Pride and Place – exploring England’s LGBT history

2017 marks 50 years of partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales following the publication of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.  As a gay man who is 50 next year, I have seen how this important first step has lead to a succession of changes making it more easy for me and others in the LGBT community to live an authentic life.  

The road to towards equality has not been smooth however.  An unequal age of consent being 16 for heterosexuals and at first 21 then 18 for homosexuals had a direct impact on me and my husband as we first met at college at the age of 18 in 1987 and our love was in effect seen by society as an illegal act.  We had to be cautious about how open we were only being authentic with our closest friends and with or families when we came out.  Looking back there was much about the 1980s that was pretty bleak.  Section 28 was enacted preventing ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools making it difficult for teachers and staff to provide the support needed to children struggling with their sexuality and being the brunt of bullying behaviour.  My memories of sex education are not at all positive as it was completley focussed on hetero-normative narratives with any (pre Section 28) gay content being seen as a ‘novelty’ and being subject to ridicule by fellow classmates.  There was little focus on love or respect but a lot about biology!  Then of course there was the AIDS epidemic and the fear and panic that this caused with gay men being seen as part of the problem rather than victims needing help and support.  The goverment tombstone adverts were horryifying and for a young gay man in their teens the equivalent of bromine in your tea.  Thankfully in the 1990s and 2000s things have moved forward with legal protection at work, legal rights regarding access to goods and services without discrimination, the right to have our relationship recognised through civil partnership and the right to have that then converted and back dated to a marriage.  Retrospective pardons for those prosecuted for homosexual acts prior to decriminalisation is one of the latest acheivements.  There is still much to do as we are surrounded by subliminal hetero-normative information in terms of advertising, films and tv, newspaper articles but thankfully LGBT characters are now appearing in mainstream programmes and media including advertising.  

LGBT visibility is so important and not just in relation to today but also in relation to people and places throughout history.   I was so glad to see that Historic England and the National Trust have both taken the opportunity to promote LGBT links to their properties and places as part of the 2017 celebrations of partial decriminalisation.  As a boy and young man there were few contemporary gay role models and those that there were were largely stereotypes portrayed for laughs (laughed at or laughed with was not always clear).  There were certainly few if any real historical role models other than Alexander the Great and the ancient Greeks (often with a focus on pederasty) and Edward II and his unfortuate demise as the result of a red hot poker.  So to now see more and more varied and interesting stories of LGBT lives, both current and historic, becoming known and part of the mainstream is a wonderful step forward for all society.  I know that there will be some young person out their who will see a role model in the sports person, presenter, music artist, artist, novelist, scientist, doctor, garden designer, police constable vet or one of many thousands of jobs and professions and know that what ever they want to do they can acheive with there being no bar because of their gender or sexuality.

Take a look at the Historic England Pride of Place webpage https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/lgbtq-heritage-project/ and the National Trust https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/exploring-lgbtq-history-at-national-trust-places.

For the Isle of Wight there is a great story about John Seely (later Lord Mottistone) and his longterm professional and personal realtionship with Paul Paget with whom he ran a successful architectural practice.  The Shack, at Mottistone Manor was a favourite place for them to spend weekends together.  https://www.historypin.org/en/prideofplace/geo/50.827065,-1.551786,9/bounds/50.326486,-2.833066,51.322333,-0.270505/pin/1037264 and more information about their story can be found on the Brook Village History website http://www.brookvillagehistory.co.uk/index.php/people-main/reknowned-visitors-a-villagers/150-seely-and-paget

It seems fitting that in this celebratory year we will be holding our first IW Pride.  I am so looking forward to what promises to be a brilliant day of fun and community cohesion around our strapline #Lovewins and to this becoming an annual event with many more fringe events taking place across the Island throughout the year.

Pride and Blognovice


So my fellow IW Pride Committee members have convinced me to join in with our new blog all about Pride.  You’d think being in my late 40s that blogging would be something that I would have been really au fait with but no, I am a Blog novice.   An avid Facebooker, less frequent tweeter and having only just discovered the joy of face altering on Snapchat, blogging has never really been on my radar.

I ask myself, is it like writing a diary?  Something that I have never really been disciplined enough to do and the purpose of which is probably to unburden issues or write down your inner thoughts – definitely not a diary then!  A place to share my experiences of all things IW Pride related seems to be the ticket.  

I joined the Committee as Treasurer in January 2017 just as we were dealing with the unexpected massive interest in Iw Pride because of a local media furore.  The support and positivity that we received as a result gave us all the resolve to work harder than ever to make the first IW Pride happen and an event to remember for all the right reasons.

The launch in February was fantastic and helped us to raise much needed funds towards all the costs involved with putting on a free event.  Personally, having a glitter beard was a new life experience and one which hung around for a few days with shiny dots appearing in the most unexpected of places, despite vigorous scrubbing with a nailbrush.   It was so good to see so many people enjoying the performances and music put on for free by all those artists who took part.  

After the party, which exceeded all our expectations in terms of fund raising, comes the serious business of finding more money.  It is clear that there will be very little public money to help us but we are getting great support from unions and local businesses and hope to bring in some key sponsors to help with the costs of the day.   There will be many more fund raising events happening up until the big day on 15th July – I really hope to meet you at one or all of these.  If you are looking for a quick and easy way to give to IW Pride we have launched our new website which incorpates a link to Just Giving an easy way to give – as they say ‘every little helps’.

We are all working hard to spread the word about IW Pride and today I was waiting eagerly to receive our printed leaflet, coming to a business or information point near you soon.  It looks great and I am really pleased with how the design, which I pulled together, has turned out.  Grab one to find more about what we are planning.

Ok so blogging it turns out is not so strange after all – hope you enjoyed reading and check back for more.

John

john@iwpride.org