Virtual Hideout … LGBT+ Majority Extra Care Housing Scheme Update … Rainbow Lottery

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Virtual Hideout

On the game

Virtual Hideout is a virtual reality gaming centre located in the heart of Manchester.

Twenty-four of us from Out In The City received a personalised, unique and immersive experience.

We sliced bananas and pineapples, dodged a huge whale and some slippery jellyfish and danced along to some pop songs.  The visit offered a fantastic and personal experience worked around us. A good time was had by all.

Lots of photos can be seen here.

LGBT+ Majority Extra Care Housing Scheme Update

Manchester City Council (MCC), LGBT Foundation and Anchor have decided to end the tripartite negotiations around the delivery of the LGBT+ Majority Extra Care Housing Scheme. 

The Russell Road scheme is a flagship, first-of-its-kind development that will create a safe and welcoming housing community for older LGBT+ people in Manchester.  

This means creating and maintaining a long-term relationship between the Council, LGBT Foundation and the housing association developer – and eventual managing company – with MCC commissioning both care and support services in the new Extra Care scheme for future residents and LGBT Foundation providing services and support within the scheme.  

The three partners have agreed that the local management arrangements required to meet the specific needs of LGBT+ communities within Manchester city mean there will be other organisations better suited than Anchor to take it forward. The Council will begin the process to bring a new housing provider with extra care experience on board to deliver the new LGBT+ majority Extra Care housing project in Whalley Range, south Manchester.  

A new competition will be held later this year and the successful housing delivery partner will be part of a tripartite strategic partnership with Manchester City Council and LGBT Foundation. 

The housing association partner will own and be responsible for designing the scheme through a co-production approach with the Council and LGBT Foundation – alongside a Community Steering Group made up of local people in Whalley Range and members of the LGBT+ community.  

Dr Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation, said: “We are as committed as ever on delivering the right extra care scheme for the LGBTQ+ residents of Manchester, and we will continue to work with the Council to find the most appropriate partner to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ people over 55. 

Our research clearly demonstrates that the needs of LGBTQ+ older people are still not being addressed, and this scheme will help to ensure that these inequalities are met.  We are hopeful of a speedy resolution and along with our Community Steering Group we look forward to forming a strategic partnership with the new provider, to put communities at the heart of the development of this ground-breaking scheme.”   

Rainbow Lottery – Support Out In The City

As a thank you for your ongoing support of Out In The City we’ve got something extra special coming up for you – the chance to win a luxurious staycation with Forest Holidays! Unwinding in a secluded cabin, or relaxing in your own private hot tub – what could be better!?

The national draw  will take place on 25 June 2022. If you are already supporting us, there’s no need to buy separate tickets, you will be automatically entered into this prize draw. Of course, you are welcome to buy additional tickets. Every ticket you buy is an extra chance to win, and an extra fundraising boost for Out In The City. It’s a win-win situation!

If you wish to start supporting us, please buy your tickets here.

Thank you & good luck!

Traffic Lights supporting Pride Month

Pride in Ageing Video … Gateways Grind … AIDS: The Unheard Tapes … Pride events

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Pride in Ageing video

To celebrate Pride in Ageing’s third birthday, a video has been produced featuring the lives and stories of some of the incredible older LGBTQ+ people Pride in Ageing serves.

Life inside the wild London club where lesbians were free to be themselves

Beryl Reid (as Oliver Hardy) during the filming of “The Killing of Sister George”. Photograph: David Newell Smith / The Observer

The Gateways is back. The longest-running lesbian club of all-time – the one whose actual clientele appeared in the 1968 film The Killing of Sister George; the one where Mick Jagger tried to talk the owner into letting him crash in a frock; the one that was a sanctuary to every class and sort of woman, from well-known figures such as the writer Patricia Highsmith and the artist Maggi Hambling (then an art student) to swimming-pool attendants at the Tooting Bec Lido – has been given a new lease of life in the first full-length documentary film to celebrate its history, and ensure that it is not erased.

