Pits and Perverts: Lessons the 1980s Pride Cymru movement has for us today.

I came out in 2008. As a teen growing up in Barry part of me felt relieved, but mostly I was drowning in shame, fear, embarrassment and all that fun stuff. It wasn’t until I went to my first Pride event that I stopped feeling so alone…

Pride has taught me some of my most valued lessons in life over the years – acceptance, love, empathy and advocacy.

The Welsh, Gay, Millennial Experience

Back when I was a kid, I was so wrapped up in my own struggles that I had no clue what advocacy even meant. Being a young, Welsh, mixed-race lesbian with undiagnosed ADHD, I guess I was destined to have a bee in my bonnet. I just didn’t know what to do with it.

Even though we’ve come a long way since the generations before us, being a younger millennial had its own challenges. Remember Section 28? That lovely law that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities? Yeah, that was still a thing when I was in secondary school. And let’s not forget how being openly homophobic was pretty much the norm among teenagers, not to mention the adults around us.

Then came Pride(2014)

That experience stays with me but my mindset shifted in 2014, when a good friend made me watch the movie “Pride.” If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it. It’s about the incredible alliance between LGBT activists and Welsh miners during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. That movie was a game-changer for me – it made me realise what it means to stand up for what you believe in and how empathy can extend to people whose lives you may not know or understand.

A short history of Pride Cymru

For me, one of the most inspiring chapters in our history is the alliance between the LGBTQ+ community and the Welsh miners during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. This unlikely partnership didn’t just make headlines – it laid the foundation for the strong, resilient colourful community we know today.

Back in 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went on strike to fight against Thatcher’s government’s plans to shut down coal pits. This wasn’t just about jobs; it was about the survival of entire communities, especially in Wales, where towns relied heavily on the mines. As the strike went on, the miners faced extreme financial hardship and mounting pressure from the government.

An Unlikely Friendship

Meanwhile, the LGBTQ+ community in London was dealing with its own battles against discrimination and homophobia. Enter Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) – a group of activists who saw a common struggle and decided to step up. They started raising funds to support the striking miners, recognising that both groups were fighting against oppression. At first, there was a bit of awkwardness and prejudice on both sides. The miners weren’t sure about accepting help from LGBTQ+ folks, and some in the LGBTQ+ community wondered why they should care about the miners’ cause. But LGSM kept at it, raising loads of money and showing up with unwavering support, and slowly but surely, a beautiful bond began to form.

Bridging the Gap

Welsh mining communities, especially in places like the Dulais Valley, started to open their hearts to LGSM. This wasn’t just about the money – it was about genuine friendships and breaking down barriers. Miners began attending LGBTQ+ events, and LGBTQ+ activists visited the mining towns, smashing stereotypes and building lasting connections.

The Legacy Lives On

The impact of this alliance is still felt today and has significantly shaped the Welsh LGBTQ+ community. It taught us the power of standing together, to genuinely understand and share the feelings of others, putting yourself in their shoes to connect with their experiences on a deeper level. This spirit of solidarity is at the heart of Pride Cymru, our annual celebration of LGBTQ+ pride in Wales.

Pride Cymru isn’t just about the party – it’s a tribute to our shared history and the strength we find in unity. The bond between LGBTQ+ activists and Welsh miners is a powerful reminder of what we can achieve when we come together, no matter our differences and show empathy. It shows how our fights for equality and justice are all connected.

So in 2024, when I march in Cardiff’s Pride parades with the rainbow flag, I’ll be carrying the spirit of those who fought before us. The alliance between the LGBTQ+ community and the Welsh miners reminds me that solidarity means supporting not just our own community but also standing up for others.

A Designer’s Take…

The ‘Pits and Perverts’ poster, designed by Kevin Franklin, is an influential design piece for me because it dared to push buttons as well as boundaries. The title itself – a direct response to a slanderous headline posted by The Sun newspaper – sets the tone as a powerful statement of defiance. The design itself follows suit with the classic collage/Union Jack combo which was a staple of punk design in the 80s.

35+ years on, it stands the test of time as a subversive piece of graphical history with a punk spirit. The classic nonconformist and DIY style is a solid reflection of the community’s attitude and struggle at that point in time.

Credit: We loved reading fellow Welsh B Coaltown Coffee’s blog on Pride in Wales, read it here! https://www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk/blogs/news/pride-and-solidarity#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThis%20is%20a%20fundamental%20part,the%201980s%20have%20in%20common%3F

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