Residents of Brighton pride themselves in the image and legacy of their city. Brighton is home to one of the biggest LGBTQ+ communities in England and has consequently built a reputation for itself as the unofficial ‘queer capital’ of England.
However, being home to a massive LGBTQ+ community is nothing new for Brighton, as the gay community has started developing in the city since the 1800s. Exploring Brighton’s history shows the early roots of their LGBTQ+ community, as Brighton continues to consistently support their LGBTQ community despite challenges faced by the pandemic.
Brighton’s LGBTQ+ history has been recorded in the city since the 19th century. Primarily, many men were drawn to Brighton as many soldiers garrisoned in the town during the Napoleonic Wars.
Seen as an escape from busy London, it subsequently attracted many people to the community
The LGBTQ+ community further expanded as its population grew, and good transport links with London helped attract many visitors, alongside bringing a new, vibrant atmosphere into the city. Seen as an escape from busy London, it subsequently attracted many people to the community. “Brighton’s also a holiday resort, and in a holiday resort the normal rules of society are a little bit suspended,” says Ric Morris of Piers & Queers, a tour of Brighton’s LGBTQ+ history. Brighton’s reputation as an escape enabled many to embrace their sexuality when in Brighton.
During the 1930s, Brighton flourished as a gay destination as many gay and lesbian pubs started to establish themselves and dominate the night scene. During WW2, as Brighton became filled with soldiers, men and women who were away from home had the chance to meet other LGBTQ+ members for the first time in their life. Brighton’s reputation, which spread over the country, helped grow Brighton into the ‘gay capital’ in the post-war years.
Brighton continues being a safe place for the community with a massive LGBTQ+ population as seen in a 2014 estimate where 11–15% of the city’s population aged 16 or over is thought to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. Brighton annually hosts the Pride festival, which helps not people all over the country come together to support, celebrate, and take pride in the LGBTQ+ community. Described by The Guardian as “the country’s most popular LGBT event,” Brighton regularly shows its commitment to provide a safe space and fun experience for the LGBTQ+ community.
Offering online events, workshops and resources to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month
Even the pandemic has not stopped the community from celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month. The council has provided a variety of resources from short online films to documentaries, and enhanced the library service by offering online events, workshops and resources to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month. Councillor Steph Powell, joint chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee, said: “While we can’t hold any physical events… it is important that we take time to promote tolerance and raise awareness of the prejudices still faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
The Brighton community continues acknowledging their LGBTQ+ history while ensuring that their present-day LGBTQ+ community feels welcomed, valued, and acknowledged. The local government and community continue to support the community remotely and use their online and social media presence to spread awareness beyond their city. Therefore, Brighton’s celebration of their history has proudly earned them the title of one of the most LGBTQ friendly cities in the world.
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