With Birmingham Pride coming up this weekend, WAY Ambassador Maria Margetts writes about what Pride means to her…
Pride Month is an international event that can trace its roots back to the end of the 1960s with Gay Pride. Birmingham Pride festival is usually held in June but this year is taking place on 24th/25th September, due to Covid.
Pride weekend and the Pride procession has been happening in Birmingham for many, many years and I used to watch it from afar. Most of my adult life I’ve ignored it. It was a kind of “What does it have to do with me?” as I denied who I was and didn’t think that me – being in the closet, on my own, feeling like I did – had any affinity with Pride or even being LGBT.
I was myself, mixed up and not part of any culture other than White, middle class, male. Then my wife died and my whole world changed. I tried to leave ‘Maria’ in the closet and not come out at all, but that just made my grief worse. Meeting my current partner, a year later, I told her immediately who I was and it was the first step on my road to coming out and looking to transition to Maria.
We went to our first Pride only in 2019, a year after I had told the world, well, my world – WAY Widowed and Young, a charity that support all those widowed before the age of 51 – about who I am. We watched the procession all afternoon, standing and cheering by the Bull.
It was an amazing experience and I finally got that I’m not alone in my journey, that everyone out there singing and dancing was living their life as they wanted to do, enjoying life as themselves.
Pride, whenever and wherever it is being held, is a celebration of LGBTQ+ identity, of YOUR identity and a statement of WHO YOU are or who you want to be. These rights have been long fought for, from the Stonewall Riots in the 1960s to Clause 28 and the de-criminalisation of Homosexuality for the whole of the UK in the 1980s, to all the media attention about Trans people now. The road to Freedom has never been easy and solidarity between the different parts of LGBTQ+ culture needs to be there, because if one part is forgotten or made ‘immaterial’ it will give the people who want to take our rights away the chance to say “We have done it to them, why can’t we do it to you”, and that is a slippery slope to 50+ years of fight for our rights.
But they are rights that need to be there. I have lost a heck of a lot since coming out as Trans. I’m not doing this because it’s ‘Fashionable’ or a ‘fad’ that I’ll get over. I’ve been hidden from view most of my life, worried about what the neighbours would say. Now I am out, I’m always worried about how I have to dress, how I will be seen out there in the real world and waiting for that first barbed comment or threatening gesture.
But the world seemed to change about five years ago and seemed to show that LGBTQ+ wasn’t something that you needed to be ashamed of. Things seemed to be improving. However, the last year has shown me that this is not the case, with media and celebrity comments about Trans lives increasingly vitriolic.
Our world, our country needs to look at itself and realise that diversity is there in all things. That what you are should be respected. The nine protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act are there for a reason, that whether you are of a particular age, of a particular religion or creed, whether you are disabled or pregnant, BAME, Gay or even Trans should not have an impact on who you are and what rights you have.
At the moment there is so much that people want to say is wrong with society. We need to say this is how it is and it should be celebrated. Pride is one of those moments, one of those events and we should be out there and celebrating it.
So this year I’m going to find my brightest outfit, and stand in solidarity with all those shaking their booties down New Street to Digbeth where the concerts and party are being held. And I hope you will all be there too. It is a brilliant event, one I hope never to miss now.
Read more from WAY Ambassador Maria here...
Maria (right) Birmingham Pride