Bryony Jackson-Doward is acting head of Contact Centre Operations and we asked her all about her first time at Pride.

My First Pride
My First Pride

I think my first pride was about 2003. I grew up in a small town where I only knew two other gay people, and both were guys. Growing up I didn’t have any representation of lesbians around me. Even in 2003 the only lesbian representation I knew of were on tv shows like Bad Girls and Playing the Field. So when we first went to Pride, we went to Manchester, I was about 18 at the time, and I honestly didn’t know that that many gay people existed. Back then it just wasn’t as out there as it is today, and I was bewildered at the amount of people, and that was just in Manchester. At the time I had cut my hair short and wore clothes that made me feel a bit different but going to Pride made feel me validated by the way I dressed and felt. It made me feel more comfortable with the way I was. It was a massive point in my life for me to think ‘Yes I’m doing alright’.

The partying, dancing and cheesy songs are all part of going to Pride but it was also educational for me. For example, I didn’t realise that on the last night of Manchester Pride, a candle lit vigil is held to commemorate and remember all the people who have lost their lives to AIDS. It can be a very emotional part, and before I went, I just didn’t realise the tie in with AIDS and the struggle that the gay community had gone through in the 80’s. Everyone lights a candle to remember the people that went before and paved the way.

After that we went to Manchester Pride every year for about 13 years, and two years ago I went to the pride parade with BT, EE and Plusnet, which was a fantastic opportunity to get involved in.

What does going to Pride mean to you?

I don’t feel like being gay defines me, but Pride is a community of people where I feel safe to be who I am without being judged. You get a lot of allies there as well as a lot of people’s families, and people bring their kids and it’s just an amazing feeling for a whole weekend that this is a really safe place to just be you, and be whoever that you is.

What changed for you after that first pride?

It was the validation that it was ok to wear my hair short, to dress in guys clothes, it made me feel properly safe and confident around who I was. And this helped me get through those time when strangers made me feel different.

What do you think is the priority of the movement going forward for you and your family personally?

I think it’s representation of people like me where I work. Of the people I know in BT across the North West, I can only think of three other gay women, and none of them are in leadership positions. I can name far more gay men than gay women who have worked their way up in their career, so I need to be that representation. Being gay is only part of who I am so I’ve shied away from getting massively involved in things like this in the past. But I don’t need to do this for me, I need to do this for other people so they can see and hear from someone like them, and role model that within our business there is opportunities available for everyone.

And what should the priorities of the movement be externally?

I think acceptance and tolerance is a lot better now but I think there is still a level of ignorance, so education about the origins of the movement and why we still have to have a Pride, need to carry on. Worldwide we are still not where we need to be and that needs to change. When I got married, we had to think very carefully about where we went for our honeymoon, where we would feel comfortable walking down the street holding hands. I feel privileged that I live in a country where I’m allowed to be who I am, but this is absolutely not the same for everyone.

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