Behind a dull green door on the corner of King’s Road and Bramerton Street in Chelsea, down some rickety steps to the basement lay the dive, a former strip club. The lease had been won in a bet at a broadcast boxing event at the Dorchester hotel by course bookie Ted Ware in 1943, and initially he offered it as a hang-out to a group of his lesbian pals who had been kicked out of their old Soho haunt the Bag O’ Nails pub after new owners took over and banned them.

Ted married an Italian actress, Gina Cerrato, in 1953 (they had a daughter, also named Gina, a year later) and the couple ran the club with Gina’s right-hand woman, Smithy, a former member of the US Air Force from California. They turned it into a women-only venue in 1967. After Ted’s death in 1979, Gina kept the club running but its last night was in 1985. She died in 2001.

I first met Gina Jnr (as she was never called) in Bristol in 1975 when she stood out as someone striking in a wide-striped black-and-gold form-fitting men’s suit with a Louise Brooks bob. Growing up, she says she had no idea of what sort of club her parents ran.

Family home life in the leafy mock-Tudor suburbia of Isleworth, West London, was unusual … but not to her. As well as her parents, Smithy had been invited to move in by Ted shortly after his daughter’s fourth birthday. He explained to Gina that it was in recognition of the kindness shown to him in New York as an illegal immigrant when he had been offered safe harbour by a black woman, and then a Jewish family.

There was no flamboyant atmosphere of bohemian chaos. The decor was monochrome: “My mother was never into chintz.” Bedtimes were strict; meals were served at the same hour every day; homework was not to be shirked; a neighbour would take her to church every Sunday. But Gina was aware that her family was more fun than her friends’ families, and if most of the people who visited were pairs of women friends, this seemed perfectly normal.

“When I went to other people’s houses I would find them extraordinarily suffocating and conventional. There’d be this ghastly father who was a boring old fart and a mother who was terribly uptight,” she recalls. “I was glad to go home to the laughter and fun. There was a lot more conversation, and I had a lot more access to my parents than my friends did to theirs. I could say what I wanted as well.”

Even as small children, she and her friends helped with jobs for the club: counting threepenny bits and sixpences from the till for the cigarette and fruit machines, and wiping down bottles of tonic water that were stored in the garage.

The Gateways around 1953. The woman holding a wine glass is Gina Ware

She was 13 when she discovered for the first time about the club’s clientele and purpose. “It was Sunday lunchtime and my mother and I were washing up after lunch. She said: ‘I want to talk to you about something because you’re going to hear about this at school. You do know what the club is, don’t you?’ I said: ‘What do you mean? It’s a club,’ and she said: ‘It’s a lesbian club, Gina.’

“I said: ‘What?’ And she said: ‘Lesbians! You know, women with women.’ So I was, like: ‘Really? Really?’”

“I think I then said: ‘Does Dad know?’ And she said: ‘He started it! It’s his club!’”

Neatly, it was a story in this newspaper about The Killing of Sister George and the club that persuaded Gina’s mother to explain.

In her mother’s final three weeks, there were a few astonishing revelations. The two Ginas were watching television together when Mick Jagger appeared and Gina Snr asked for the remote to turn the volume up, saying: “Oh, it’s Mick – such a lovely boy.”

He lived in Cheyne Walk, and would pass by the Gateways to get to the King’s Road. “And my mum would be outside, taking deliveries, doing the laundry or whatever, and she said that he used to stop and talk quite often.

“And I was, like: ‘You mean, you knew Mick Jagger?’ And she said: ‘Oh yes, and he was always so kind and respectful. He wanted to come into the club but I wouldn’t let him. He said: ‘Gina, please let me – I’ll wear a dress’, and I said: ‘Darling, I can’t – it’s women-only.’”

There was always speculation about the relationship between her mother and Smithy. On her death bed, her daughter finally asked her about it. “I said: ‘People always ask me, Mum, and I hate to ask you but were you and Smithy lovers?’ And she said: ‘Everybody always assumed that Smithy was madly in love with me and that I was playing her along. But no we weren’t, and the reason for that was that Smithy didn’t want it.’

