As always, the Parade was the highlight of the Pride Festival and the city was at its most colourful and glorious as around 150 different charities, companies, and organisations assembled in at Castlefield. The long wait to get underway was made enjoyable by the company and by the sunshine – not a guaranteed feature of the August Bank Holiday weekend in Manchester.
Central Chambers was by far and away the largest contingent of barristers marching at Pride this year. Not at all bad for a small, specialist set! But, given the size of the group, it was thought best to draw the crowd’s attention. Fortunately, the Crystal Stormtrooper (aka Tom Macdonald – Dean of Campus at the University of Law, Leeds) was on hand to catch the eye of the assembled masses.
It wasn’t just the public who were desperate to get a picture with the sparkly cosplayer; the clerks and barristers wanted photos too.
Central Chambers played host to the pre-march preparations. All hands were on deck for helping Chris Seel (The Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Adviser and in charge of our Pride efforts) shuffling everybody around, finding T-shirts, getting flags and face-paint and, most importantly, coffee to fuel the marching.
During the march, the crowds gave loud approval to the Law Society message of equality under the law. This strong and well-established message has been spread across all of the Pride events attended by The Law Society, this year.
Central Chambers banner, bearing the slogan, “Wigs: Not Just For Drag Queens” drew a great deal of mirth and Jayne Lever (Central Chambers) and her daughter, Alana did us all proud, engaging with the Pride crowd whilst keeping the banner up!
“There was a sense of renewed relevance at the parade, this year” said Ben Knight.
“The rise in homophobic and transphobic attacks in recent years cannot be denied. There is something insidious about the rise of neo-populism and alt-right ideologies and all minorities are feeling an increased sense of being under siege.
“There is external and internal conflict. Seeing so many allies marching in the parade with us is so reassuring. But within the community, the very convention of using the ever-growing LGBT+ identity is being examined. And lawyers are leading the way with that. I mean, “LGBTTQQIAAP+” is even being used and this feels like more importance is being placed upon finding a narrow identity within a pre-defined set.
For years, lawyers working in International Human Rights have been using the term “SOGI” or “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” to describe our wide community. It’s not exclusively a legal term. It’s an inclusive term. I hope it gets traction within the community itself.
“At the Candle-lit Vigil this year, the “Ls and Gs” were encouraged to champion the other letters in the community’s name for a year. It’s not that we are “there” yet in terms of lesbian and gay rights – we definitely are not – but that we need to help others within the SOGI community to catch-up with where we have reached in terms of visibility and recognition. For my part, I am championing the “As”. That is to say, the asexuals. That’s a group that is so misunderstood and faces hostility from pretty much every direction. Standing with a recently-out asexual at the vigil and hearing nothing to include him made me feel so desperately sad and angry.
I have an idea about how to “champion” my friend and other asexuals. Watch this space! And why not see what you can do to help out, this year?
“Anyway, the range of SOGI community lawyers and allies on parade was awesome. Private practice, in-house, employed, self-employed, training, academic – all were there. That of itself is worth celebrating. And we had a blast.”
Asking around, it was perfectly clear that this will not be the last time that Central Chambers marches for those in need of support. We have a proud history of supporting charities such as Amnesty International and Barnabus (a homelessness charity in Manchester), as well as protesting against the cuts to legal aid and restrictions imposed upon access to justice and we will continue to raise our voices for those who need it.
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