Suffolk Pride's Adria Pittock on the power of sharing LBGT+ stories
- Credit: Adria Pittock
February is LGBTQ+ history month, and hearing stories from people within the community can be hugely powerful and reassuring, according to Adria Pittock, chair of Suffolk Pride.
“It helps people understand that they're not alone,” says Adria, 58. “Stories and role models are so important. I didn’t have them when I was growing up in the 70s, and it was really tough coming out.
“Things like LGBT+ history month and Trans Day of Remembrance are such important opportunities for the people in the community to raise their voices and be heard.”
Adria campaigns to promote understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, and part of that work is trying to reach young people.
“Suffolk Pride along with Suffolk Archives have actually distributed the little booklet Pride in Suffolk's Past to schools in Suffolk. That's gone out to 101 secondary schools,” Adria says.
“Some schools in Suffolk are Stonewall champions. They've got LGBT+ groups, they celebrate LGBT+ history month and they’re talking about queer history. It’s a daily conversation.”
This dialogue, she says, can help undo the damage done by Section 28 of the Local Government Act. Effective in England between 1988 and 2003, the law “[prohibited] the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.”
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This meant that many teachers felt that they could not discuss LGBTQ+ issues in school.
“It was an absolutely horrendous time for schools, not just for the kids who might be questioning their sexuality or gender identity, but for teachers who were gay, they couldn't come out,” Adria explains.
“They could see children struggling and couldn't support them. There was a whole generation of children and teachers, failed by the system.
“Now, we’re trying to reverse that, which is really positive, and some schools are picking this up in a really positive, forward-thinking way.
Adria herself did not come out as a lesbian until aged 44, when she was married to a man and had two children.
“I was in complete meltdown about my sexuality,” she remembers. “I genuinely thought I would lose the children and that I was an unfit mother. It just shows how homophobic my brain was.”
Opening up conversations by sharing stories and experiences can work against this, and Adria is happy that children today are growing up in a far more accepting and supportive environment.
However, she says there is still work to be done.
“I would really like to see a primary school version of Pride in Suffolk’s Past. To talk about the different lives that people have led, whether they're artists, archaeologists, or whatever, I think for youngsters that would be really empowering.”