Reflections and Celebrations – Nottingham Pride 2021
14 September 2021
It was my first Pride. I went with a slight feeling of awkwardness and came away with a sense of gratitude and one regret. How I wish I’d stopped the old man, it wouldn’t have been difficult. Stooped over a walking stick, he was a solitary figure in the crowd. His rainbow jacket was faded; his hat had clearly seen many summers. “Everyone has a story,” one of my journalism lecturers had said at university, and behind that story is another story. This is the one you should be telling.
As I looked at the old man, who I guessed to be closer to 80 than 70, I thought about his story. Let’s call him Bernard. How many decades of loneliness had he endured? How much persecution? Had he ever found love? Had he, like so many of earlier generations, played the game and entered opposite sex marriages to give an appearance of “normal”? I thought about the two young men who’d been walking behind me, hand in hand and in matching T-shirts with, “Be proud. Be you”, in large letters written underneath a rainbow design. They were there, on the march that day, because of the painful path Bernard and millions like him had trodden. Conversion therapy, hormone treatment, ostracised by churches, disowned by their families, thrown into jail and all for being a different kind of human searching for love and acceptance in societies quick to quote and misinterpret Leviticus 18:22.
I was there with a small but colourful group of people and, as we marched through the route, I looked around, taking in the sights and sounds. The trans youth group some way behind our collection of Labour Party members and supporters burst into loud chants every so often and I thanked progress and softening of attitudes that allowed them to be so vocal. They’re lucky. Awareness raising and education hasn’t given rise to any epidemic of youth, confused by sex and gender education, it has inspired and supported the potential of growing up accepted, or not, instead of having their identities bullied into hiding. I wish it had been so 50 plus years ago, when six year-old me was told, in no uncertain terms, that I couldn’t be a boy. It was hard enough growing up autistic and undiagnosed but most of the pain of my earlier years came from ridicule over my gender identity. So I hid. I hid for almost 60 years. I didn’t think I could be transgender because I wasn’t attracted to women. It didn’t even feel weird for the light to dawn and to recognize it’s entirely possible to be transgender AND gay. It had been hiding in plain sight for decades. I was there, with my flag held high: a gay, transgender, autistic Jew.
What weight did Bernard carry on his hunched shoulders? Yes, I regret not stopping him and taking him for a coffee. Everyone has a story and behind that story is another story. Without these stories, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the personal freedom to march that day, out loud and with pride.
Laurie Morgen is the Diversity Officer for Erewash CLP. They design and deliver autism training workshops and talks, is an author and freelance writer. Laurie has three adult children and four grandchildren.
Leviticus 18:22 means what? last accessed 12/09/2021
All opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and are not official Labour Party policy.