Warrington Pride

Out & About

Guest blogger and 'reporter at large' Barry Heap returns this week, to discuss why regional Gay pride events help challenge stereotypes , providing both education and support for all the community.

Barry writes  a regular 'agony aunt' column for the online magazine thegayuk.com 

 

pride

 

Warrington recently held its second pride event.  The purpose of pride is to give the lgbt community a chance to celebrate their sexuality.The Warrington event is much different to the bigger cities nearby. Unlike the cities there is not a specific gay area or community based around bars. As such the pride event is less geared towards a drinking culture and more towards a family orientated event.  In terms of approach I feel that this incredibly positive.

I’ve been attending pride events for the last few years and I will admit that I was surprised that Warrington was holding a pride event.they showcase diversity not just in terms of sexual identity but in terms of the different people who take part, police, ambulance and the fire service are all involved as well as many companies such as easyjet and co-op who have long upheld the rights of their LGBT employee’s. There is also usually some representation from religious groups such as the Quakers who support same sex partnerships.

I’ve always been part of prides from afar usually I would go an watch the parade and attend a few of the events and that was as much as I was willing to get involved. But this year was different. This was the first time I marched.

I walked with GLYSS; the Gay lesbian youth support service. GLYSS seeks to support any young people in the Warrington area who are exploring their identity .My boyfriend is a volunteer with them and I felt that it was a cause that was worth supporting.

Pride events are at a strange time at the moment, when they began in the 6o’s homosexuality was still an offence. Over the course of 40 years we have seen decriminalisation, the lowering of the age of consent to come in line with hetro sexuality civil partnerships and finally this year same sex marriage bill being passed from the house of lords and receiving royal ascent. Next year, it will become law. Many argue that there has never been a more accepting time in this country. So why is a pride event necessary?

I can tell you why, when walking through town of the way to Warrington pride, I passed 2 ladies who had obviously seen the event.  One of them remarked to the other that she didn’t see the point and actually said “in Warrington of all places”.

This is why we need pride events. While there is ignorance we need to educate. Being gay is not exclusive to the city.  It is not a fashionable lifestyle choice. It is life.

Being outside of the counselling bubble is always eye opening for me. Although I can offer unconditional positive regard in practice, it can be easy to lose sight that this is not the case in all situations or that people are not as accepting as we are. The conditions that we offer are unique and we must never forget the power of offering someone acceptance in a society that feels unaccepting.

The pride events are important as it gives a sense of community and in a world where middle aged straight women (you presume they are! Ed) “can’t see the point”  It sends the message out to anyone coming to terms with their sexuality that you are accepted and valued, you are normal.

What are your feelings on awarness raising events such as Warrington Pride?  –   Post your Comments below 

 

  • Rory

    I believe that regional events such a Warrington Pride are essential for two reasons .

     

    The first, is that through the years , some sections of the media have bolted on the word 'Gay' to provide added weight when developing negative news story’s, for example the Daily Mail's Jan Moir who in 2010 wrote a truly poisonous article about the death of Steven Gatley a former member of the group Boyzone who was killed by an undiagnosed heart condition while on holiday.

     

    Although Moir issued an apology,some media observers remarked that her 'contrition' was more about her employers the Daily Mail having advertising withdraw by company’s such Marks and Spencer in protest ,than a 'road to Damascus conversion '.

     

    The second reason is 'normality' , not a word I find in my everyday vocabulary because as a therapist I realise that the human condition is on a wide spectrum ,as long as people are moving their lives along without hurting themselves or others then who am I to judge?

     

    The exception to the above is that sometimes we have to 'remind' our fellow citizens that having a differing sexuality from them is ok, not abnormal and has always been so even if the law and society thought differently.

     

    Perhaps the biggest impact of Pride events is for those who are still trying to define their sexuality or perhaps have decided, but are ashamed and frightened to come out because they feel like they are alone, “feeling they are the only one”.

     

    Seeing strength in numbers of those who proudly declare who they without fear , brings comfort and “ normalisation” to those who have yet to declare themselves

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    That is why regional Pride events are so important.

     

    Oh ,and in case you are wondering , when I have attended Gay Pride events I wear my T-shirt with the slogan “Straight , Not Narrow” !

     

    The Daily Telegraphs blogger Damien Thompson’s Critique of Jan Moirs article can be read here.

     

  • Lisa Cooper

    Great photo and article, Barry! I fully support lesbian and gay awareness raising events, especially when they are happening away from the usual metropolitan areas. At the inaugural Pride event last year I commented to the then Mayor of Warrington that I never thought that 'I would live to see the day that the rainbow flag would be flying above the Town Hall.' It was a sight that deeply moved me. 

    My experience of growing up in Warrington in 70s and 80s with no accesible gay and lesbian support or social space was pretty depressing. This absence helped to reinforce a sense of shame that there was something horribly wrong with me. This shame became deep rooted and I have spent a long time and a lot of time working on it and thankfully disposing of it. Life's too short. My own journey led me away from Warrington for 20+ years and I was exposed to different ways of living, cultures and sexualities and I am so grateful that I went on that journey. I'm still on it! 

    Rory's point about not feeling you are the only one, the same as Yalom's sense of 'Universality', is profound. We all (well, most of us) want to belong, connect and be accepted. I know I do. But I also want to do it on my terms. To deal with all those introjected, shameful values about what I thought it meant to be gay and emerge emotionally robust aint easy and that's putting it mildly! I now have my own set of values about what it means for me to be gay. It means being authentic and having the compassion to apply those well versed core conditions to myself as well as others and to deal with and learn from the challenge of prejudice. For me to know that I am not alone in this and that I am part of something is so affirming and reassuring. Marches and events like this have served that purpose for me, they still do. 

    In recent years the introduction of laws have created a sea change in the way the lgbt community is supported and protected. We still have some way to go, however. I'm only too aware of the time it takes to change beliefs and behaviour such as homophobic bullying in schools is sadly commonplace.

    I know that the content and presentation of Pride events have changed over the years. For example, they are much more corporate driven events and some people don't like that – 'where's the politics' they say? But I think 'the politics' is still present. If just one young person experiencing the isolation and fear of abuse because of who she or he chooses to love saw the march in Warrington, then what a wonderful and important job has been done by attempting to make a hidden community visible and accessible to others who need that support and sense of belonging.

    This effect, by far, trumps the response from the two women. Indeed, it is because of their response that these types of awareness raising events and activities need to continue to take place.