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What does Pride mean to you? Connect employee shares their story

As #PrideMonth comes to a close, it’s important we hear what it means to people first hand. Connect and Engage Leeds employee Mel has been kind enough to share her story and why Pride is important to her.

“I had quite a religious upbringing and grew up in what I felt was a small minded town where being LGBTQ+ was not accepted or spoken about (I wasn’t aware that my uncle was gay until much later). I left home and South Wales when I was 18 and was then lucky enough to meet open minded people and feel accepted.

I came out when I was 21 and pregnant with my son. I didn’t come out as a lesbian to my family until he was 3. It took a little while but they accepted my partner as his other mum and part of the family.

When my son was about 7 years old, we lived in an area in Leeds where we were subject to homophobia. Some locals would tell their children not to play with my son.We were also physically attacked by a group of local youths, resulting in a gash to my head from stones being thrown at us.

Leeds housing options were very supportive and gave us urgent priority and rehoused us quite quickly. The move was an improvement, but we still experienced some homophobic remarks when out walking the dog. We decided to move to a housing co-op where we had lived years before and be a part of a community where we felt safe and accepted and my son could be happy.

I am pleased to say that when my son was in his teens his friends thought it was cool that he had lesbian mums. He is getting married next year and all their friends and both families will be there to help them celebrate.

I now live on my own in a diverse area where I have never experienced homophobia. I’m very happy to say that working in housing support for over 28 years and at Engage and Connect for 4 years, that I have always been out at work and always felt welcome, accepted and feel confident to provide feedback and ideas.

So, what does Pride mean to me? Sadly COVID has prevented most prides taking place and has added further to isolation. So many LGBTQ+ people are reliant on pride events and LGBTQ+ venues to feel safe, be themselves and to meet people. Thankfully things are starting to open up again and hopefully Leeds Pride will happen next year. I’ve been part of an LGBTQ+ choir for 10 years and we have performed at a few pride events.

To me it’s a time to remember what struggles LGBTQ+ people have had to face and still do. A celebration of diversity and fun. To be bright, proud and loud, and have fun with my partner, family, friends and colleagues. I love to see the city looking so busy and happy and its hard to ignore LGBTQ+ people on that day and see everyone come together and feel positive. It’s also great that companies can promote inclusivity on the stalls and floats.”

Mel’s story is an inspiration for all and shows the struggle and discrimination so many of the LGBTQ+ community have been through throughout their lives. It’s great to see that the housing sector was able to help Mel, her partner and her son and should encourage everyone in housing to do what they can to root out violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community as well as helping them find safe space and housing options.

This is also a stark reminder that Pride, whilst it is a time for celebration of where we have come from, is primarily a time to fight against injustices against LGBTQ+ people, identify areas in society that still don’t treat them equally and to campaign for the rights they deserve as citizens.

There are a great range of organisations nationally and locally that support LGBTQ+ people and you can find a comprehensive list of them by clicking here.

We highly recommend you read the Stonewall Free To Be Strategy as well as some of the other amazing resources and campaigns they have on their site.

You can also find out more about Pride here.

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