“That was my first inkling that my mother must have been bisexual.”

The two Ginas and Ted Ware in the 1970s.

Regardless of their lack of intimate relations, Smithy and Gina Snr loved each other deeply. As did Gina and Ted, who was 25 years older than his wife. “Despite their age difference, they had fun together, and there was an intellectual bond because they both had very fast, sharp minds and were clever, charismatic people.

“We lived as a family. Smithy and my mother were both with my father when he died – all holding hands and taking care of him.”

When the club closed, Gina was very sad but knew that she couldn’t take it over by herself. The documentary Gateways Grind is a way of restoring its history, which is enmeshed with her own, and to see her parents again.

It is presented by Sandi Toksvig, who recalls her own visits to the club, and has interviews with former members. It is sharp, snappy, sassy and sexy – oh, and of course, very sapphic, too. The Gateways Grind, we learn, was a particularly popular dance there where tightly meshed groin action became literally orgasmic.

Gina says she feels “immensely proud and impressed by the work and the commitment [behind the documentary] and still astonished by the interest and love that people have for the Gateways and how they remember it.

“Because we didn’t always have that. There was a time when we were out of favour because we weren’t ‘the right sort of lesbians’.” The club was subjected to demonstrations by the likes of the Gay Liberation Front who disapproved of the secrecy of the club, at a time when women could lose their children for being gay. The indomitable Gina Snr’s response was to call the police on them.

“Gateways wasn’t about being political. Being lesbian was its default position. People coming who were ‘terribly lesbian’ and ‘terribly activist’ were shocked by the fact they weren’t considered special,” says Gina.

In January 2020, an application was made to English Heritage for a blue plaque next to what was the dull green door in Chelsea. It is supported by many prominent lesbians but the outcome is still pending.

Gina’s reaction? “It is very emotional for me in the sense that I loved all those people dearly. I know what they went through. It wasn’t all fun and games. There was a lot of sorrow, a lot of harshness, life was not a bed of roses for them.

“So, yes, it’s important to have that blue plaque because it’s a location that means an awful lot to people and something genuinely happened there.”

Gateways Grind will be on BBC4 on 21 June at 9.00pm.

Aids: The Unheard Tapes

John (Luke Hornsby)

This innovative three-part documentary series tells the story of the British AIDS crisis as it’s never been told before.

Forty years ago, a mysterious disease first appeared in Britain’s gay community. A deadly and complex virus with no known cure, the ‘gay plague’ arrived at a time when homophobia and discrimination were commonplace. Few could talk openly about their experiences – or their illness.

As the crisis grew, a small group of pioneering researchers began recording audio interviews with infected gay men and their friends. These interviews – a frank, intimate and sometimes humorous account of life at the heart of the AIDS epidemic – were archived in the British Library and have never been broadcast before. The series brings them to life with young actors who lip-sync to the original voice recordings.

AIDS: The Unheard Tapes combines these lip-synced historical testimonies with modern interviews from British activists, scientists, doctors and nurses who lived, worked and campaigned throughout the crisis.

Starting with the death of Heaven barman Terry Higgins in 1982, and ending in 1996 with the emergence of the first successful drug combinations, the series explores how pioneering medics and the gay community worked together to raise awareness, fight prejudice, and ultimately find ways to treat the devastating virus.

The audio testimony featured within this series is archived at the British Library and is publicly accessible. AIDS: The Unheard Tapes brings these interviews to a broadcast audience for the first time. The series is made in partnership with the Open University

Ignorance

The first part of this innovative series starts in London in 1982. Thirteen years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, the largest gay club in Europe opens its doors, and Heaven is packed. Whispers begin to circulate of a mysterious new disease, a ‘gay cancer’ from New York, and Terry Higgins becomes one of the first people in Britain to die from what will become known as an Aids-related disease.

Revolutionary activists and doctors come together to discover what they can about this new virus, as numbers of those infected start to rise. Fear and stigma spread across the nation, contributing to a culture of extreme homophobia and ignorance. Gay activists take charge of trying to spread educational messages about safe sex for the first time.

