The first social movements in the United States were rooted in the persecution of homosexuals. These groups were targeted by the church, medical authorities, and even the state. The attacks included sensational public trials, exile, medical warnings, and language from the pulpit. These persecutions alerted entire populations to the differences between gay men and lesbians. Despite the backlash, these movements gradually became mainstream and led to the creation of organizations devoted to the rights of gay men and lesbians.
The first such group was called Parents for Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). In 1972, Jeanne Manford, a lesbian, walked with her openly gay son Morty in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in New York. She had been angry when the police had failed to help her son two months earlier. This made Jeanne Manford one of the first openly gay parents in the United States. After speaking with other parents, she conceived of the idea of creating PFLAG. The organization had its first meeting in March 1973.
Though the term is somewhat outdated, it is still used today to describe people who are gay. This is because the word “gay” sounds innocuous but is used so deliberately to be pejorative and to imply that the person is unattractive to others. It was used as a euphemism in 1857 for prostitutes. A cartoon in Punch magazine depicts gay women.
As early as the seventh century BCE, Sappho penned lyrics about the desire to love one another. Even today, youths raised as the opposite sex live in Albania and Afghanistan. Eyewitness accounts of such practices gradually came to the Western world but these reports were flawed because of the Western observers’ biases. These accounts added to the misconceptions that homosexuality is a foreign practice and a sign of lower racial hierarchy.
Gay identities are also present in telenovelas in Chile, but these films did not name the character’s sexual orientation until 2001. Up until then, six male characters were suggested as gay but were otherwise ambiguous. Since then, these characters have been identified as gay. However, this does not mean that the majority culture has completely disregarded homosexuality.
The legal rights of homosexuals have been violated. While gay marriage has been legal in some states, there are still many laws that limit its recognition and enforcement. Most federal U.S. laws do not protect gay and lesbian individuals and thus allow discrimination in their daily lives. Some of these laws limit the freedom of movement and the right to marry.
Gays have suffered many injustices during the past few decades. The AIDS epidemic decimated the gay male population, but it also triggered renewed coalitions between men and women. Organizations such as the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and Queer Nation began generating a torrent of public anger. In 1987 and 1993, there were huge gay rights marches on Washington, attracting one million supporters. However, in the meantime, the right-wing religious movements began to grow and expand their numbers and influence. In Washington, they competed with the national LGBT organizations by seeking religious exemptions to the new LGBT protections.
Human rights advocates stress equality and the dignity of gays and lesbians. While the word “homosexual” is used to describe the sexual orientation of a person, most people do not express it outwardly. Many countries have laws against homosexuality and transgender people that criminalize same-sex relationships.
Various studies have documented the existence of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the European Union. The Roth Report details the existence of a range of discrimination. It also highlights the role of the European Parliament in the eradication of such discrimination. The European Parliament has significant political influence over the Commission and the Council. For instance, a 1999 resolution called for the Commission to raise the issue of discrimination against homosexuals in the EU’s membership negotiations.