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LGBT History Month: Celebrating Pride in Leeds

LGBT History Month: Celebrating Pride in Leeds

Words by
Kathy Sharpe

Every year, February marks LGBT History Month, a period for celebrating equality and diversity in the UK.

From workshops to talks, fundraising to school campaigns, this awareness month is now a staple in the diary for promoting pride in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture.

Unbelievably, it was only a mere 38 years ago that homosexuality was decriminalised across all of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This turbulent history of the LGBTQ+ community is something that Leeds has always rallied against, and we’re proud of a legacy of supporting, promoting, and campaigning for gay rights.

The Freedom Quarter of Leeds dates back to the 1930s where the Pelican Social Club in Blayd’s Yard, off Lower Briggate, became known for welcoming gay and transgender men.

Others followed suit, and The Mitre pub on Commercial Street (formerly the Horse and Jockey, dating back to 1744) and The Royal Hotel off Lower Briggate became safe spaces for gay customers throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The longest-running gay pub in Leeds is thought to be The New Penny, formerly The Hope and Anchor, which has “provided a safe venue for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans community” since 1953, according to its Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque.

Other progressive organisations in Leeds included the University of Leeds, whose society branch of the national Gay Liberation Front distributed leaflets and demonstrated for same-sex rights in the 1970s, in spite of a local backlash.

Leeds has championed LGBTQ+ rights with many UK firsts, including:

  • The University of Leeds hosted what was said to be the country’s “first national conference for transvestite and transsexual people” with 102 attendees in 1974.
  • The Yorkshire Terriers Football Club was established in Leeds in 1997, the first gay-friendly team to be created in the UK.
  • The UK’s very first civil partnership was held on 21st December 2005 between local entrepreneur Terry George and Michael Rothwell, after a special licence was granted to Bar Fibre on Lower Briggate.
  • The first ever Trans-Pride celebration in the north of England was held in Leeds in March 2018, including talks, discussions, a march, and a day of film screenings.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, a proliferation of LGBT-friendly pubs, nightclubs, bars, and club nights sprang into life in the city, and the first ever Leeds Pride march was held in 2006.

Today, famous Leeds’ figures from the LGBTQ+ community include professional boxer Nicola Adams, singer Marc Almond of Soft Cell, and writer Alan Bennett, to name a few.


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