Pride and Protest

Claire G, Rebecca L, Peter, and Deni reflect on what Pride meant to them under Section 28.

Claire G


Those early Pride marches were really amazing… I think it’s changed a lot these days, it’s very commercial. But back then when Section 28 was still in force, and it was a really radical act to go on a Pride march, and yet there would be tens of thousands of people on the march. And the straight people couldn’t do anything about it. Because it was just so many of us, and it was a joy to get the train from Devon, and as you got nearer and nearer to London, there’d be more and more visibly gay people. And then getting on the tube and it would be like 100% gay people in the tube carriage and so many that the tube would have to grind to a halt and they’d have to kind of crowd manage the situation… taking over the London buses to get to Brockwell Park… and the festival after the march. And, yeah, that was essential self-care, I think, when you live somewhere like Devon going to Pride march in a city, as they were then. I mean now they’re just so kind of bland, there’s just any old concert, really, and any old parade of… people jumping around and waving flags and everything’s wonderful and all that… But… yeah, it used to be the highlight of the year.

Rebecca L


I didn’t go to my first Pride actually until I’d just qualified as a teacher, so I’d just done one year as a teacher, so that would have been ‘97, was when I went to my first Pride. And I remember that the people with the cameras were amazing. They had people with signs ahead, and it said if you don’t want to be on – we’re the BBC, if you don’t want to be on camera, go around this way and we won’t film you, we’ll only film people that go there. And so there was a whole bunch of us, and actually we were all teachers, and we all took that route because we knew we couldn’t possibly be seen to be at a Pride event and be teachers. So, still shrouded in secrecy.



Several members of my family were miners, coal miners in the North East of England, and this was the time of the miners’ strike, so I remember going to London for events in support of the miners. And I remember being on a march and the now very, very famous lesbians and gays, lesbian and gay – I can’t remember what they’re called now – but lesbian and gay groups support the miners, were there. And I was just, I mean, my jaw was on the floor, really. I was, you know, oh my god, they’re just walking around as if they’re not, you know, and they’re confident and they’re doing it. So that was a really, really early – because I was probably about 15 or 16 at the time – so that was a really early moment of encounter of lesbians and gays being active, you know, protesting and participating, not on LGBT rights actually in this case, but on, you know, in the context of the miners’ strike. So I was aware of it, I was from a kind of family that was working class but politically active. And so, you know, the Durham big meeting, the kind of annual miners’ event, the idea of going on political marches in one way or another, was very much there.

So when I became aware of my own sexuality, then going on Pride marches, as they became known – I can’t remember what they were called at first, when I was first getting involved – but anyway, Pride marches, the first one I went was when I was at university in the North of England and got on the coach and went down and participated and went for several years and saw them getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and that was, you know, it was exhilarating. And Clause 28, it’s often said, was part of the fuel to that, and I’m sure it was. You know, our response, our reaction to that meant that, you know, shall I go, shall I not, was not really an issue – you went, because there was too much to fight for. 



The community that I was in, in terms of, you know, my gay community, it was like the best party in the world. We were having a blast. You know, all of us were free. We were just having a great time. It did also evoke an awareness of how we were still sensing and only feeling our true selves in certain areas of our lives, and that we were very aware of other people’s opinions in our lives and where we were having to hide that.

But one of the examples I’ll give you is, one of the very local Prides that when I’d moved to Devon, a place called Totnes – which I’m sure you probably know – the first Pride, I knew the ‘Proud 2 Be’ organisation that set up the first Pride, and myself and my partner were involved in helping them organise it, doing the rainbow placards. And as we were walking through Totnes, up the hill, there’s a church on the left and, I had all of my community there, we were so proud that we had brought Pride to Totnes – I had been a very tiny part of it, but you know, the ‘Proud 2 Be’ had done a great job – so it’s a good day, you’re feeling good about yourself.

And yet, as we approached the church on our left, we saw people from the church group outside with flags and all of us went – take a deep breath and just walk by, it’s fine. When we got opposite the church, the flags were: We love you. Jesus loves you. Be you. It’s lovely to see you.

And in many ways that taught me that through my own internalised homophobia and because of the treatment I had received, I had adopted a view of the world which was generic, and it tested me. I was projecting onto – as we all were – church means dislike us, church means humiliate us. And it was one of the most beautiful moments of giving me a lesson of how when we internalise things we can then project onto others. And that I realised that sometimes the fear I feel when I’m in an environment that feels straight and threatening, that I’m projecting onto them, that they’re going to think I’m deviant, they’re not going to get on with me, well we won’t get a connection. And it really did open up my mind to being careful that me as an individual, and us as a community don’t take that stand as well, where we’re projecting onto another community. Does that make sense?

So yeah, I think Prides have been hugely important for me.

I just found it a real celebration, and I also began to take my children. So Manchester Pride was the first Pride that I took both my children, of which some people around me were very critical of because yet again – we fall into that Section 28 theory that if we show children this lifestyle and if we educate children about what can be a lifestyle that we’re indoctrinating them, we’re grooming them, we are – and yet no one thinks twice about the parent in the playground where their little girl comes running out saying, I’ve got a boyfriend, I’ve got a boyfriend, you hear the whole of the playground erupt and celebrate that this little 6-year-old has a boyfriend. You know it’s the real disparity in that. So for me it was about showing my children that there was another person in this world, in a family, that they could then recognise.