CT Consults
28 June 2024

Pride Month: From Reform Acts to Drag Acts

My experience Bi-Navigating Manchester

As Pride Month comes to a close and businesses and councils begin to remove their default rainbow backgrounds from their logos and the flags zigzagging through the streets, adding a tick in that inclusivity check box, it’s important to reflect on our approach to Pride. Is it still the powerful symbol of justice and equality it once was? An ode to the Stonewall uprising in the 80s? Or has it become just another static commodity in a marketing plan?

I grew up in Manchester City Centre, a place celebrated for its industrial heritage and renowned football clubs. However, Manchester also boasts a rich LGBTQIA+ community history, from underground bars to groundbreaking activism.

Growing up as bisexual in Manchester during the 2000s, I knew which language and behaviours to adopt depending on where I was and who I was with. There were only a few streets where the queer language was spoken, and you could act (as my nana might say) “out of sort.” Today, Manchester City Centre is home to dozens of cafes and bars proudly displaying the Pride flag year-round, representing a safe space where everyone, regardless of sexuality, can feel comfortable.

But how did we get here and how do we move forward with LGBTQIA+ representation? 

The 19th century laid the groundwork for Manchester’s LGBT scene, with closeted meeting places like the basement of the Temperance Hotel on Oxford Street providing sanctuary for those who dared to express their true selves. These spaces, shrouded in secrecy, became the birthplace of a community.

As the 20th century dawned, Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ community began to emerge from the shadows. Despite the infamous police raids of the 1950s and 1960s, resistance simmered beneath the surface. Venues like the New Union Pub on Canal Street and the drag ball culture of the 1960s offered glittering escapes from the harsh realities of discrimination. 

I could reel off numerous events in Manchester’s past which has built up this colourful history and brought together the community that stands today: The North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee founded by Allan Horsfall in the 60s; The University of Manchester’s ‘Manchester Gay Alliance’ founded in the 70s; Manchester City Council’s ‘Equal Opportunities Committee’ in the 80s and in 1985 the birth of Manchester Pride month. Whilst these are important to note for Manchester specifically, around the country each area has had its own story. 

There are plenty more examples across cities, towns and villages and it’s important to understand the stories and the battles the communities have faced to get to where we are today. Whilst these policies, groups and buildings are the backbone to the fundamental steps in equality, some of the biggest impacts to the LGBTQIA+ movement have been from the media. Queer as Folk, set in Manchester, was the first representation of the gay community as ordinary ‘folk’, people felt represented and understood. Since then its creator has gone on to produce ‘Cucumber’ and ‘It’s a Sin’, continuing that representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the media. This new age media was highlighting not just the discrimination in society, the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, the camp or drag, they focused on the day to day lives of people working and socialising within society. Our offices on Stevenson Square are moments away from where these iconic shows were filmed.

Taking into account this rich and varied history – from reform acts to drag acts – the landscape that I saw growing up in the 90s and 2000s is now one which celebrates our diverse society. But there is much more to be done, and Pride month is not an investment opportunity for businesses. Pride month should be celebrating the daily, weekly, monthly investment businesses have put into supporting everybody regardless of identity, age or sexuality. A flag means nothing if the person waving it doesn’t understand its meaning. 

It is up to businesses individually to work with the LGBTQIA+ community inside and outside of their organisation to understand what they can do to be more inclusive. I, like many on our team at CTConsults, feel comfortable speaking about who I am and my experiences. That is something to be celebrated this month, along with the support we give to businesses in and around Manchester, owned by or for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, whether attending events or simply buying a coffee. Here are our team’s recommendations for LGBTQIA+ owned businesses in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which we regularly support:

“I nominate QueerLit, which can now be found in Social Refuge on Great Ancoats Street. A brilliant selection of books (I recommend Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, set in Manchester) in a space which is a cafe by day and bar by night. They also run events such as free queer co-working on Fridays, book launches and board game nights.

Honourable mentions: Joy by Sophie for your aesthetic needs, and Holier Than Thou for the sharpest needles and shiniest jewellery – both offer gender affirming treatments.” Amy, Place Consultant

“My choice is Travelling Man – they host lots of inclusive events and have a focus on community!” Ryan, Digital Products Manager

“My nomination is Feel Good Club. LGBTQIA+ founded and run, with their venue providing a beautiful friendly environment for coffee, brunch, lunch, and drinks. By night they host events aimed to spread joy and positivity, with a weekly line up that includes everything from cabaret, spoken word, comedy and storytelling.” Cionna, Strategic Project Manager

And big shout out to Scott and everyone at Siphon, who keep us all caffeinated with their delicious coffee! 

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