The stories of men including David, Pete, John and Tony, recorded at the time, bring these experiences to life. Their real voices are lip synced by actors, giving first-hand insight into their lives at the time. They try to understand what they are hearing about Aids and cope with discovering their diagnoses at a time of heightened stigma and fear, when there is no cure.

As 1985 arrives, and with it the first HTLV-3 antibody test, the numbers of those infected with HIV gradually become clear, and the true scale of the epidemic begins to emerge.

About  Aids: The Unheard Tapes

Innovative series featuring interviews recorded at the height of the AIDS crisis in 80s and 90s Britain, lip-synced by actors, telling the story of HIV and AIDS in their own words. This show is broadcast on BBC Two on 27 June at 9.30pm. Episodes 2 and 3 will follow on 4 and 11 July respectively.

Derek Jarman Pocket Park

Manchester Art Gallery and Pride in Ageing at LGBT Foundation are working in partnership to create a Derek Jarman Pocket Park, which will be situated at the Mosley Street entrance of Manchester Art Gallery. 

This new community garden space has been designed and planted by a volunteer group of green-fingered LGBT+ over 50s from Greater Manchester, with support from artist Juliet Davis-Dufayard and funding from Pockets Parks and the Manchester Wellbeing Fund.

As well as providing a functional space for Manchester Art Gallery’s wellbeing work the garden will be a place for the people of Manchester and the wider world to come together, relax, share ideas and enjoy a taste of “immersive nature” in the centre of the city. Garden design support has been kindly provided by Exterior Architecture, the IGNITION Project and Royal Horticultural Society, and the garden will contain a number of innovative urban solutions to combat the effects of climate change.

The planting in the Derek Jaman Pocket Park is inspired by filmmaker, gay rights activist and gardener Derek Jarman’s celebrated garden in Dungeness as well as the life experiences of the LGBT+ volunteer group, who are of the same or similar generations to Jarman.

Almost 30 years on from Jarman’s landmark Queer exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, this volunteer group continue to be inspired by the messages and movements for LGBT+ equality which Jarman and others started in the 1980s, and are supporting LGBT Foundation to continue their work towards a fair and equal society where all LGBT people can achieve their full potential. The garden space will be launched at Manchester Art Gallery on Wednesday, 22 June (by invitation only).

Download the programme here

Pride events

The Pink Picnic RETURNS in 2022! Join Salford Pride on Saturday 25 June, 1.00 – 8.00pm in Peel Park, Salford.

Grab your FREE general admission tickets now, for more info visit: https://pp22.eventbrite.co.uk/?aff=facebook

For those looking for a little extra PinkPLUS experience tickets are NOW on sale at an early bird price: https://pinkplus2022.eventbrite.co.uk/?aff=facebook

This year Rochdale in Rainbows is excited to present Pride in the Park! at Broadfield Park, Rochdale on 26 June from 12.00 noon to 5.00pm.

Join us for our first outdoor event – an afternoon filled with queer joy, family fun, performances and creative and wellbeing activities for LGBTQIA+ people and allies. There will also be stalls from local organisations, groups, and charities in Rochdale Borough.

Community Session … Mystery Trip … Manchester Day … Podcasts … Conversion Therapy Ban

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Community Session: Out In The City

Manchester Pride invited Out In The City to present a Community Session to celebrate and let people know more about the incredible work we do to make LGBT+ life in Manchester so special for people over 50.

We informed the audience about who we are and the difficulties and challenges we have faced in our lifetimes. With talks, a short film, powerpoint presentations and a poem, we provided an opportunity for attendees to get to know us better and it all added up to an interesting evening.

Mystery trip

Eighteen of us met at Piccadilly Gardens Tram Stop at 11.00am to embark on a mystery trip. No clues had been provided other than we were taking the tram!

We changed at Cornbrook, got off at The Trafford Centre, walked through Selfridges, up the escalator, through to the ‘French Quarter’, past The Odeon Cinema … to the Paradise Island Adventure Golf.

