How life has changed for people like me (Picture: Getty)
I met my partner in 1967, when I first moved to London to study for the Bar.
We were in a blissfully happy relationship for 52 years before his untimely death.
Just before our relationship began, homosexuality had been decriminsalised, but as a couple we were still breaking the law because I was 22 and he was 19.
For sex to be legal, it had to take place in private, between consenting parties, and both had to be over the age of 21.
It didn’t deter us and we continued in this serially criminal fashion for the next two years until he celebrated his 21st birthday.
Even though we could have faced criminal charges, from my earliest days as a pupil, my chambers were perfectly aware of my sexuality, not least because I made a point of bringing my partner to every social occasion.
He was welcomed with warmth and affection.
In those days the practice of the law was quite different.
It was a very small profession, less than two thousand of us barristers in the whole country.
We were all straight-passing, predominantly white, public school educated males of moderately conservative opinions.
And no-one came out.
While that was the official, above-the-radar state of affairs, the reality was quite different.
This is because I was in a group of educated, decent, kind men (there were no women in among us in those days) comfortable with their own sexuality and untroubled by a different life choice. So one simply got on with life and work while all seemed comfortable.
Then Section 28 came along.
This pernicious excess of Thatcherism, which in 1988 banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools, seemed to give licence to the explosion of lurking homophobia that many ostensibly straight men previously kept under control.
Jokes about ‘batty boys’ and limp wrists became common in our robing rooms (where we put on our official robes) up and down the country, and because no one – absolutely no one – had by then come out, we kept a shameful silence.
But many of us assumed that it didn’t matter what the robing room culture threw at us, thinking it would not affect our chances of progression within the profession.
How wrong we were.
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My work was going well, I knew I warranted stepping onto the lowest rung of the judicial ladder by being appointed an assistant Recorder.
However, I was summoned to see the then Lord Chancellor’s officials to be told that Lord Chancellor Baron Hailsham would never appoint me, a gay man, to sit as a judge at any level.
I left the meeting crestfallen, but I was cheered by the indication that although I was apparently unsuitable to sit as a judge I could still be considered for Silk.
After more years of endless paperwork, and trial upon trial as a junior barrister, I rather fancied the more measured life of a QC.
With fewer but bigger cases, I looked forward to the financial security that evades most juniors, especially those working in the publicly funded sector.
Although by that time I unquestionably had a practice deserving of Silk, I was blocked by an influential senior judge whose ‘over my dead body’ attitude prevailed over civil servants.
It was now 1993. Lord MacKay, by then Lord Chancellor, was entirely oblivious of what was going on behind his back and has always treated me with courtesy and fairness.
At the time, I could have continued in the ever demanding life of a junior - behind on paperwork, juggling court diaries, and being shamed by self-regarding judges if a minute late.
Fortunately I had an ally. In the 90s I acted for many of the Welsh local authorities in their never-ending clashes with the Tory Government, and was often led by Derry Irvine, then the shadow Lord Chancellor.
He heard what was going on and decided to confront the establishment.
A skilled tactician, he sought and obtained the permission of John Smith, then leader of the Labour Party, and presented the civil servants blocking my appointment with an ultimatum.
‘Since we all agree this man deserves Silk and since he is being blocked by unreasonable prejudice, either he gets Silk this year or the leader of the Opposition will make an issue of it!’
Those were strong, powerful words and glad they worked.
My appointment letter, with no irony intended, arrived on April 1 1993.
Since then, I have enjoyed a varied and fruitful life, doing the work I love at a level I enjoy and with the financial security it brings.
How life has changed for people like me! Instead of being whispered about, diverse sexuality is not only tolerated but celebrated.
The introduction of civil partnerships by the Labour Government and then same-sex marriage by David Cameron’s Conservatives has transformed the landscape.
No longer will an aspiring gay barrister have to conceal his or her feelings and even feel forced to join in with the sneering of his or her colleagues.
We have openly gay senior judges, MPs, government ministers and the Inner Temple is hosting a dinner to celebrate the LGBTQ+ legal community on 25 June.
So life today is immeasurably different to the 1960s when I was a young man. But yet, I’d caution against feeling too self-satisfied.
There are very real concerns that the selfsame stigma that marked a gay man or woman when I was young is now being felt by members of the trans community.
Although we are now more aware and accepting than a previous generation, our trans colleagues may feel they haven’t yet attained the dignity and respect formerly denied to other previously marginalised groups.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past, otherwise we will repeat them in the future.
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Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride
This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.
And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights.
During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.