Woman turns down Queen's honour over link to 'empire'

Adria Pittock, right, celebrating Pride in 2019, which she helped to organise, with her daughter, Maya Sinclair.

Adria Pittock, right, celebrating Pride in 2019, which she helped to organise, with her daughter, Maya Sinclair. - Credit: Adria Pittock

An Ipswich woman who campaigns for equality is declining a British Empire Medal awarded to her in the New Year's Honours for 2022.

Adria Pittock, 58, was awarded the BEM for services to the environment and the LGBTQIA+ community in Suffolk on Friday.  

However, she feels that to accept the medal would be contradictory to her role as chair of Suffolk Pride. 

“I cannot accept an award that is still based on colonialism. It’s called a British Empire Medal, and part of the blurb that it comes with says you are accepting it on behalf of God and the empire. Well, I just can’t accept something on behalf of God and the empire right now. 

“Chairing Suffolk Pride, I am very conscious of LGBT issues, not just in the UK, but elsewhere in the world. I’m also on the LGBT international committee for Unison, and I do a lot of work campaigning for LGBT legislation in other countries.  

“There are 54 countries in the commonwealth, and in 36 of these them, homosexuality is illegal.” 

For Adria, the medal’s colonialist connotations would undermine the work she is doing at Suffolk Pride. 

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“Most Commonwealth countries are ex-colonies. Suffolk Pride is really keen to encourage more people of colour to get involved, more people from minority groups. We're working really hard to be a representative, inclusive organisation, and I don’t think that being involved in something that has this ‘empire’ tag is helpful.” 

She continued: “I can’t get on board with an honours system which is based on the oppression of people of colour, and has been for generations.” 

However, she is grateful to all those who supported her nomination, and for the increased visibility that her declined award will surely mean for Suffolk’s LGBT community, something Adria is passionate about. 

Indeed, she was recognised in part for her efforts to put on a Pride Parade in Suffolk. The event started in 2019, although of celebrations had to happen remotely in 2020. 

“We want to raise awareness that that we’re here, for anyone who is young, maybe at school, or else older, and still grappling with their sexuality or gender identity,” Adria said.

“Because, there is a group of us here in Suffolk who have some understanding of what that is like, and we can all support each other, and make sure that Suffolk is an accepting part of the world.”