Why Manchester is 'way ahead of the rest of the country' in the fight for LGBTQ rights

Aug 08, 22
Why Manchester is 'way ahead of the rest of the country' in the fight for LGBTQ rights

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The LGBTQ community is part of the Mancunian identity, according to the co-author of a new book that explores queer history.

Academic Matt Cook argues that there is a “real fusion of gay pride and metropolitan pride” in the city. This fusion, he says, put Manchester “way ahead of the rest of the country” when it came to the fight for LGBTQ rights.

In his new book ‘ Queer Beyond London ’, co-authored with Alison Oram, the professor of modern history at Birkbeck, University of London looks at the queer history of four UK cities that are often overshadowed by the capital.

Read more: The Mancunian Way: Gibbs vs Gallaghers

He travels to Manchester, Leeds, Brighton, and Plymouth from the 1960s to the noughties, exploring LGBTQ life, culture, and activism through the decades.

Speaking on the latest episode of The Northern Agenda podcast ahead of Manchester Pride later this month, Prof Cook says the combination of gay pride and Mancunian identity “emerges out of something quite particular” about the city.

Listen to the full interview with Matt Cook here:

“In Manchester, because of the kind of local council - the city council support for lesbian and gay rights - there’s a real fusion of gay pride and metropolitan pride,” he explains.

“So first of all, if you think about that very long history of radicalism in Manchester. From Peterloo through to the suffrage movement and the very strong industrial heritage and workers union rights, there’s this idea of a kind of solidarity amongst working class communities historically in Manchester in particular, but also in terms of anti-racism and so on.

“There's been a series of battles being fought in the city. And add to that, a particularly pernicious police regime in the city, not just with [James] Anderton, but his two forerunners.”

James Anderton was the controversial former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police between 1975 and 1991. Known as ‘God’s Copper’, Anderton was outspoken in his views, including accusing people with Aids of “swirling in a human cesspit of their own making”.

Sir Roger Marsh and Matt Cook feature in The Northern Agenda podcast this week. Pic: Lisa Walsh
Sir Roger Marsh and Matt Cook feature in The Northern Agenda podcast this week. Pic: Lisa Walsh

Prof Cook explains that Anderton and his predecessors in the force in Manchester “humiliated and marginalised” the LGBTQ community.

“They really established that policy of pinpointing and arresting queer, but also black, people in the city and really, really, really humiliating and marginalising them,” he said.

“This actually gave rise, I think, to a homosexual rights movement in Manchester that was way ahead of the rest of the country.

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