Helen's Pride Story

A picture of Helen at a pride parade, wearing an LGBT+ staff network t-shirt

Helen attended Somerville College in 1992 and has worked at the University since 2005. She chaired the LGBT+ Advisory Group for 3 years and has regularly attended Pride events since 1994. She reflects on her experiences and what has changed over nearly 20 years.   



A rainbow themed day  

I was in the University Parks at 7.30am on the morning of Oxford Pride, setting up for parkrun, a weekly 5km run that was especially themed for Pride. It was great to see people wearing rainbow clothes and leis, and others proudly draped in liberation flags. Afterwards, I walked to the start of the Pride march at Radcliffe Square with my wife Elaine and some friends, we marched together. We could hear the Sol Samba drums, and loved seeing the fabulous colours of the Oxford Pride bus and the fire engine also painted in rainbow colours.  

I feel it’s important for me to march and be counted as part of the Pride event, and part of Oxford’s LGBT+ community. I love walking down the middle of the road with my wife, for everyone to see. Not everyone is free to love who they want to love, or to be who they want to be. I also hope that any LGBT people watching the march, especially young people, will know that they are not alone. 


I love walking down the middle of the road with my wife, for everyone to see.

Protest, progress and celebration  

My first Pride was very much a protest march, as well as a celebration of the community. In the UK in 1994 Section 28 was still in force (legislation that banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality). The age of consent was still 21 for gay men, there were no workplace protections for sexual orientation or gender identity, and no legal recognition for same-sex relationships. When we marched at Pride back then we were marching to demand changes to legislation. 

We have achieved so much in terms of legal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people – more than I dreamed would happen in my lifetime – but we can’t stop now. We have to keep working towards rights and protections for all the members of our community. I don’t think any of us is truly safe until we are all safe. There is also still a sense that Pride is a party, and a celebration of who we are, and how far we have come. 

Being loud and proud  

Over 60 countries around the world still criminalise homosexuality, so I take part in Pride for all those who cannot march. We cannot forget all the people who still live in fear of their lives. They don’t all live in distant countries though, as some of those people are here in the UK too. There are still examples of discrimination across the UK, from micro-aggressions to hate crimes.  

Ultimately, I’d like to see a world where no one cares about anyone else’s sexuality or gender identity, because it will be irrelevant. We are not there yet though, not as long as people fear coming out, and live in fear of discrimination and violence. That’s why we have to keep being loud and proud now, and making a fuss and making a noise, because we aren’t going away. We can’t be silent until every member of community can live safe and free