It’s Pride Season!

It’s LGBT Pride season! That time of year when rainbow flags, bright tights and crazy costumes come out for gay rights! And probably Ian McKellen too.

Across the country, there are Pride marches taking place every weekend, and Ulster Bank, we don’t shy away from joining in the celebration. We work tirelessly each year to put on an incredible spectacle in the parade, making sure everybody knows that we support and celebrate our LGBT colleagues.

With that in mind, I spoke to some of our LGBT champions in the bank, and asked them about the history of Pride, what it means to them and why it’s important.

Pride is important

Ben Tuffley: Pride, for me, is the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the LGBT community, to celebrate the achievements we have made as a community but also to recognise that the fight is far from won, both here in the UK and Ireland, and further afield.

Paul Cowie: Pride is a celebration of who I am, who I can be. It’s about showing others that it’s okay to love who you love and about challenging other people’s views respectfully.

Michael Sloan: To me, Pride is a special time where we remember those who fought hard for us to have the freedom and the level of equality we have now. Pride is Love.

The enormous, colourful and vibrant Pride parades we see today haven’t always been quite so extravagant. The first Pride march in the UK was on 1 July, 1972 in London, chosen as the nearest Saturday to mark the Stonewall riots of 1969. Around 2000 people marched through London, sparking what would eventually become one of the largest celebrations of LGBT rights in the country.

Pride is love

Dane Davies: Pride is important because it brings LGBT and allies together, for a big celebration of being both unique and united.

Ross Sansom: The Pride celebration is vital because there are still many places around the world where being LGBT is a punishable offence, punishable by death in some places. Pride season is about the LGBT community coming to the streets and saying we are here and we want to be equal to everyone else.

Caleb Matkin: Pride is about commemorating our history. Only 50 years ago it was illegal for LGBT people to gather at a bar, or for bars to serve the LGBT community. In fact, a mafia owned bar in New York in the late 60’s was one of the first places where the LGBT community would be happily served.

The Stonewall Inn, Lower Manhattan, New York City was the birthplace of the most significant gay rights movement in modern history. Run by the mafia, it was the largest establishment that openly served LGBT patrons, and played dance music. It was the only gay bar at the time where dancing was allowed.

On June 28th, 1969, during a police raid on the bar, a number of protestors gathered outside and clashed with the police. The Stonewall riots paved the way for the gay liberation movement in the U.S. which sparked similar movements across the globe.

We march to remember and honour the brave people who fought and died to make the world a more tolerant place.

The right to celebrate

So now we have the right to celebrate, what exactly is there to do at Pride?

Michael Sloan: There are so many things to do at Pride. If you’re taking part in the parade then you get to experience the atmosphere of walking the streets with so many colours. In the week before parade, there are a lot of events organised all across the city and wider areas to include everyone.

Paul Cowie: For Manchester Pride there are events all year round, so you don’t have to wait for the big weekend. They hold multiple events like balls and shows throughout the year to raise money for charity and support the big weekend in August. There’s the main weekend events, where you can watch many well known and some not so well known artists perform and enjoy the classic Manchester weather in the Gay Village!

Dane Davies: Quite simply, it’s a chance to dress up and party!

Pride has great live music, the most flamboyant parade outside of Brazil, pubs, clubs, bars and as much fun as you can take. But also the sense of togetherness is sometimes overwhelming. For me, the most poignant moment in my memory of Pride was seeing a woman dancing, wearing a t-shirt that said ‘I’m proud of my gay son.’

Our fondest memories

I asked the others what their fondest memories are.

Ross Sansom: My fondest memory was the first Pride I ever went to as it showed me that I’m not alone and it’s okay to be gay. I remember coming out the train station and just seeing a sea of colour and some really amazing outfits.

Paul Cowie: Marching in my first parade in 2015, it was such a warm feeling everyone cheering us on, celebrating what the weekend meant for us. Or the time Ian McKellan poured me a drink in New York New York Manchester.

Michael Sloan: My fondest Pride memory (as cheesy as it sounds) was taking part as a steward during my first ever Pride. I felt such a great feeling for being able to help with some of the chaos that is reining in thousands of happy attendees. That and the lifelong friends I’ve made over the years at Pride.

Caleb Matkin: This year will be the first Pride events I will be attending and I couldn’t think of a better way to contribute than helping organise Pride like I have been doing with the bank.

So from whichever walk of life you come, whether you’re gay or straight, put on some glitter and get down to your local Pride parade to show your solidarity with LGBT rights. See you there!

Find out more about inclusion at Ulster Bank.