An open letter for Pride Week

Vada Voices

Last night (17 August 2014), in an ironic but unfortunate incident that mirrored the run-up to the Stonewall Riots, an apparently homophobic attack on a group of Manchester residents allegedly resulted in Starlet Skye, one of the drag queens who was standing up for herself, being arrested in the Gay Village around Canal Street. The following open letter was posted by Manchester resident Carl Howard on Facebook. It was also sent to the Manchester Evening News. We republish it here with his permission.

On Sunday evening, a group of friends were violently attacked in yet another homophobic hate crime in Manchester’s Gay Village.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need a gay village or pride events; but this isn’t an ideal world, not yet anyway. So we created a safe space in the heart of the city, the Gay Village, where anyone – gay, straight or undecided – can be free to be themselves without fear of persecution. Then, in the name of integration and equality, we extend a welcome to those from outside our community and this is what happens.

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We like to paint Manchester as a diverse, cosmopolitan city, so is this really the face we want to present in Pride week? One where the perpetrators of homophobic violence are allowed to walk away while one of the victims is held in police custody? Their crime? Standing up for themselves. A city where police tell victims we don’t have a gay ‘community’, that Canal Street is just a street and if they stand up to homophobic abuse, they risk being arrested. This is Manchester, not Moscow. We need a zero tolerance approach for hate crimes of any kind and Greater Manchester Police needs more than a rainbow-painted police car to show they’re serious about tackling the hatred many in our community regularly face.

Homosexuality was decriminalised almost 50 years ago and after many long and hard-fought battles we now have an equal age of consent and equal marriage, but incidents like this show how far we still have to go in the struggle for full acceptance in many people’s minds.

So when you hear people ask why we have to keep banging on about equality, that’s why; and that’s why I’ll be at Manchester Pride next weekend standing up with all my other wonderfully diverse brothers and sisters, and why there will be a rainbow flag proudly flying over my home.

I’m a gay man and I’m PROUD of it, that’s why it’s called Pride, and to anyone who asks why in 2014 we still need to march, carry banners, make such a fuss and why there isn’t a ‘straight pride’, just be thankful you don’t need one.

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Carl Howard

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