Second Step enjoy another smashing year at Bristol Pride

Approximately 10,000 people marched through Bristol as part of the Pride Parade and some 32,000 people are estimated to have taken part in the festival. The event, which can trace its origins to the very first Avon Gay Pride march in June 1976 (another long hot summer, incidentally!), has grown into a much loved part of Bristol’s festival landscape and, along with St Paul’s Afrikan-Caribbean Carnival, the Islamic Fayre and VegFest, represents for many of us all that is enjoyable and celebratory about the city – its diversity, its individuality, but also its social solidarity.

You might at first wonder at the relationship between homelessness, recovery and the Pride Festival. Well, it’s all about linking up different campaigns for a better city, and a better approach to homelessness. This is not utopian thinking, it’s very practical. Despite major social changes in attitudes over the last thirty years, young gay people still are disproportionately affected by homelessness. They might have fallen through the gaps which sadly still exist in the care system. Or in extreme cases they may have been rejected by their parents. The situation for transgender people can be even more fragile. As a writer in the local free paper B247 noted earlier this year, the trans community is still some years “behind” other groups such as lesbians and gay men, or the black community in terms of acceptance…. and is thus impacted by housing issues disproportionately.

Another reason why we were at Pride is because it brings the best out of people. Although its roots are in the gay community, Pride is a major celebration of human rights and social cohesion – which basically means, people getting on together. For us in the Pride community tent, we have the opportunity to meet hundreds of people: black, white, gay, straight, disabled, with or without mental health issues, people in recovery, people from Europe, people from Wales, pagans, Christians, Jews and Muslims, atheists and agnostics. All of our leaflets went and we were very pleased to receive some fantastic feedback such as:

“I had a friend who was supported by you…. Your organisation is great”

“I used to live with you when I was ill….. now I’m well. I am pleased you are still going”.

For those of us working in the sector, a bonus is the networking opportunities it affords us. Bristol is chock a block with clubs and societies, charities and campaign groups. Being at Pride allowed us to talk to and collect information from groups as diverse as Bi Visible Bristol, Out to Swim, Avon Wildlife Volunteers, community radio services, Fostering and Adoption, and Alcoholics Anonymous, plus everything between.

According to the network website, the 2019 event is already in the planning stages, with the main festival day taking place on Saturday July 13th. 2019 will be significant, as it will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, when young gay people of colour fought back against harassment in New York. It formed part of the wider counterculture and civil rights milieu of that time, and out of that moment, came a new wave of gay, bi and transgender activists. We look forward to being there.

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