We split into teams and teed off on the Temple Ruins Adventure – an amazing 18 hole crazy golf course, with a background of exotic wildlife, magnificent stone carvings and all sorts of paradise themed fun.

We were super competitive and I think we all scored a “hole in one”. Our scores varied widely, but Peter was the overall winner with a score of 45.

We dined at the Mardi Gras, a Wetherspoons pub, before taking the tram back to Manchester city centre. 

It was a very enjoyable day and there are lots of photos here.

New steps for Little Amal this Manchester Day

Last November we welcomed Little Amal, a 3.5-metre puppet of a ten-year-old refugee girl, as she ended an 8,000km journey in Manchester. On Sunday 19 June you can see her again as she walks in the iconic Manchester Day Parade before travelling across the UK, marking World Refugee Week.

You can plan your visit at the Manchester Day website and learn more about Amal’s journey by following @walkwithamal on social media.

We can’t wait to see the mesmerising Little Amal take to the street of Manchester!

5 of the best LGBT+ podcasts on BBC Sounds

Whilst the importance of hearing from LGBT+ people doesn’t just fall to a few weeks, Pride Month offers us time to commemorate just how far the movement has come. We can support the LGBT+ community by standing in solidarity and learning more about its history and present realities.

In the lead up to Pride, BBC Sounds has a wealth of podcasts that platform vital stories exploring queer joy, trans visibility and more. So, whether you’re a fan of sports or Yungblud’s Doncaster accent, they’ve got you covered with an easy fix of brilliant LGBT+ podcasts, but be quick as they are only available for a few weeks. Go to BBC Sounds and search for the following:

Conversion Therapy Ban

On Monday 13 June, MPs debated a petition calling for transgender people to be included in the Government’s proposed conversion therapy ban.

The debate was opened by Petitions Committee member Elliot Colburn MP, and Equalities Minister Mike Freer MP responded for the Government. A full transcript of everything that was said during the debate can be read here.

Stoller Hall … Superbia Cinema … Trans Aging: A Legacy of Visibility

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Stoller Hall

On Thursday, 9 June a group of us were treated to a programme of Beethoven, Schuman and Brahms with the cello by Zoltan Despond and the piano by Vesselin Stanev.

Ludwig van Beethoven was 26 years old when he composed his second cello sonata. He had moved to Vienna and was self confident and ambitious. On a tour he met the fabulous cellist Jean-Louis Duport and also Frederick William II, whom he tried to impress as a pianist.

Johannes Brahms, on the other hand, was an older gentleman when he wrote his second cello sonata. He was admired and rich and highly experienced as a composer. The concert at Stoller Hall was excellent and we really enjoyed it.

Superbia Cinema

Superbia Cinema returns to Ducie Street Warehouse Mini Cini this June for back-to-back screenings of four fantastic queer short films.

About this event

Superbia Cinema is a celebration of queer filmmaking, and each month they showcase films by talented LGBTQ+ creatives.

Superbia Cinema is a great way for film enthusiasts and those interested in LGBTQ+ arts to come together and immerse themselves in queer culture, and their events offer an excellent opportunity for attendees to learn more about each film’s production process, directors, actors, filmmakers and more.

They want to make sure that LGBTQ+ arts & culture is accessible to all – that’s why all Superbia Cinema events are completely free to attend.

This month’s Ducie Street Mini Cini theme is Otherness. Join us Thursday 23 June as they present; Tease, Diva, Other Half and Anywhere is a Dancefloor.

Stick around after the film screenings for a special filmmaker Q&A! Catch up with Jaii Andrew, choreographer of Anywhere Is A Dancefloor; Divina de Campo, drag icon and performer in surreal queer fantasia Diva; and Lina Kalcheva, the award-winning animation director of Other Half.

Schedule:

Screening 1 – 6.00pm – 7.00pm

Screening 2 – 7.30pm – 8.30pm followed by Q&A.

