Labour councillors walking with pride over the new rainbow crossing
Labour councillors walking with pride over the new rainbow crossing

Cllr Lucy Caldicott represents Stockwell Ward. 

It was a truly special celebration today in Herne Hill as Lambeth launched its first rainbow crossing, and the UK’s first permanent rainbow crossing. On days like this, it’s important to reflect on why a rainbow crossing matters, and why it matters to Lambeth.

The rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker to represent visibility and was first flown for San Francisco Pride in 1978. The 1970s represented a very different world for our community. LGBT+ people couldn’t serve in the armed forces, adopt children, or get married. Many rights that we enjoy today were a distant dream. And the Tories’ homophobic and vicious Section 28 law was not yet in force, forbidding the discussion of LGBT+ lives in schools, a law which even though it was removed from the statute books by the Labour Party sixteen years ago, still means many gay teachers are fearful to be open about themselves in their schools. Imagine every day being afraid to talk about your loved ones and your home life at work with your colleagues. It’s as exhausting as it is wrong.

As LGBT+ rights have advanced, so the rainbow has come to mean different things to different people. It’s defiance, pride, celebration, peace, diversity, love, solidarity with other minority communities, as well as visibility. It is all of those things and each of us can choose what it means to us. Many cities around the world have installed rainbow crossings to mark their Pride events but we in Lambeth are proud that ours is the first to be a permanent road crossing.

Lambeth played a significant role in the fight for LGBT+ rights. Railton Road, where the rainbow crossing is sited, was the home of the South London Gay Liberation Front, which was instrumental in advocating for gay rights and organised London’s first Gay Pride march in 1972. Railton Road and the areas around it was where many LGBT+ people found a home and community in those days.

Even though our new rainbow crossing is permanent, sadly, the rights that have been won by LGBT+ people aren’t necessarily permanent. Hate crimes, particularly against trans people, are on the increase, this year has seen the emergence of homophobic protests against inclusive relationship education outside primary schools, and many still feel isolated and unable to live as their true selves. A permanent symbol of solidarity is important and demonstrates publicly to LGBT+ residents in our borough that the council is on their side, and that we mean it when we talk about fighting for equality, for LGBT+ people, and all minorities. And, with several out LGBT+ Labour councillors, equality is in our heart.

Cllr Lucy Caldicott

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