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.
All year round, Youth Pride MCR workshops offer the chance for young LGBTQ+ people and their allies to connect with each other across Greater Manchester. The group spend time playing games, getting creative with zine making, poetry and choreography and learning about the LGBTQ+ community through special guest appearances and interviews.
To mark LGBT History Month, the Youth Pride MCR group wanted to learn more about the history of their community and acknowledged a lack of LGBTQ+ role models in their lives. This intergenerational, youth-led project aims to connect our community at an important time, when we are all suffering loneliness and feeling a sense of disconnection, and to learn more about what life was like for LGBTQ+ people in years gone by.
The group interviewed Pauline, 72, and Phil, 57 about coming out, their first Pride experiences and the importance of representation.How difficult was it to express yourself in society? If you experienced discrimination, how did you deal with it?Pauline:
In the 60’s there was no internet, we existed but it was more difficult to connect. I went to an all boys school so who was I going to talk to about it. I started expressing myself as a trans person when I was 9. I felt I was the only person in the world who did it. I had zero education about LGBTQ+ information until college when I went and bought my own book about it. When I was a teenager it was still illegal to go out dressed as a woman if you were assigned male at birth. I only ever did it in private when no one was home. I had no one to talk to and buried this part of myself so deeply it took a long time to understand and accept who I was. Phil:
I had no concept of being gay, despite knowing what I was attracted to, so I was in my 40’s before I came to accept my sexuality. I didn’t exist to experience discrimination. I grew up in Cheshire, not a large city, so for me it wasn’t even an option. I think repression is a more fitting word.How did people react to you coming out?Pauline:
I didn’t come out until 1997, when I was 50. I was married to a woman, when my wife found out by finding some women's clothes that I’d been hiding. We subsequently divorced.
I then told my parents and they were fantastic, and supportive and were great about it. Both parents were very sympathetic about how I’d had to hide such a big part of myself. I do feel fortunate to not have been ostracized by my family. Phil:
I told my sister first. I took her to lunch and on the way I told her and she was fine and fairly supportive. I felt unable to tell my Dad and asked my sister to tell my mum. I told my best friend, who was initially supportive and said he didn’t care but afterward decided that he didn’t want to continue our friendship. Now, I feel like I am against the idea of ‘coming out’ . Straight people don’t have to come out and I feel like it shines a spotlight on the fact that I'm ‘different’ when in fact I’m not. When was the first time you saw yourself represented on TV?Pauline:
I don’t think I ever did, because in my head I wanted to be a woman, I didn’t want to be an impersonator like Lily Savage for example, I wanted to be a woman. If you’d told me at fifteen that you could wave a wand and I could have gone to a girls school and worn a dress, I’d have been ecstatic, but I didn’t have those things, it was a different world. Phil:
I don’t think I have, sorry. Do you remember your first Pride celebration?Pauline:
The first one I went to was in Amsterdam in 2000, they were hosting the Gay Games. I remember watching a drag cabaret show with the host as a KLM air hostess, it was the height of summer and the weather was glorious. Phil:
My first Pride celebration was not long ago through work about 6 years ago going to Manchester Pride Festival and watching the Parade. I live in Cheshire so it was a big thing to make the decision and get a train ticket and come along. Watching the Parade was powerful and made me realise that I wanted to be walking in it - it wasn’t enough to be stood watching. The energy was infectious.What question would you like to ask a younger LGBTQ+ person?Pauline:
Have you identified for yourself who you are and who you want to be?Phil:
How do you expect being gay to impact your career choices, and how you think your future employers will react to you being gay?