leg up on the U.S., which was using sodomy laws to specifically attack gay people into the 1970s, and only fully decriminalized sodomy laws about 14 years ago. If we wanted to celebrate 50 years of officially making gay legal here, we'd have to wait until 2053.
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