Article by Jan Moriarty, Co-Chair of the LGBT+ Staff Network:
On 1 June, I got to reflecting about Pride Month and why it’s so important to me that we celebrate and commemorate our community, past and present.
I was brought up in the 1960’s and 70’s. When we look back through rose-tinted media glasses, those were supposed to be the days when you could be who you wanted to be, express yourself in myriad ways, shrug off the confines of social expectations. In reality, life in a Catholic, northern family didn’t quite have the freedoms of a new social era and there were very many expectations of behaviour. I’m not crying about it; I didn’t even notice it at the time.
I grew up straight, in a straight world, where it was fine to think about having a job, but you still had to know how to cook and clean and iron your future husband’s shirts! A world where American Tan tights (google it) were the expected uniform for young women (true story!). I saw education as my way out. What could be less confrontational than to leave home for university? I knew I was never going back.
I’d like to say that I started reinventing myself the moment I boarded the train to London with two stupidly heavy suitcases, but I was a very uncool student just as I had been a very uncool child. I studied hard, made friends, but I was no rising star. Then one day in 1985, a chance meeting changed my world. Suddenly there were colours, rainbow colours, and I discovered my true self.
The transformation was root and branch; my straight friends reacted badly, my family even worse. But LGBT+ people made me feel unique, wanted, part of a bigger family, one where difference is celebrated. The LGBT+ community is one of the most diverse, all-embracing, inclusive communities on the planet. The + is very important. The ability to self-define and still be accepted is a fundamental part of this community, which is what makes it so very special. And it’s not just about who’s allowed in; it’s about the support once you arrive. We look after each other, support each other, and use discrimination against us as fuel to support other minoritised groups.
I’ve stood on the shoulders of LGBT+ people who have gone before me, who refused to be boxed in to a hetero-normative world. And, in my turn, I have marched and campaigned for LGBT+ rights that young people can now take for granted. And the struggle is not over; it will never be over.
So Pride Month is important to me because that’s when I feel closest to my community. My LGBT+ family from 1980’s London is now scattered across the world, others we lost in the last pandemic: HIV/AIDS. But wherever I am, knowing that the core nature of this community is to protect its own and speak its truth gives me a sense of balance and belonging. It gives me a sense of Pride.
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