From family support, fitness classes and learning to art exhibitions, festivals and talks, our activities are wide and far reaching.
In 2022 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Pride March in the United Kingdom when a few hundred people arrived in London on 1 July 1972, to protest because of the danger LGBT+ people faced because they were not safe to be who they were. The brave protesters marched to Trafalgar Square despite fearing for their own safety. But they knew it was important that their voices were heard – and their actions that day paved the way for half a century of progressive societal change for LGBT+ people.
In 1972, the year of this first Pride, I was 10 years of age. As a child, I had no comprehension of Pride, but even at that young age, I had already encountered prejudice, name calling, physical violence at school and in the inner-city neighbourhood where I was brought up. Thank goodness for loving parents and a big sister who did their best to protect me.
As a student I was still discovering who I was, I missed out on any meaningful gay interaction whilst studying in London. It was the early 1980’s so probably not a bad thing considering what was on the horizon. Only when I returned to my family home in the north in 1984 and eventually came out to my parents did I experience the negative consequences of my desire to live an honest and authentic life.
Back in London for work in 1985, my first potential Pride experience came a year later in 1986. Even then fear prevented me, and I did not attend. Scared off by the real danger of being ‘gay bashed’ or even arrested by the police, though my new handsome boyfriend at the time was dancing on a float in the small parade. The following year, now in a relationship with this man (who became my long-term companion for 23 years) I attended my first Pride. And I loved it.
Over the years the impact of Pride has evolved. In the late 1980’s and through the 1990s for me it was about politically demonstrating that I exist, that my life had meaning, purpose and is valuable. I attended to demonstrate against Clause 28; to support of people with HIV and AIDS; and for an equal age of consent.
I have marched to remember those lost to AIDS and more recently for the 1 in 3 of us with mental health problems because of prejudice, stigma, and discrimination experienced due to other people’s attitudes and behaviour. Pride is even more important as biphobia and transphobia threaten the lives of people in our community. Together, only together can we defeat homo-hatred.
Over the past fifty years there have been many struggles for the LGBTQ+ communities; however, we have shared some great victories which we can triumphantly celebrate during Pride month and every day. These include the repeal of section 28; civil partnership, marriage equality, lifting the ban of LGBTQ+ people serving in the armed forces, the right to adopt to name but a few.
It is worth pausing to remember the veterans of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) who were braver than me to step onto the streets of London and spoke out to challenge the injustices which led to the advancement of the Pride movement today alongside the many organisations and individuals who joined the struggle for equality.
For me, the biggest achievement is how we came together as a community to face the challenge of AIDS which ravaged our relationships. Despite the challenge it deepened a commitment to stand together, face loss, grieve and love together. I believe that those young gay men and lesbians who demanded action through Act Up, Outrage, and in discussions with health care providers established patient power to demand better access to medication and care. These advances have benefitted wider society more than we will ever know or be acknowledged for.
Because of all of those who have gone before, today I can live my authentic life, out proud and loud today.
Pride is a great opportunity for me to reflect on my life, celebrate, appreciate, and show gratitude to those that have gone before me, paving the way for a more equitable future – and to continue to fly the progress rainbow flag for those that still face prejudice, inequality, and oppression here in the UK, the regression in Hungary, Poland, Russia and in many countries across the world including in the Commonwealth where my life could be in peril.
Despite the advances in the UK we must not be complacent and be constantly vigilant to ensure the rights so dearly fought for are maintained and improved for future generations.
I’ll be using this month to reinforce my commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion at work, in my community, and wherever I can, celebrating acceptance and championing authenticity and belonging. On 2nd July I will take to the streets and march through London with Speakers Collective which has a shared commitment to challenge all forms of stigma and discrimination, facilitating important conversations and promote learning on a variety of social issues.
At this pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history, my work is not yet finished. I will continue to speak out and encourage people to join me in campaigning for inclusion, equality and justice encouraging a sense of belonging for all LGBTQ+ communities.
On Sunday 12 June at 7pm please tune into my interview with Emma Goswell on Virgin Radio Pride UK, a new radio station for the LGBTQ+ community.