To book see Eventbrite for full details here

Trans Aging: A Legacy of Visibility

Nobody knows better than our transgender elders what it means to refuse to be invisible. They have been, and continue to be strong, compassionate, and vibrant role models for our community. But far too often, they are left out of the narrative of our history, overlooked, or condemned.

In the United States, The Trans Legacy Campaign aims to celebrate the vibrancy and resiliency of older transgender community members and increase the representation of transgender elders amidst the ongoing struggles facing the community.

In collaboration with Trans Equality Consulting, the campaign is thrilled to share this virtual gallery, featuring the photos of six transgender elders, arguably the most vulnerable group within the LGBT+ community. They have lived their lives in a society where being their authentic selves means suffering from harassment, discrimination, and prejudice. This disparate treatment leads to profound disparities that result in poor health, financial insecurity, and lack of community support.

Despite these challenges, transgender elders have persevered through adversity and been an integral part of the movement for equality for LGBT+ people nationwide. This resilience is portrayed in the Trans Legacy Campaign, which gives an inside look at the experiences and challenges they faced in their quest to live as their authentic selves.

The Trans Legacy Gallery

Meet the Crew! This project would not have been possible without the incredible support of Trans Equity Consulting and the talented Art Direction and Makeup crews, who were made up entirely of trans, non binary, and genderfluid folks.

Pride London: Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell explains the history of the LGBTQIA+ pride march

Holmfirth … Out of Isolation … The Rainbow Flag

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Holmfirth 

Holmfirth is a town in West Yorkshire centred upon the confluence of the Holme and Ribble rivers. It mostly consists of stone-built cottages nestled in the Pennine hills.

Between 1973 and 2010 both Holmfirth and the Holme Valley became well known as the filming location of the BBC’s situation comedy Last of the Summer Wine. There were 295 episodes recorded and this is the longest running TV comedy in history. Thousands of tourists flock to the area each year to enjoy scenery and locations familiar from the series. We joined them as there are lots of independent cafes.

Photos can be seen here.

Out of isolation: UK charities reconnect older LGBTQ+ people

Pat (right) with Jo, who is a volunteer from Opening Doors. ‘Now I’ve got to know Jo, she’s a good friend for ever,’ says Pat. Photograph: Suki Dhanda / The Observer

Jo was first paired up with Pat four years ago, but her relationship with the 69-year-old has deepened such that she sometimes forgets they were introduced by a befriending scheme for LGBTQ+ over-50s.

“If I’ve had a crappy day, seeing Pat lifts my mood because she’s so upbeat and resilient,” the 33-year-old says. “If I’m struggling with a situation, I think ‘what would Pat say?’”

Jo and Pat were introduced by Opening Doors, the largest UK charity offering support for LGBTQ+ over-50s: it says demand for its services has increased substantially since the pandemic. Elsewhere, efforts are stepping up to focus on this overlooked demographic.

This spring Re-engage, a charity dedicated to combating social isolation in those aged over 75, launched a free telephone service, rainbow call companions, specifically for older LGBTQ+ individuals who would like to speak to someone from their community.

“All too often, isolation is seen by older LGBT+ people as the price they have had to pay for their sexuality,” says the Re-engage chief executive, Meryl Davies.

For Jo and Pat, the benefits of cross-generational queer support are manifest.

Beyond Covid, the pair have faced their own challenges since they first met: a major stroke affected Pat’s speech and mobility, while Jo has recently come out of a seven-year relationship. “We talk about patience and self-care in her recovery – she worked as a history teacher and gets frustrated that she can’t express herself so easily – and she’s shared with me how she felt when her own significant relationships ended,” says Jo.

“My friendship group is all my age and I don’t have living grandparents, so I really appreciate knowing someone with that life experience, and the fact it is queer life experience is even more meaningful.”

Pat says their relationship has brought warmth to her life. “If I feel lonely I say ‘oh forget it, another day’. I’ve lived on my own for a long time, lovers come and go but I have friends who are lifelong. Now I’ve got to know Jo, she’s a good friend for ever.”

