I attended my very first Pride event in London 1985, the year that the LGBTQ+ community marched with the miners in support of the strike. That year over £20.000 was raised by our community to help families that suffered during the pit closures.

I learned just what can be achieved when people come together.

Historically Pride in the UK began as a politically motivated movement, challenging stigma and discrimination against people’s sexuality. The laws at that time were weighted heavily against gay men in particular. Equality was not on the agenda and in the eyes of the then Thatcher government, the best way forward was to forbid discussion in schools and release clause 28.

I left school tormented by years of abuse and bullying. I had even begun to believe that I was this abomination that the establishment and society had labelled me. Proud was the last thing I felt.

I moved to London, where there were clubs, and bars, an LGBTQ+ centre, coffee shops, restaurants, book shops and a high energy record store. There was even a weekly newspaper.

It was the best of times and the worst of times as HIV and AIDS began to decimate our communities and take our loved ones from us. I witnessed friends die, and experienced the backlash that resulted in it being labelled the gay plague. I was part of that history, the experience of being involved in a
community that suffered so badly, yet fought back and were largely responsible for pushing for research and treatment, has given me a sense of Pride.

Having faced stigma and discrimination throughout my life, I’ve been an advocate for equality for years. Whilst many of us now have Equality in law, many if us still face stigma and discrimination.

There are over 70 countries in the World that do not have equality. Our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are still vilified and criminalised in other countries.

This year in the UK there were over 150 Pride events.

Why Pride? It’s because we’ve fought. It’s because we stood up and said NO! It’s because we have been historically attacked for being ourselves. It’s a day of coming together to celebrate our likeness.

It’s stating to the World that it is not right to discriminate because of sexuality.

Pride is about breaking down barriers, through education and visibility.

A public meeting is going ahead at the Moot Hall today (9th October) at 7pm to discuss taking Pride in Colchester forward. The committee after this year’s event stated that the whole committee have stepped down, so a few people, myself included, have been working voluntarily to facilitate a public meeting, which is to be kindly chaired by leader of the council Mark Cory.

Come along have your say on the future of Pride in Colchester.

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