This Pride Month, we're inviting people from the LGBTQA+ community to publish their stories and experiences with our Proud Suffolk writing project. The project aims to celebrate the community, get their voices heard and promote understanding and acceptance across the county.
Proud Suffolk is part of Suffolk Libraries’ youth arts programme, BLOC - Building Libraries on Creativity, supported by Arts Council England.
Suffolk Libraries creative programmes manager Melissa Matthews explained: “Proud Suffolk is a creative writing project, sharing the stories and experiences of the LGBTQA+ community to promote acceptance across the county. Writings can be anything our authors want. Whether it is a haiku about your first love, a poem or a short story about coming out, we want to hear the voices and experiences of Suffolk."
This year sees the first Suffolk Pride since 2014. It is being supported by many local organisations including the University of Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council. 2019 is also the 50th anniversary pf the Stonewall Riots in New York City 1969, which proved to be pivotal for gay activism and the LGBTQA+ community.
According to Stonewall research:
- The LGBTQA+ population is estimated to be between 2.10 - 2.95 million people in England and Wales
- Nearly half (45 per cent) of LGBTQA+ pupils - including 64 per cent of trans pupils - are bullied for being LGBTQA+ in Britain's schools
- Half of LGBTQA+ pupils hear homophobic slurs 'frequently' or 'often' at school
- Half of lesbian, gay and bi people (46 per cent) and trans people (47 per cent) feel able to be open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to their whole family.
This research shows that often the LGBTQA+ community do not always feel their environment is inclusive and accepting of their sexuality or gender identity. Melissa added that, by contrast: "libraries belong to their communities. Our involvement in Pride shows that Suffolk Libraries are inclusive and safe spaces for everyone, no matter their age, gender, heritage or sexuality."
In the run-up to Suffolk Pride, Suffolk Libraries have been hosting various events to celebrate inclusivity and acceptance. Pantomime dame and storyteller Mama G has delivered children’s storytimes about ‘being who you are and loving who you want’ at many our libraries and is an advocate of Suffolk Pride and the library service. She said:
"Suffolk libraries have been so welcoming, so inviting, it’s like walking into a big hug! All the librarians are so enthusiastic and I’ve seen all sorts of families of all sorts of shapes, sizes and varieties bringing their children to use these spaces. It just warms my heart."