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  • LGBT+ History Month

    February is a month for celebrating and learning about the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender people. I’d love to share some stories on here of other people’s experiences over the years and help create a community of older LGBT+ people whose voices aren’t always heard.

    I was born in 1981, so I’m a little younger than some of the Rest Less community, but I can remember being at school when Section 28 was introduced. I remember being quite confused because there was so much coverage of the law in the press. There were headlines shouting about the dangers of teaching kids about about gay sex and worries about pedephiles in the classroom. But at the time I didn’t realise what I was missing out on was an acceptance that gay people can have healthy, happy, stable relationships and families as much as straight people can.

    I was born in the year before the AIDS pandemic would explode on to the world. Growing up no story about gay men was complete without an AIDS component or a tasteless joke. I think I was part of a generation that grew up to be so terrified by the tombstone advert that safe sex wasn’t “up for discussion” like it seems to be now for younger generations who perhaps think it’s not so serious any more.

    I recently learnt so much more about the pandemic by reading How to Survive a Plague:

    There are so many heartbreaking stories in there, and important lessons we cannot forget. I think it is absolutely essential reading for everybody.

    There is also a terrific Radio 4 series on BBC Sounds which compiles some fascinating stories from people involved in the front line: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jvrf

    The first Pride march I was part of was in Leeds, where I went to university. Leeds Pride was a fairly small event at the time. They organised a small parade which would start at one end of the city centre and work its way to the other. Since it was such a small event they wouldn’t close down the whole city centre they only stop the traffic as the parade goes by. Pretty much everybody who had come to celebrate Pride was in the parade so the only people watching were the people who had come in to town to do their shopping. As the parade went by people would stop and stare or clap and wave or just look on in confusion. It felt great to stop traffic on a busy Saturday afternoon. It felt great to be visible, to show the rest of the city that we’re a great community of all sorts of people. We stopped traffic, only for a few minutes, but in that time it felt like the whole city was ours! I wish I’d have seen a sight like that when I was younger. To see that my city was full of other people like me and when we all get together we can bring the city to a standstill, if only for a little while.

    I feel very lucky that I now have gay friends who are married, work as teachers, serve in the army, have children and can be open at work without fear of being sacked. None of these would have been possible when I was younger. We’ve come a long way in the last 40 years but there are still so many ways in which LGBT+ people aren’t able to enjoy life as freely as the rest of society.

    Especially overseas, where countries like Russia have implemented draconian “Gay Propaganda” laws which remind us of Secion 28 and Trump’s administration worked tirelessly to unpick employment rights and even the right to serve in the armed forces.

    That’s why LGBT+ History Month is so important – to celebrate the progress that those who came before us fought for, and to continue fighting for change around the world.

    Posted by Pete Smith
    • Reply by Little echo

      Hi Pete, great to read your post. Take care, keep fighting and allowing people to be their true self. Those that judge are just ignorant, and not sqeekie clean themselves 👍🌈

    • Reply by Daisyroots

      I remember those adverts. I was a teen at that time and had a Saturday job. My boss would get so excited as Saturday evening came closer and he was off to the clubs in Brighton. One night he was set upon by a group of ignorant thugs, just for being a gay man.
      I know, as a society, we still have some way to go but I have seen so much change.
      It was so heartening to teach young people that think nothing of another’s sexuality and would scoff at anyone that took issue with another over it.
      I took this photo at Amsterdam’s Gay Pride celebration…..says it all really 😉

    • Reply by ChristineA

      Thanks for sharing your story. There are a lot of positive actions out there but still pockets of resistance. Particularly when it comes to gay men and children.

      As the mother of a son who is gay, I find I ‘come out’ every time I tell someone this. I’m never sure what their reaction is going to be.

    • Reply by Gill B

      Love reading your article. I was a teenager in the 70s at an all girl’s school Two of my school friends were gay and I witnessed the emotional trauma they were experiencing as they came to terms with who they really were born to be, whilst still going out with boys. Both suffered depression and self harmed, until each received support from psychologists (different ones) and finally started to the lead they life they wanted to.

      For me one sad factor in all this is they never realised how accepting of who they were I was, and other friends were. They hadn’t changed overnight. They weren’t different people, they had after all been gay all along. However, they felt different and so drifted away from the friendships they had formed. I do hope that 45 years on they continue to thrive and live their best lives.

      One of my oldest friends whom I have known since we were about 5 came out as gay in the mid 80s. We were always great friends as early teens, and we danced and danced together, quick step and waltz included! He and I still share a special bond and although I don’t see him often, I absolutely love him to bits. He has been with his husband nearly 30 years I guess, and they married about 10 years ago. It was an absolutely joyous occasion and their first dance was to ‘I’m coming out’ at which no-one gave them a chance to spend long on the dance floor! As one we all leapt to our feet clapping and cheering and itching to dance too .. so muscled our way in to strut our stuff along side this beautiful couple.

      A really good friend of my sister died aged 40 of aids, just about 25 years ago I guess. So very sad. He was a teacher at a junior school. He lived two lives. One where he lived and worked, and one in London where he went to be with mates most weekends. He was just a really lovely guy and so sad that because of his job (and maybe his mother) he did not feel able to reveal his sexuality. I went to his funeral. There was only one other single male there : a friend who was a nurse and who had looked after him in his final months at home. That is so wrong I thought, but his mother was still alive, and maybe it was for her benefit I’m not sure, but it was very very sad that part of his life was not represented.

      Move on to my step son. He would often bring his friends round and we would wake up on a Saturday morning to find at least 5 sleeping on the lounge floor. They lads were great fun .. although I did tend to keep out of the way until they had surfaced. My step son had an amazing bunch of friends and we saw them and spent time with them a lot. When they left school two came out. My step son didn’t care one bit and I loved that. He is still really good mates with one of them, and its so lovely to see. They hug it out. They kiss on the cheek. They are mates and they just don’t care, and that is how it should be.

      So looking at my 45 year old step son I felt hope. Looking at my grandchildren I feel even great hope that there is an acceptance that people need to be who they are. I am glad for the law changes that have taken place. I want people to be themselves and proud of it too!

      Thank you for your post!