“Pride is important because some people’s troubles are only just beginning”
Coby Sharpe, a technician in the Media Technology Lab within Informatics, is joining others from the University of Sussex in taking part in this year’s Brighton & Hove Pride parade on Saturday (4 August). He reflects on why he came to work at Sussex, and what Pride means to him.
Seeing the trans flag flying above Sussex House [on International Transgender Day of Visibility] when I got off the train at Falmer really made me smile. It gave me such a feeling of solidarity and support. I used to work in Lewisham, teaching music technology in after-school sessions, and it took me a year to get posters up in the school that I worked in about families being different. If I talked about my home life – I’ve been with my partner for six years – I would get a shocked looked from people of, “Oh, we don’t discuss that sort of thing here”.
It wasn’t easy for me growing up gay in a large religious family in Cornwall. I’m the eighth child of ten. I was very worried about coming out, but I have a younger lesbian sister who was talking to me about how she felt. While I wasn’t ready to come out for my own reasons, being the older brother, I felt that I couldn’t let her do it on her own. So I bore the brunt and did it first. My family had to see that it wasn’t me just being rebellious, or going through a phase. It’s nice having a sister who is part of the LGBT community. It gives me someone else who understands.
When I lived in south London I wouldn’t even hold my partner’s hand, just because I know what drama that would cause. I was with my partner on a bus and had a girl shout abuse at us because he was falling asleep on my shoulder. My blood was boiling, and my partner said, “Don’t even rise to it”.
But Brighton is the LGBT capital. It’s such a liberal place, and I’m an avid voter of Green and this place represents my ideals. Because the University has grown alongside that culture, it means that I now live and work in a place that matches my ideals.
One of the things we need to remember about Pride is that there’s a generation of people who don’t know the history. They think it’s a celebration, but it comes from a protest. The Stonewall riots in 1969 happened because there was abuse to the LGBT community in New York. It took one transgender woman to put her foot down and for the gay community to say “No, we are with her.”
We talk about LGBT issues, but I feel like quite often the ‘T ‘is left off. It’s something that we, as a community, need to be moving forward. Something as simple as ungendered bathrooms can make a world of difference.
A strong part of me wants to protest the fact that there are these other countries where rights are being stripped away from LGBT people, where people are thrown off rooftops and beheaded. We have heard of secret camps where people have been taken and killed. We are moving ahead, but it’s not always the case. Some of it isn’t that far from our doorstep.
It’s important to do things like Pride, because some people’s troubles are only just beginning. All it would take would be for some really nasty people to get into power and that could be it. We could have everything reversed. Just like anti-Semitism, we could see anti-gay mentality coming back and we could fall back to a time and a place where it’s accepted for us to be carted away again.
- Coby will be one of more than 80 students, staff and alumni celebrating Brighton & Hove Pride on Saturday by taking part in the Pride Community Parade.
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