My hon. Friend has drawn attention to all the difficulties of living a life if the society in which people live and the laws that surround them do not allow them to be themselves. The reason so many of us who are speaking in the debate are LGBT ourselves is that we know just how important this freedom is to us. I know, because I did not come out until I was 50. When I was growing up, having been born in 1960 into the United Kingdom that existed in the 1960s and 1970s, what I understood about myself was that there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be a soldier, and I wanted to be a politician, and that was wholly inconsistent with ever beginning to come to terms with myself.
An awful lot of men my age are coming out now, because they have the societal and professional freedom to do so. The British experience can provide a lesson, and the British story is one that we should be able to tell others. We should be able to tell the rest of the world how we have moved from active implementation of the criminal law in the 1950s, when more than 1,000 men were imprisoned for consensual same-sex acts, to where we are today.
When I say “we”, I am thinking of the role that we can play as parliamentarians. We should not underestimate the huge challenge that faces our parliamentary colleagues in other countries that, because of religious beliefs and the influence of religion in those societies, are in the same state as the United Kingdom in the 1950s when it comes to attitudes to LGBT people. Nor should we underestimate the effect of our own personal stories, and our own personal testimony. We should look our fellow parliamentarians in the eye when we have the opportunity to do so and get them to first base. People’s sexuality is not something that they choose.
I used those terms during a debate in the House in 1999, before I truly understood myself, and I was, quite rightly, heckled by colleagues on the other Benches. It should not be assumed that people understand. Once our fellow parliamentarians have got to first base and have accepted that sexuality is very largely innate—if not completely innate, but let us not go into that now—and not something that people choose, the public policy that ought to flow from that will flow from it.
We should say to our parliamentary colleagues in other countries, “You are representing gay people whether you like it or not. You are representing just as many gay people as I am.” There is no evidence of any difference in the proportion of sexualities between different races or parts of the world. Our parliamentary colleagues in other countries have a responsibility, and they have a lead opinion. Our responsibility is to help them to change their societies by means of the evidence that we can give them from our own experience.