This weeks post is about the gay rights campaigner and activist Mark Ashton, who co-founded a movement to support striking Welsh miners. Born in Greater Manchester, Ashton moved to London to volutneer for with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard in the 1980's - a 24/7 support group for LGBTQ+ people, aswell as throwing himself into human rightd activism.
Alongside his friend, Ashton formed the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group after the two men collected onations for the miners strike at the 1984 Pride march in London. The group met and fundraised in numerous locations, raising approximately £22,500 for the families who were on strike.
The allieances forged between the LGBTQ+ community and British Labour groups proved to be an improtant turning point in the prgression of LGBTQ+ issues within the United Kingdom. Miners' labour groups began to support, endorse and participate in various gay pride events, and were among the most outspoken allies of the community in the 1988 campaign against Section 28.
Ashton was diasgnosed with HIV/AIDS and admitted to Hospital on 30 of January 1987, dying just 12 days later; triggering a significant response from the LGBTQ+ community most of which attended his funeral in Lambeth.
Following his death, Ashtons legacy conintued. In his memory, the Mark Ashton Trust was founded to raise money for people living with HIV, and in 2008 the Trust became a branch of the Terrance Higgins Trust.
In 2014 Pathe and 20th Centery Fox produced the film “Pride” which is a historic comedy drama that tells Ashtons and LGSM’s story.
Following our first post last week to mark the start of LGBTQ+ history month, over the next month we will be publishing weekly blog posts looking at different individuals who have been an advocate, ambassador or ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and how their work has helped to change/ shape the community as a whole. This weeks post will focus on Lily Parr.
Back in 1921, the Football Association (FA) banned female footballers from playing on professional pitches, essentially leaving them nowhere to play, stating "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged", denying many woman a professional career - including Lily Parr.
Born in 1905 in a deprived area of St Helens, Lily Parr was unashamedly herself, refusing to conform to being a stereotypical woman. She identified as lesbian and was very open about her relationship with her partner Mary, at a time when members of the LGBTQ+ community were ostracised. She grew up playing football and rugby; being described as having a "kick like a mule", and reportedly broke a male goal keeps arm as he tried to block one of her shots. In her first season, Parr scored 43 goals before she turned 16!
Following the FA's ruling, Parr's dreams of a professional carer ended. However, her team Preston Ladies continued, going on a tour of the United States of America and Parr becoming captain in 1946. During all of this, Parr had also qualified as a nurse and continued to work.
Parr died of cancer in 1978, aged 73; living to see the FA overturn their decision, leaving behind a legacy as a footballer and LGBTQ+ icon.
The National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) is an annual event run by Public Health English which seeks to promote regular testing among the most affect population groups in England, aiming to reduce the numbers of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late.
Who is at risk of HIV?
Most people in the UK are diagnosed with HIV following unprotected sexual contact with a person who is HIV positive. While new HIV diagnoses have continued to fall, there is still work to do. 1 in 16 people with HIV are unaware they have it, increasing the risk of passing HIV on to a sexual partner, with late diagnosis rates at 42%.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted by bodily fluids, but can also be by sharing needles with a person who is HIV positive.
How do I get tested?
Getting tested for HIV is free, fast, confidential and simple, all it takes is a finger-prick test. Testing can be done as early as four weeks after an episode of unprotected sex, or sooner if you have any symptoms of fever, rash and sore throat which can be a sign of early HIV transmission.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, there is a real focus on home testing which you can order online yourself to then be delivered to your home alongside all the information you will need to complete the test and how to return your testing kit. For more information or to order your kit, which will also test for other STI's, please visit the sites below:
What happens if my test comes back positive?
Anyone diagnosed with HIV in the UK can access free treatment and support. If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus on to anyone else.
Published: Feb 1, 2021