Eastbourne Pride organiser Betty Gallacher has been honiured with an Attitude Pride Award for her driven spirit to bring the event to the Sussex seaside town.
The 73-year-old was compelled launch the town's first ever Pride parade last year after seeing a moving tribute to the victims of the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting.
“I had tears in my eyes,” she recalls. “It was wonderful and it reinforced my belief that Pride is an essential part of society.”
It was after seeing this that she promised her partner of 21 years, Mandy, that she would organise an annual celebration of the LGBT+ community in the town where they both live.
Betty lost her mother at the age of 12 and was raised by her sister Margaret, who was just 16 at the time. She later joined the army but was discharged because of her “lesbian tendencies”.
But despite falling out with Margaret – who blamed herself for her sister’s sexuality – Betty changed career and worked as a trade union representative for a bus company for 40 years, championing and fighting for the rights of thousands of workers and advancing LGBT+ rights in the industry.
“I’ve done so many things to be proud of but my heart is in Pride because it’s about making a difference, and all I’ve ever wanted to do is make people’s lives better,” she says.
While Betty has achieved her goal, seeing Eastbourne's LGBT celebration being elevated to 'Pride' status this year after previously being referred to as "Mardi Gras" by the local council, the former military servicewoman insists organisers are "taking Pride back to its roots".
“I think when you say ‘Pride’ to a straight person in Eastbourne, they think of Brighton Pride with naked men on a bus,” she says.
“What we’re doing is much more family-friendly. We’re taking Pride back to its roots; helping to get our young people recognised and keeping a bit of politics in it.”
“The government doesn’t just wake up and think, ‘Oh, we’ll be nice to the gays, we’ll give them this and that’,” Betty continues. “Our rights have been hard-fought, by people like Peter Tatchell and groups such as Stonewall and the trades union.
“The children are the future, but they need to know their heritage.”
Hear Betty's incredible story in her own words below:
You can find out more about this year's inspiring Attitude Pride Award winners in our August issue, out on 19 July.