I was lucky enough to be a part of the Stonewall Youth Event at Pride in London 2016 with my youth group in Hertfordshire, Young Pride in Herts and Who not What. A group of 8 of us attended and marched in the parade alongside other individuals and youth groups from across the country.
I met some amazing, inspirational people and had the best time. So, I thought I would share my experiences.
Ruth Hunt, the Chief Executive of Stonewall, spoke to us, eloquently as always, about the history of Pride. Since much of the focus of media surrounding Pride nowadays is more of a ‘who has the most outrageously fabulous outfit’, it’s easy to forget where we started. Of course, we had a sprinkling of people with us who were there in the pride marches of the eighties, when Pride was a protest more than a parade; where, in stark contrast to today, people would jeer and threaten, instead of applaud and encourage. Ruth drew the contrast of how in years gone by, the police had lined the streets of London to protect those marching, whereas now the police march alongside us, as one of us. That was certainly made clear by not only one, but two proposals made during the pride parade by police officers!
We also heard from two Stonewall Young Leaders- Charlie Craggs and Courtney Francis- about what they have done on the Young Leaders Programme. Charlie deserves a special mention for her work setting up Nail Transphobia which is a pop-up nail salon that she takes round the country where people can get their nails done for free and can ask questions about being transgender and how to be an ally. Charlie says “the most important part of the interaction for me is just having a laugh and a chat because what I’m really trying to do with my campaign is humanise the issue and show that trans people are just normal (actually pretty nice) people. I’m trying to change hearts and minds a nail at a time.”
After ‘rainbow-ing up’, donning our red Stonewall t-shirts and taking some ‘before’ photos (before we potentially got lost in the crowds), we set off to join the hundreds of people eagerly awaiting the start of the parade.
This year was more diverse than ever, from the Armed Forces, who showed their colours in the Red Arrow fly by; to the Warwick Rowers, who of course were kitted out in their lycra. Joking aside, it made me proud to see representation of so many diverse groups, not to mention the fact that the LGBT community as a whole seems to be the most welcoming and non-judgemental of any I know. There were groups campaigning for refugee rights, others for anti-discrimination protection of all kinds and most of all an atmosphere of positivity which after recent events such as Orlando and a certain dividing referendum for the UK, was greatly needed. Of course, the events in Orlando were not forgotten, but marked by many tributes to the victims and a two-minute silence in Trafalgar Square. Moments like this remind us not to get complacent and the need for Pride is just as important now as it was when it first started, no matter who you are, as Stonewall says ‘Acceptance without Exception’.
It was an absolute privilege to be a part of the Stonewall Youth Event and to represent such a fantastic organisation. I would recommend it to anyone if you get the chance! My thanks have to go out to Alex Ferguson, our youth worker from Youth Connexions, Stonewall UK and all its volunteers as well as Lloyds Bank who supported the Stonewall Youth Event.
Happy Pride everyone!
Love Lizzie x
Some useful links:
Twitter @hertsyoungpride @1125wnw
Young Pride in Herts http://www.youngprideinherts.org
Courtney Francis http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/what-we-do/meet-people-we-work-with/courtney-francis
Charlie Craggs http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/people/charlie-craggs