Information and concerns for gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual travelers in the U.K.
Much of the U.K. (and Europe) has grown to accept same-sex couples over the past few decades.
As you might expect, smaller towns tend to be less accepting than cities—and there are small-minded idiots everywhere.
To be on the safe side, do a bit of research on the city or area you're planning to visit.
What are the gay-friendliest places in Britain?
The centers of U.K. gay culture tend to be, as you'd expect, the big cities, including the three capitals
- London - Everywhere, though Soho and Vauxhall are the nightlife centers.
- Edinburgh - The “Pink Triangle” is at the north end of Leith Street and Broughton Street.
- Cardiff - Though, no, Anglo-American hottie John Barrowman and his sexually adventurous Torchwood crew don't actually work in a secret facility under Roald Dahl Plass. You want the bars around Churchill Way and the Cardiff Cathedral.
- Manchester - The original, British version of Queer As Folk took place here, and Canal Street remains the gay hub in town.
- Brighton - The famed seaside resort also hosts a fabulous Gay Pride parade.
- Birmingham - Head to Hurst Street.
Is homosexuality legal in Britain?
Between 1967 and 2003, homosexual sexual acts went through a slow, torturous process to be declared to be legal and on an equal footing with opposite-sex sexual acts. (It took a while for the age of consent for "buggery" to be lowered from 21 to 18 to 16, so as to be commensurate with the legal age of consent for opposite-sex couplings.)
(Interestingly, lesbian acts were never outlawed—not that they weren't often punished anyway—but in 2001 were expressly written into the appropriate laws as allowed so as to remove any legal confusion.)
Again, the age of consent in Britain is 16.
What is the legal standing of the transgender in Great Britain?
British transgender people have been able since 2005 to have their chosen gender recognized under the law—though they do have to jump through some hoops (including waiting at least two years after they transition to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate—and, yes, they have to apply for one, and get it approved).
Of course, that all applies to British citizens and residents. For visitors, legally, officially, in Britain you will be treated as whatever gender it says on your passport. However, since your legal gender is not an issue that comes up very often on vacation, you should be good to go.
Is there same-sex marriage in the U.K.?
Since 2004, Civil Partnerships have been legally recognized across the entire U.K.
England and Wales have recognized and allowed same-sex marriage since 2004, Scotland since 2005.
In Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage remains illegal (in 2015 a slim majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly actually voted for a proposed legislation to legalize it, but a legal maneuver kept the legalization from advancing; can't be long, now). Same-sex marriages are, however, recognized as civil partnerships in Northern Ireland, which affords pretty much all the same rights.