Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner was one of the speakers at the (Pride Over Prejudice) POP Goes the Festival at Elsecar Heritage Centre on Saturday 25 February 2017.
Hosted by Barnsley LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Forum, the event marked the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 that decriminalised homosexuality.
The event provided a number of stalls with representatives from South Yorkshire Police and partner organisations and the event was a culmination of a month long celebration of the change in legislation.
Dr Billings said: “We should not forget how far we have come. I am old enough to remember what it was like before the 1967 act. The term ‘sexual orientation’ was unknown, ‘gay’ only had one meaning and homosexuality could lead to imprisonment. Many people lived in constant fear of having their sexuality discovered. We were socialised into rejecting anyone who did not fit a narrow norm of what sexuality must be.
“As a student I was shaken out of my complacency by seeing the film ‘Victim’ in 1962. Dirk Bogarde played the part of a successful barrister who, like many others at the time, struggled with his homosexuality and, as a result, was open to blackmail. It was a miserable existence. The young man he befriended hanged himself rather than reveal their secret.
“Since 1967 we have come a very long way – homosexuality has been decriminalised, we have learnt to speak about sexual orientation and come to recognise that matters of gender may not be as fixed as we once thought. We have civil partnerships and gay marriage, and we have made it illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexuality.
“The police recognise these changes: hate incidents are recorded and hate crimes prosecuted.
“I would put it this way. In fifty years we have come from a culture of prejudice and discrimination to a culture of greater understanding and tolerance. But we are only just at the threshold of a culture of genuine respect for people who may be different from ourselves.
“Changing the law is in many ways the easy bit. Changing attitudes is the more difficult. Changing the culture requires both.”