The BBC is celebrating the decriminalisation of “homosexuality” 50 years after the relevant law was repealed with a series of programmes entitled “Gay Britannia” which is fair enough. It’s certainly worth celebrating.
But there is one strange fact that you will not often hear mentioned: The trailers for Gay Britannia don’t mention it, and you have to look hard at Wikipedia articles to find it. And that is the fact that same-sex relationships between women have never been illegal in the UK.
This is of course a good thing. And neither is it any kind of accusation that lesbian couples had it easy – there would have been plenty of persecutions both large and small.
But it is also worth remembering that it was homosexual men who were executed, imprisoned, and chemically castrated.
In addition there is an interesting point made during the trial of James Pratt and John Smith (the last two men executed for being gay) – that the poor suffered disproportionately because the rich could afford privacy. We don’t tend to think of it today, but in the past it was only the rich who could afford privacy.