Welsh History Month: South Wales’ first ever gay pride march took place in Cardiff with marchers parading down Queen Street

Picture 83: These activists envisioned this march in Cardiff as a “coming out” for gay and lesbian activism in South Wales and an occasion to celebrate and affirm Wales’ sexually diverse and gender-blended

The Gay Pride march through the centre of Cardiff in 1985

Those who have recently seen the film Pride in the cinema will be familiar with images like this. No, it’s not a picture of the group “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” marching in London, but it was taken in the mid-1980s.

Dating from 1985, this image, right, depicts South Wales’ first ever gay pride march. It took place in Cardiff with marchers parading down Queen Street to the bemusement of shoppers and pedestrians. According to the editorial piece accompanying the image, “many [onlookers] shook their heads in disbelief – others laughed and laughed away”.

The presence of policemen and placards in this picture may give the impression of a demonstration, but the theme of this march was pride, not protest.

Holding signs which read “Gay love is good love”and “sing if you’re glad to be gay”, these activists envisioned this march in Cardiff as a “coming out” for gay and lesbian activism in South Wales and an occasion to celebrate and affirm Wales’ sexually diverse and gender-blended society.

The gay rights movement has come a long way since 1985, and Wales’ population continues to be made up of individuals with differing sexual orientations. Nowhere is this diversity celebrated more openly than in Cardiff’s annual LGBT Mardi Gras festival, now Pride Cymru.

Established in 1999, Cardiff’s gay pride festival is held every summer in Cooper’s Field in Bute Park and is the largest event of its kind to take place in Wales. It’s serious and it’s loud, but it is primarily a celebration of diversity, with thousands of people (gay and non-gay) taking part each year.

Gay pride events such as this are not limited to the confines of Wales’ capital city, however. Similar events have been held and continue to be held in other towns and cities in the country such as Aberystwyth’s “Pride on the Prom”, Bangor’s North Wales Pride and Swansea Pride.

Wales has an interesting history of gay activism, one which stretches back further than the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Leo Abse (1917-2008), the Cardiff-born solicitor and Welsh Labour MP for Pontypool and Torfaen between 1958 and 1987, for instance, was an active gay rights campaigner and noted for promoting legislation to decriminalise male homosexual relations in the United Kingdom in the 1960s.

Cai Parry-Jones: “I am a Welsh-speaking Cardiff-born historian. I was awarded a doctorate in History from Bangor University in 2014 and I now work in academic publishing. I have a great interest in the histories and cultures of minority groups and I am currently in the process of turning my PhD thesis on the modern history of Jewish individuals and communities in Wales into a book.”

 

Republished from Wales Online

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