A recent review by Re-engage reports that older LGBTQ+ people are more likely to live alone and be single, and less likely to see their biological family and have intergenerational relationships or children. This can often lead to “family of choice” dwindling or becoming unable to support one another as they age together.

It is a particular consideration for older transgender people, says Jennie Kermode, who has written a support guide for growing older as a trans or non-binary person. She notes this cohort are more at risk of family estrangement, especially if they came out later in life which many of their generation did, and this contributes to greater anxiety moving into new social spaces whether that is bingo, the tennis club or a retirement home.

It is a concern for Zoe Perry, a 77-year-old trans woman who came out at 73 and lost her partner last Christmas. “If my health starts to fail and having just been widowed then I may find myself in greater need of health and social provision. Current hostility towards trans women does make me uneasy. If some of the more extreme voices have their way I would not be able to find accommodation in a woman’s space.”

Jonathan Buckerfield, the head of fundraising and communications at Opening Doors, says: “Older LGBTQ+ people are less likely to have regular inter-generational contacts and – despite the myth of the ‘pink pound’ – can be struggling to pay bills.

“The people we work with have lived through years when their relationships were criminalised, and may go back in the closet as they get older because of fears about responses from neighbours or healthcare professionals. Sometimes the befriending relationship can be the first step towards reconnecting people with their communities.”

Dan Hughes from Swindon, who befriends with Re-engage, agrees that the older generation is often left behind by the gay community. “Even I feel that at the age of 41, now I’m not interested in going to clubs so much”.

He has been paired with an older gay man who shares his love of documentaries. “I’ve learnt a lot from him. We’re both interested in history and the royal family – he was born around the time of our current queen’s coronation. We’ve talked about the differences between when he came out and I did. I went to a gay youth group, for example, and had so much more available to me. “It can be isolating for older people, especially if they’ve been in a long-term relationship and their partner dies. It’s important to have relationships where you can be free to be yourself.”

Gilbert Baker’s legacy: The Rainbow flag

The rainbow might come and go, but the rainbow flag is here to stay. Lifelong activist and artist Gilbert Baker made the original eight-colour flag, back in 1978, in San Francisco. It took him two weeks to complete the project. During the following years, as the flag was being mass-produced, Baker found out that dyes for two of the eight colours—magenta and turquoise—were difficult to find, hence, had to be eliminated for practical reasons.

Although we might be familiar today with the six-colour flag, there are different versions of the rainbow flag.

Sadly, Gilbert Baker died suddenly on 31 March 2017, at the age of 65. To remember him, friends and family gathered together on Flag Day, (14 June) for the Gilbert Baker Memorial Rally and March, “Raise the Rainbow!” in New York City, outside the Stonewall Inn.

Charley Beal, an activist and Baker’s long time friend, and Bruce Cohen, also an activist as well as an Academy award-winning producer, helped organise the event. Bruce Cohen was one of the producers of the movie Milk, and one of the executive producers of the mini-series When We Rise, which touches on the story of how Baker created the flag.

“As we were thinking about a memorial that Gilbert [Baker] would have loved and wanted, especially at this time, we thought that this memorial needed to be a march, a rally,” Cohen says.

“Gilbert [Baker] was an activist,” Beal adds. “He had an edge. He was not afraid to express his opinions [about what needed to be made right].”

Hence, the #RaiseTheRainbow event memorialised Baker, as well as shed light on all the issues that need our attention right now.

The rainbow flag is Gilbert Baker’s legacy. The flag is a universal symbol of peace and unity, but also of activism for equal rights.

“The flag will always be around now, which is extraordinary in and of itself,” Cohen says. “But it’s our job to make sure that the generations that come after us understand what the flag means, and, especially now, understand the importance of the fight for justice for everyone.”

In terms of legacy, some compare Baker with Betsy Ross, the woman who made the first US flag in Philadelphia. Baker embraced the idea for a while, but then moved away from it. The difference here is that Betsy Ross was hired to make the flag, whereas Baker “was an artist and activist who never stopped creating art, fighting for justice until the day he died,” Beal explains. “I think that the flag will outlive him, [it] will outlive us all.”