International day against homophobia and transphobia (IDAHO) is held annually on the 17 May. It commemorates the World Health Organisation’s decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.
To mark the day, Out@UCL asked the university’s Chair of Council and LGBT Equality Champion, Sir Stephen Wall, to give an informal talk about his past experiences.
Stephen opened the discussion by describing how he denied his sexuality to himself for 20 years. It then took him another 20 years to do something about what he called the “cork in the bottle”. Two years ago, he came out to his family.
Stephen began his career working for the Foreign Office where you simply weren’t allowed to be gay. This wasn’t the only inequality. Women had to resign once married and, incredibly, men had to ask for permission to marry!
The format of the event itself was intended as a brief talk by Stephen followed by discussion with the attendees. All of the participants were very open about their own experiences and views. One person commented that when he was a teenager the only gay person he knew of was Boy George – not really the ideal role model!