Today marks the 30th birthday of Stonewall, the charity for gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
Named after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village, it is now the largest LGBT rights organisation not only in the UK but in Europe.
One of its founders, Lord Michael Cashman, was an actor before becoming a Lord and was one half of a UK soap’s first gay kiss.
Writing for Sky News, he reflects on the past 30 years and how LGBT rights have evolved.
The year 1988 feels like a different time, it was before mobile phones and faxes were still fashionable. In 1988, I caused uproar by kissing two men on EastEnders, much to my delight.
1988 was also the year that Section 28 became law on 24 May.
For those of you who don’t remember, Section 28 was the first anti-LGBT law in 100 years.
The law stated that no local authority would be able to intentionally promote homosexuality, nor would any school be able to teach the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.
Many of us fought hard in the initial campaign against Section 28.
There were the lesbians who famously abseiled into the House of Lords, those who chained themselves to the BBC news team, and the tens of thousands who took to the streets across the country to protest the law.
While it was a spectacular fight, we didn’t win the war.
Over the next year, Sir Ian McKellen, Lisa Powers, Jennie Wilson, myself and 10 others spent many evenings together trying to work out what we could do because we knew the damage this policy would inflict.
So exactly one year to the day of the introduction of Section 28, we stood on the deck of Ian’s house on the Thames and announced the founding of Stonewall. This was now 30 years ago today.
Back then it was a very different time for LGBT people and one that feels a world away for many of us.
You could be fired from your job for being LGBT, you wouldn’t be able to serve openly in the military, marry a same-sex partner or adopt a child.
Stonewall, alongside other activists and grassroots organisations, spent the last 30 years fighting for change to make a huge difference in the lives of LGBT people here and abroad.
But fast forward to today, and it should come as no surprise that our work is not yet done.
Hate crimes against LGBT people is on the rise, the struggle for marriage equality in Northern Ireland goes on and international LGBT rights are under threat of going backwards.
What’s perhaps most alarming to me as a co-founder of Stonewall is that we’ve seen divisive debates about the morality of LGBT-inclusive education that are almost identical to what was said back when Section 28 was first introduced. These debates haven’t sprung up out of thin air.
For two years, there’s been a relentless, bitter debate about trans people’s existence. This has laid the groundwork for the situation we’re in now.
History has taught us that when you question one group’s rights you expose the rights of everyone to be questioned and even limited.
We must never be complacent. It is only by standing together as a diverse community that we can ensure change for those whom equality is not yet won and protect the rights and freedoms we have already fought so hard for.
We owe this fight to the generations yet to come, but also to the generations who fought before us, who gave their freedoms, their liberty, and in some cases, their lives so that we may carry the torch to make the world better for LGBT people everywhere.