Bradford has always been a place I have been proud to call home. It’s diverse, friendly and a city that people are starting to take notice of for the right reasons, writes Richard Dunbar, Labour Councillor for Thornton, Allerton & Sandy Lane.
The world’s first UNESCO City of Film, a world heritage site, Curry Capital of Britain for six years in a row and the youngest city in Europe by 2020. All things we rightfully celebrate and want the world to know about.
I am very proud of being an openly gay politician in Bradford. Some have questioned why it’s important that I announce my sexual orientation in public arenas and I simply say to them that it is incumbent in my role as a public servant that I speak to the vocal majority for the rights of the silenced majority. If history has taught us anything it is that we don’t see positive change for LGBT people unless we are visible, are willing to support each other and challenge the prejudice whist simultaneously educating the ignorant.
Like many LGBT+ young people I struggled over many years, in my head, to come to terms with my sexuality. I tried to suppress my feelings, pretended I fancied girls whilst all the while hiding who I really was because I was worried about what people would think of me. I came out when I was 21 to most people. I agonised over the decision to come out for years. It didn’t change who I was, what I did or how society functioned but it did lift a weight off my shoulders that should never have been there in the first place. Despite the progress made in this country for LGBT+ rights over the last 50 years it just shows the inequality that still exists that people have to ‘come out’.
As LGBT+ people know ‘coming out’ isn’t something that we do once, we have to correct people on many occasions about the presumptions some make about the gender of our partners. Moreover, I also realised that coming out isn’t the end of the problems. Being chased out of a pub, told I was disgusting because I dared to hold hands with a boyfriend in public, and receiving a barrage of abuse on different occasions have been some of the things I experienced, that many of you will identify with on a regular basis.
This year in Bradford we have gone all out for LGBT+ History Month with a festival of over 100 events including films, panel discussions (including one on ‘faith, religion and LGBT+ rights’), social events, support groups, football matches, plays and the inaugural Bradford Pride Awards all with the aim of celebrating the contribution made by our city’s LGBT+ citizens. We want to use this as a platform off which we will come to be known as one of the most LGBT+ friendly cities in the UK.
We all know that the history of the LGBT+ community has been one of struggle; most recently with the Orlando tragedy, the refugee crisis and the worry that in the three months after Brexit hate crimes against the LGBT+ community went up by 147%. And of course the election of Trump and Pence who stood on an openly anti-LGBT platform is a concern to the wider movement.
LGBT+ History Month in Bradford isn’t simply about celebrating being LGBT+ it is very much about standing up and saying we do matter, we do have rights and we deserve to live without persecution. I passionately believe that denying the rights of the LGBT+ community anywhere in the world makes us weaker as a society.
I am very proud of Bradford Council right now in terms of what we have achieved for History Month. I am by no means saying we are perfect (although we are pretty close), but we do accept when we have issues and we work together across communities to aid understanding and make things better for everyone who lives here including the LGBT+ Community.
We would very much welcome anyone to Bradford to help us celebrate History Month and for you to experience that good old Yorkshire hospitality.
For more information please visit www.lgbtbradford.co.uk. Twitter handle is @lgbtbd, Facebook Page is facebook.com/lgbtbradford, social media hashtag is #LGBTBD.
Words CouncillorRichard Dunbar