Most sources date the usage of ‘LGBT’ or ‘GLBT’ to the 1990s, with the plus (+) or further letters—added since 2000—used to express a spectrum of identities. Stonewall’s glossary expands upon the range of terms people use to self-identify. This replaces terms which have derogatory or medicalised connotations. The use of a unifying acronym for a range of identities has been described as a positive for rights mobilisation and visibility to policy makers. However, some have argued it has limitations in terms of self-identification and meaningfulness across cultures. It is often considered an evolving acronym, with different organisations and individuals choosing different variants. Gerard Koskovich, a curator at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco, describes to Ms magazine his perspective on the conversations around the acronym: “It’s not just a debate about an acronym or a set of terminology. That’s the proxy for discussion about social change, social power, respect, self respect, visibility—a variety of things that are absolutely essential to people’s ability to live in the world and feel that their experience and desire and sense of self is being honoured”.



The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 reduced the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16.


The Adoption and Children Act 2002 gave equal rights to same-sex couples applying for adoption.


Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was repealed by the Local Government Act 2003. Section 28 prevented local authorities from promoting lesbian and gay relationships.


The Civil Partnership Act 2004 gave same-sex couples entering civil partnerships legal rights previously only available for married couples.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allowed transgender adults to apply to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate, enabling their gender to be legally recognised.


The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 included provisions creating a new offence of inciting hatred against people by reference to sexual orientation.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 enabled same-sex couples to be recognised as the legal parents of children born as a result of assisted reproduction techniques.


The Equality Act 2010 established legal protections based on specific characteristics, including gender reassignment.


The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 enabled civil partnership ceremonies to take place in religious premises.


The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 included provisions enabling historic convictions or cautions for sexual offences between consenting adults under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 to be disregarded.


The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 enabled same-sex couples in England and Wales to be married. Similar legislation was passed in Scotland in 2014.


The Policing and Crime Act 2017 included ‘Turing’s Law’, provisions pardoning those convicted of now abolished sexual offences.

The Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Act 2017 repealed legislation allowing for the dismissal of a member of the crew of a merchant ship on the grounds of homosexual acts. Although such dismissal was illegal under subsequent legislation, including the Equality Act 2010, the provisions remained in statute.

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Cover image by Patrick Fore at Unsplash.