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Pride having ‘positive effect’ on community

Congleton Pride trustees have said it was “reassuring” and “great to see” that members of the LGBTQIA+ community felt more comfortable living in town as a result of what the charity was doing.

The results of its latest survey, two years after a previous one, have found that a higher proportion of the LGBTQIA+ community in Congleton felt “ok” or “comfortable” living in the town but only 7% said they felt “very comfortable”.

Congleton Pride research also showed that while the majority of the general public who responded – 77 people – expressed tolerance and little or no prejudice towards LGBTQIA+ people it was slightly less than in the last survey in 2021 with the “friendliness score” slipping from 91% to 85%.

Around three-quarters of the general public respondents were in the three older age brackets – 45-54, 55-64 and 65+. Almost half said they were Christian.

The charity repeated its online questionnaire this year, which asked the general public about LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and other non-confirming genders/sexualities) people to determine the level of prejudice and understanding.

The LGBTQIA+ community was asked for its own views about living in Congleton and how it has been treated. Forty-three people responded and the results showed that 87% now felt “ok” or comfortable – up from 55% previously.

The number who felt “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” had dropped from 27% to just 7%.

For the first time a “small minority” of the general public answering the questions made “anti-Pride” type comments, although most were supportive.

Some comments received from the general public on whether Congleton was a good place for LGBTQIA+ people to live included “yes, but not strongly. I feel like it’s trying?… I think I would feel more uncomfortable here if I was LGBTQIA+” while another response was “I think some of the local churches need to drastically change their outlook and approach for LGBTQIA+”.

The survey organisers were also praised in one comment: “I would like to think it is improving in a large part down to the work Congleton Pride continues to do.”

Good thing
Some 77% of the public said that an annual Pride event, this year taking place in the town centre on Saturday, 22nd July, was a “good thing” for Congleton, but again, comments were mixed and ranged from “brings the community together, whether a member of the LGBTQIA+ or not. Always super positive happy events!” and “I love going to the Pride events, it’s great seeing everyone come together”, to “When is straight pride going to be held, or a normal carnival aimed at everyone? Why should a minority percentage have an annual event?”

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community still do experience harassment or abuse in Congleton, the survey showed. Some 54% of respondents reported this (down from 63%).

Of these, 80% said they had been subjected to verbal harassment, 28% to physical harassment and 16% to violence.

LGBTQIA+ people reported they feared being “open” in many different places including school, work, in public, and most often in sports facilities, pubs and clubs. However, the proportion reporting this in pubs/clubs has dropped from 52% in 2021 to 38% this year.

Many LGBTQIA+ people in Congleton said they chose not to report harassment and abuse when it occurred. Some 39% of respondents said the principle reason was that “I felt that nothing would change”.

Comments from LGBTQIA+ respondents included “no-one has ever given me a reason not to feel comfortable”, “there is still a lot prejudice against LGBTQIA+ community in Congleton, especially on social media”, and “I experience little confrontation, however it only takes them (sic) few incidents for me to be constantly looking over my shoulder, which in turn makes me less comfortable”.

LGBTQIA+ people also welcomed Congleton’s annual Pride event and more than half of respondents (53%) attended the last one.

Comments included “Congleton Pride has gone from strength to strength each year and has arguably become the highlight of the town’s calendar – replacing the carnival” and “maybe have an LGBTQIA+ information stall that handed out leaflets to help educate heterosexual or questioning people”.

The survey was run by Congleton Pride trustee town councillor Kay Wesley, who explained: “We listened to the survey results last time and have implemented a number of things as a result. On hate crime, we worked with Cheshire Police so that Congleton Pride team has become a hate crime reporting centre. This means we can support people who experience these crimes in Congleton to report them to the police. We also presented the survey results to PubWatch. Cheshire Police will have a presence at Pride 2023.”

Coun Wesley added: “We have also worked with local churches, many of whom were keen to demonstrate how inclusive they are. The United Reformed Church has since run Pride services and at Congleton Pride 2022 we had a combined church stall with seven of our local churches represented. They are coming again this year.

Commenting on the results another Pride trustee, town councillor Richard Walton, said: “It’s great to see that over the last two years, members of the LGBTQIA+ community feel more comfortable living in Congleton as a result of Congleton Pride. This is very reassuring – we appear to be having a positive effect on our community.

“I think the results also underline that we have to work on more ‘outreach’ projects beyond our main event. We believe that Congleton Pride is more than just a party and should be there for the LGBTQIA+ community all year round.”

Ronan Clayton, chair of Congleton Pride, thanked those who had taken the time to complete the survey. “This will help us to plan how we can support our community in future, once this year’s Congleton Pride event is over,” Mr Clayton said.

“We are keen to offer more social events, more support and improved information to everyone belonging to, or interested in, the LGBTQIA+ community in Congleton.”

To get involved or learn more, visit congletonpride.co.uk, follow @CongletonPride on social media, or email hello@congletonpride.co.uk.

For support with harassment or abuse, call Cheshire Police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency) or visit report-it.org.uk.

The report concluded:
• Overall, Congleton had improved for LGBTQIA+ people, but there was still work to do.

• Members of the community still experienced harassment and abuse, and most did not report it for various reasons.

• LGBTQIA+ people interacted with Congleton Pride more, and in a wider variety of ways.

• Public attitudes were more polarised, with some very supportive, yet the appearance of “anti-Pride” or “anti-woke”-type comments. “This was not surprising, given the national narrative, especially around trans people, and the biased coverage in the national (and some local) media,” said the report.

• As previously, LGBTQIA+ people wanted more than an annual event, and there was a significant number asking for signposts to information, help and support. Some of Congleton Pride’s ongoing and planned activities, like relaxed social events, the new website content, and plans for a “community” stall, would help to address this, said the report.

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