Celebrating 50 years of Pride at Stonewall Housing

Tina Wathern, 22 June 2022

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in the UK, a day when hundreds of LGBTQ+ people and their allies arrived in London to protest a society where we were not safe to be ourselves.

It's fair to say we’ve come an incredibly long way since 1972. By 2019, London Pride saw 1.5 million people celebrate and protest in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

50 years on, we can take pride in a United Kingdom where the majority of the public are supportive of their LGBTQ+ neighbours, work colleagues, family and friends.

At Stonewall Housing, we’ve also been reflecting on our impact on the Pride movement over the past 39 years as the UK’s first and only LGBTQ+ specialist housing provider. Undoubtedly, there have been some momentous changes in that time for us and the queer community.

Stonewall Housing was set up in 1983 as the first housing association aimed exclusively at meeting the needs of lesbians and gay men. An initiative from within the lesbian and gay movement, the idea of founding Stonewall Housing found enthusiastic support from the Greater London Council's pioneering Lesbian and Gay Sub-Committee. The GLC provided initial start-up funding and Stonewall Housing’s first residential project opened in Islington in spring 1986.

Originally a collective Stonewall Housing was the first organisation to receive government funding to bridge the gaps in Housing provision for the queer community. Since we were established in 1983, we’ve helped tens of thousands of LGBT+ people to find safe and secure homes.

It’s easy to imagine living in a time of equal marriage and the Equality Act that the fight is over especially considering the advances made in the last 50 years for LGBTQ+ people at Stonewall Housing we know this isn’t the case. In fact, we see reflected in our work on a daily basis the impact of housing inequality for the LGBTQ+ community.

Last year alone we worked with 2,000 people in need of support with housing, whether that’s people who are homeless or a risk of homelessness, people in dispute with landlords, unsatisfactory living conditions or people rejected by family because of their sexual orientation or gender identity we provide a vital service that changes people’s lives.

Research also, shows LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to find themselves homeless than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, and make up around 24% of the young homeless population.

Social housing has long played a role in creating safe spaces and building communities for LGBTQ+ people survive. It’s important as a sector we continue to push to do more to support LGBTQ+ people in housing need.

This includes housing associations providing housing and ensuring lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people live in safer homes, free from fear, and within communities where they can celebrate their identity.

What does Pride mean to me?

Reflecting on Pride over the last 50 years has also given me an opportunity to think about what the movement means to me. As an older person who has been out and proud for the last 30+ years I’ve seen the LGBTQ+ world around me change beyond recognition with representation more visible than ever and people more able to be their true authentic selves.

For me it started over 40 years ago with a marriage, hiding the truth about me and when I did finally come out sofa surfing and being forced to leave my family. If only I had known about Stonewall Housing, some of my journey would have been very different.

So, as we reflect on the Pride movement and look to the future here at Stonewall Housing we’re still very much part of the story of queer housing and will continue to work tirelessly for LGBTQ+ people in housing need.

Future ahead for the Pride movement

According to YouGov polling, more than 7 in 10 British people support the LGBTQ+ community. Today, we live in a society where LGBTQ+ people can live openly and free, where we can form our own families and where our lives and history are taught in schools to the next generation.

However, we can’t take progress for granted as 50 years on from the first Pride march in London the LGBTQ+ community are still marginalised and face discrimination across society in the UK from those who wish to push us back into hiding. Looking around us today, it’s clear that we still haven’t reached equality. 

If I could have one wish for the future, it would be to create a society, which doesn’t need Stonewall Housing and where my queer family is embraced with love and not hate. Until then I’ll continue shouting loudly with pride about who am I as the fight is far from over.

Stonewall Housing still remains the only specialist housing advice, advocacy and support for LGBTQ+ people of all ages. We remain committed to being a voice for a community fighting for equality and meaningful change.