Hollyoaks

Annie Wallace: Pride is a protest – the message of tolerance is working extra hard right now

You can’t have missed the fact that it’s Pride Month in June – yes, a WHOLE month of celebration, education, and engagement for the entire LGBT+ community and their allies.

Originally a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, which took place in New York on June 28, 1969, this is now embraced worldwide, and, for the UK, it’s a special year; the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in London on the 1st July 1972. This year’s Pride in London parade is on Saturday 2nd July.

This wasn’t an instant national movement, however, as Scotland had to wait until 1995 for its first pride march, in Edinburgh. However, these days, the number of Pride events nationally increases annually, as smaller communities and towns decide to stage their own events, spreading a huge rainbow across the entire country, getting bigger every year!

If you’re a social media user, you’ll likely have seen an uptick in the annual ‘When is straight pride month??’ nonsense too.

That and, ‘You don’t need Pride anymore; you’ve got more rights than me!’ – both statements which only go to prove how necessary Pride Month and other associated dates and festivals throughout the year are.

Back in 2015, Gay Times invited me to write an article about my joining Hollyoaks as the first trans person to play a regular trans character in a UK soap opera, and I wrote, ostensibly, a very positive, forward-looking piece, about the increasing visibility of trans people in daily life, and, yes, TV dramas too.

I couldn’t have predicted, seven years later, that a bitter biteback from far-right wing agitators, so-called gender-critical groups, and noisy bigots would result in trans people currently facing daily attacks from Government, the mainstream press and social media.

The trans community are currently fighting just to KEEP the hard-won rights we fought for in the 90s. It’s an ongoing, and exhausting task, but a necessary one.

There’s a great phrase – ‘Pride is a Protest’ – from the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn 53 years ago, through marches against the dreadful ‘Section 28’ which blighted the lives of young people between 1988 and 2003.

And now for the trans community, fighting against bigotry and abuse, and campaigning for reform of the 18-year-old Gender Recognition Act to better fit today’s social climate, since the Equal Marriage Act of 2013.

Something currently only being considered by the Scottish Government at present, despite seven years of a successful model in the Republic of Ireland.

Pride Month’s overall message of love, peace, tolerance and understanding is working extra hard right now, as the community finds itself under unjustified pressure, often from within as well.

However, as always, there’s FAR more that binds us than separates us; the people who hate one section of our diverse LGBT+ community are often the same that hate the others; we have common enemies. So we fight on, with our message of positivity.

We are entitled to be positive. Statistics show that year-on-year, people feel more able to come out as an LGBT+ person than in years before, and it’s a continuing, albeit slow, trend.

Part of this is generational of course. Younger people have always pushed the envelope onwards, and for most people of university and school age, being LGBT+ no longer carries the same stigma it did for my generation, which is extremely heartening.

The UK’s Pride events start in Spring and carry on through the Autumn – check out some of them here.

For many, the LGBT+ community’s social side is a lifeblood, especially for those whose families or associates are less than supportive, so this year’s events, happening for first time since the first pandemic lockdown, are keenly anticipated.

I attended Grampian Pride in my home town of Aberdeen on May 28, and it was an explosion of colour, love, peace and happiness, unbowed by the somewhat cold and drizzly weather on the day.

I’ll attend several prides over the next few months, including my own local one, Manchester Pride in late August. I know that at each one, I’ll see a happy, vibrant LGBT+ community at their best; unbowed by outside disapproval, unified by our support for each other, and always moving forward, never backward; together!

I’ve been playing Sally St. Claire in Hollyoaks for nearly seven years now, and my goodness, how time flies!

She’s had her ups and downs over the years (as every soap character has) but her most important attribute is that she’s not defined by being trans.

It’s a part of her, but not something which impacts her daily life. Much like my own situation.

However, she has some large hurdles to overcome this month, within the McQueen family, and for herself too. Keep watching!

Happy Pride, everyone.