Didsbury Pride … Times Gone By


Didsbury Pride   

Nearly three thousand people came together on 3 September to celebrate diversity and community at this year’s Didsbury Pride.

A host of live musical acts, market stalls and LGBT+ organisation stalls were on display at the Emmanuel Church grounds on Barlow Moor Road. There was also children’s entertainment.

The Pride event is unique for being hosted by a church community (although keep an eye out for Chorlton’s first Pride event on 17 September). Following a tragic event where a teenager killed herself, the church has adopted a policy of inclusion, welcoming everyone regardless of race, gender or sexuality. It has lost some members of the congregation, but it has also gained new members from the LGBT+ communities.

Augustine Tanner-Ihm, vicar curate at St James and Emmanuel Didsbury, said: “It brings together people from the community and the church to celebrate people’s lives – LGBT+ people all around Didsbury – to love and accept people, and just to celebrate. It’s so important because it shows that God loves everyone, despite what labels that people put on them, and it’s an amazing event.”

Times Gone By – LGBT+ History:

Freddie Mercury – 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991

Born in 1946 to Bombay-born parents living in Zanzibar, Farrokh Bulsara’s musical talent first revealed itself during his early years as a pupil at an English-style boarding school in India. It was at St Peter’s School that he anglicised his name to Freddie. The violent Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, during which thousands were slaughtered, sent the family running for their lives to England, where relatives took them in.

Freddie studied Graphic Design and Illustration at Ealing College of Art, graduating in 1969 at the age of 23. His adoration of Jimi Hendrix led him to join a series of bands. The most promising, Smile, metamorphosed into Queen. It was then that he abandoned his family name for the surname ‘Mercury’. His distinctive baritone voice, his ability to extend his three-octave vocal range with a variety of vibrato and distortion techniques, his strutting, seductive showmanship and his ability to connect with his audience made him one of the most thrilling rock performers of all time.

Always private about his sexuality and personal relationships, Freddie never came out during his lifetime. Wishing to be remembered for his music alone, he chose not to announce his HIV diagnosis. He spent the final months of his life as a recluse, nursed by close friends. On 23 November 1991, he confirmed in a statement that he had AIDS, and died the next day, aged 45. The Great Pretender lives on in the hearts, minds and memories of millions.

Sylvester – 6 September 1947 – 16 December 1988

Sylvester James was born in Los Angeles, Californa. He was a flamboyant, fabulous, glittery, gender-non-conforming singer whose records form part of the soundtrack of LGBT+ History.

During the late 1970s, Sylvester gained the moniker of the “Queen of Disco” with disco-fuelled hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”, “Dance (Disco Heat)”, and the Hi-NRG track “Do Ya Wanna Funk”. He was also an activist who campaigned against the spread of HIV/AIDS. He died from complications arising from the virus in 1988, leaving all future royalties from his work to San Francisco-based HIV/AIDS charities.

Valerie Taylor born 7 September 1913 – 22 October 1997

Velma Young was born in Aurora, Illinois. After college, she felt pressured to find a husband and, in 1939, married and eventually gave birth to three children. While employed as a teacher and operator, she managed to sell her writing to a number of magazines.

In 1953, using her most popular pen name – Valerie Taylor – she wrote her first novel, Hired Girl, which contained no lesbian subject matter. With the $500 earned from the book’s publication, Taylor got a pair of shoes, two dresses … and a divorce lawyer. She claimed that she didn’t realise the extent of her attraction to women until she was in her thirties. In the 1950s she had begun to see what came to be known as “classic lesbian pulp novels” in stores; but these had mostly been written by men as male fantasies. Taylor wanted to write stories that were centred on realistic characters. In 1957 she moved to Chicago and began a prolific career as the author of books with titles like Return to LesbosThe Girls in 3-BJourney to Fulfillment, and A World Without Men.

In addition to her writing, Taylor was active in LGBT and women’s rights, and the peace movement. She was a member of the early lesbian group the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed to that organisation’s groundbreaking magazine, “The Ladder”.

Valerie Taylor and Pearl Hart

During this period Taylor met lesbian activist / lawyer Pearl Hart. In 1965 the two women co-founded Mattachine Midwest, whose newsletter Taylor also edited. She and Hart remained together until Hart’s passing a decade later. Not being an immediate family member, Taylor was prevented from visiting Hart in the hospital while she was still conscious. By the time she was finally allowed into the room, Hart was in a coma; Taylor never got to say goodbye. In 1974 she co-founded the Lesbian Writers Conference. She retired to Tucson in 1979 where she became active in the Gray Panthers. She was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1993. After suffering a fall Valerie Taylor died on 22 October 1997 at the age of 84.

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