LGBT+ History Month is an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. The overall aim of LGBT+ History month is to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. This year’s LGBT+ History Month theme is Mind, Body and Soul: Claiming our past, celebrating our present and creating our future.
To tackle isolation amongst young LGBTQ+ people, Manchester Pride launched Youth Pride MCR as a new strand of Manchester Pride Festival in 2019. The first event of its kind in the UK, it provided a safe, supportive, fun and inclusive space for young LGBTQ+ people to express themselves, connect with others and find community.
To mark LGBT History Month, the Youth Pride MCR group wanted to learn more about the history of their community. This intergenerational, youth-led project aims to connect our community and to learn more about what life was like for LGBTQ+ people in years gone by.
Here we speak to Christine, 71 and Linda, 74 about the importance of Pride, Section 28, discovering community and finding love…How did people react to you coming out? Linda:
I didn’t come out until I was 50. I was teaching in a university and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to more than a couple of people about it. Coming out made me feel brave. No one reacted negatively to it. People were celebratory and people recognised it as a brave step. I discovered a lot of allies and I joined the lesbian and gay chorus. Christine:
I was 40 odd, and I was a senior manager, so I just came out. Gay liberation and the fight against Section 28 was rife and so I just came out. I was 40, senior, confident and political. Some people’s reactions were ‘what took you so long?’ I had lived with a lesbian in a flat share for years so I was comfortable with understanding it. People took it in their stride. I didn’t tell my parents, I just lived my life and wouldn’t refer to my ‘girlfriend’ but would refer to them by name. But later I told my father, after my mother had died, and he said ‘as long as you’re happy’ which was very sweet. In a way my journey was towards gay identity, and I was a confident woman so I took it all in my stride. Do you remember your first Pride celebration?Linda:
Yes, I cycled down into town and standing with my nose pressed against the barriers and thought it was fantastic and was such fun. It would have been one of the first Pride marches in Manchester - I remember going into the concerts and provocative cabaret acts that were brilliant. The atmosphere was so positive and creative. It was all around Canal Street and it was an opportunity for people to dress up and have fun! Christine:
My first Pride celebration that I attended was in Manchester, and it was relatively recently. Between 2010 and 2015 I was a volunteer with the Lesbian Immigration Support Group. Being at Pride is a very important thing for Lesbian Asylum Seekers. I went to Pride several times in those years. The atmosphere was a huge highlight, and the solidarity and the way in which in Manchester, because of the history of gay liberation, the wider population welcomes Pride. How difficult was it to express yourself in society? Did you experience discrimination? Linda:
None really because I didn’t come out until I was 50. Being gay has given me a lot of confidence to go and do other things in my life. Overcoming the fear of prejudice has given me a lot of courage to do other things in my life and I’ve been much less frightened about speaking up. Christine:
It was 1979, I went up to Newcastle to work and I got involved with Lesbians In the Voluntary Sector - working in projects like women’s refuge and women’s health projects. At that time I didn’t identify as lesbian. But I became aware of lesbian culture. Then we jump forward to 1988 and people would say things to me like ‘If you were gay you’d be very comfortable.’ I personally had a sense of difference for years, but I attached it to what I was passionate about, ie being anti-sexist rather than a lesbian. I was busy earning my own living as a solo independent woman. I haven’t been victimised but I have been stereotyped. When was the first time you saw yourself represented on TV?Linda:
Probably it was a novel I read, something about the Woodshed. It was a novel about women who didn’t come out easily and it made me feel really lucky, and privileged. Christine:
The stereotype was ‘The Killing of Sister George’ which is a renowned film. Set in 1968, in a famous club which details the stereotypes of butch and femme lesbians. The big gay deal was Michael Cashman in Corrie. I didn’t watch it but my parents did, but that was the emergence. Have you found someone you love? Christine:
Yes I have found someone I love. I have never been married. I first met Linda back in the 1980’s and we became partners in 1995. I was working as a community worker in adult education and she came to give a workshop, ironically about ‘Community History’ - just like this interview! We are planning to get civil partnered. As a feminist I was very critical of the institution of marriage. Linda
: We’ve been together for 25 years, and it takes a while to figure out if you do want to get married. I met Christine because we were working on an oral history project, we had something professional in common and we both found each other doing challenging work that we were both interested in. It was about finding something we had in common. It took a long time for us to realise that we liked each other more than just professionally. Section 28 was the first new anti-gay law in over 100 years. As a result nearly 20,000 people from all over the UK marched through Manchester in protest. Do you remember this?Christine:
Section 28 was a massive attack on Lesbians and Gay men. Margaret Thatcher used the term ‘pretend families’. I came down to the big Section 28 demo in Manchester from Newcastle, a big coach load of us came down. Linda:
I was leaning out of the window as a huge crowd passed the university, in the battle against it and the huge demonstrations against it. It was outrageous and I was angry about it.
Manchester Pride’s vision is a world where LGBTQ+ people are free to live and love without prejudice. We are committed to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Greater Manchester and beyond. We are part of a global Pride movement that celebrates advancements in equality and challenges discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ people.