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Gay Pride: Why it still matters

By Attitude Magazine

Oxford Pride returns for yet another year this Saturday. I’ll be marching again in the street parade, both as a proudly gay man and as one of Oxford’s city Councillors. I’ve heard some people say that in these times we don’t need Pride. I can’t agree. Pride matters because campaigning matters, and for many in our movement, our march toward full equality is not won.

Oxford and Britain are by almost every measure better places to live as LGBT people. In the year that I was born, there was no equal age of consent; gays were barred from serving in the military; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people couldn’t adopt children; there were no partnership rights for couples; and Section 28 was terrifying teachers in schools. Two days before my birth in 1983, disgusting homophobic attacks lost Peter Tatchell his election to a safe Parliamentary seat.

By 2010, this had all changed and then some. Discrimination in the workplace was banned and hate crimes covered homophobia, transgender people had new legal rights, lesbians enjoyed a statutory right to NHS fertility treatment, civil partnerships were introduced.

We owe so much to those campaigners who made the case to elected representatives, challenged lawmakers who stood against our rights, enlisted passionate allies to the cause, and stepped out of their comfort zone although speaking their truth was fraught with great risk. I’m delighted that Pride will be welcoming one of those campaigners, Stonewall’s co-founder Lord Cashman, to Oxford.


Just as people like Lord Cashman took their inspiration from earlier struggles, the recent campaign for equal marriage offers a source of courage and conviction for those who will further advance the cause of civil rights for LGBT people. As it did with earlier campaigns, progress will depend on our ability to keep faith with a simple principle: everyone is equal. And, for our transgender friends in the movement, there’s sadly not been the same speed and scale of progress. This must change.

Many trans people deal with family rejection, street harassment and mental health issues. Trans people are making, starring in, and writing more television, but the public narrative about what it means to be trans remains controlled by people who are not themselves trans. It’s long past time for politicians to revisit Labour’s Gender Recognition Act and end the inequalities of trans people.

Every year Oxford City Council’s Scrutiny committee commissions one major review. This year I’ve been chairing that cross-party review has been scrutinizing the equality and diversity of the council workforce. Our council has good measures in place – thanks to unions like UNISON campaigning for dignity and respect in the workplace. But, as with any employer, we can build a workplace that’s friendlier to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender employees.

Adopting gender-neutral terms on forms, giving consideration to adding the title Mx to established gendered titles, and exploring the benefit of phasing out the use of titles on Council forms, are all ways to be more inclusive. When our council gets diversity right and looks more like the people we serve, we get yet more things right and deliver the best value for money for local taxpayers.


The clock hasn’t stopped on LGBT campaigning, there are still wins to rack up in the longer march toward full equality. If we drift into thinking that all our battles are won, we will unavoidably slip into feeling grateful to campaigners who delivered many of our rights, but not grateful and inspired. We can’t afford to think that in these times we don’t need Pride. We need it as much as before and we need the sense of unity that Pride brings to press on with our campaigning.

Our cities up and down the country are fortunate to have committed people who make their Prides happen year after year, and Oxford is no exception. So, please, take part in your local Pride and remember those in our movement whose fights go on. Give generously to the cause on the day and – as importantly – thank the volunteers you meet because it’ll make their day. And, have a very happy Pride!

Tom Hayes is the only gay Councillor in Oxford and will be marching tomorrow (June 3) for Oxford Pride.

You can follow Tom on Twitter at @CllrTomHayes

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