Manchester is urging its residents and visitors to this weekend’s Pride Festival to text solidarity messages to gay people in St Petersburg, its sister city, as part of a stand against homophobia and bigotry.
Draconian anti-gay laws, which ban any sort of reference to homosexuality, have been introduced by St Petersburg’s Government earlier this year, meaning for instance that an event such as Manchester Pride would be outlawed over there. In fact, a pride march in St Petersburg has already been banned and people – gay and straight alike – have been fined and arrested.
Manchester’s City Council lead member for lesbian issues, Councillor Bev Craig, has said that the Pride Festival is ‘about much more than celebration’ and that it stands ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with people in St Petersburg in their ‘fight for equality.’ She said: ‘It will only take a minute, but it will mean so much.’
The Chief Executive of Manchester Pride, John Stewart, has in turn pointed out that: ‘many LGBT people around the world have little to celebrate and much to fight for.’
The messages should be sent to 86099, starting with the word ‘Pride’, and senders should include their names and place of origin. The messages will be charged at the standard rate, which means it will be free if texts are part of the call bundle.
Polina Savchenko, a top Russian LGBT activist who is one of the directors of a St Petersburg-based LGBT group called Coming Out, is attending Manchester Pride and will share her life experiences in her city. Savchenki will address the crowd at the main stage during the festival, and will participate in the parade as well as meeting representatives from Manchester LGBT groups.
Coming Out is planning on organising a festival in September in St Petersburg in order to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual life, despite the laws in rule.
This year’s Manchester Pride parade, taking place tomorrow called Queer’d Science, is in honour of Alan Turing, a computer genius whose work in Manchester has led to the technological revolution that has changed our lives. Turing was arrested in the early 1950’s for being gay, was forced to undergo medical treatment to reverse his sexuality and ended up committing suicide in 1954. This year would have been the centenary of his birth.
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