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Final preparations are under way for the first LGBT ‘Pride’ parade to be held in the Outer Hebrides this Saturday.
Hebridean Pride takes place in Stornoway on Saturday October 6 – the same day as the Proud Ness parade, the first one to take place in Inverness for 15 years.
Stornoway resident Susanne Erbida, a member of the organising committee along with Era owner Carl Easton and others, said the group had thought it was ‘time for the Western Isles to show support for the local LGBT+ community, especially in light of recent events’.
Last month a minister of Stornoway Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), was reported to have described the event as ‘sad and shameful’, pointing young people in the ‘wrong direction’.
Rev Graeme Craig is quoted as saying: ‘The sooner society returns to recognising basic biology and promoting faithful, monogamous, heterosexual marriage, the more content people will be. Following our Maker’s instructions is always the wise thing to do.’
However, Susanne Erbida said the Pride parade ‘should be a celebration of acceptance and tolerance, a happy, peaceful and positive event. Everyone is welcome to our march, young and old’.
‘We want to show that it is okay to be different, that LGBT+ people do not have to be afraid to go public with their sexuality. That there is nothing wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and anything in between.’
Another organiser, Steve Ferguson, said: ‘I have seen too much hatred and objection aimed towards LGBT groups and individuals, especially in the Highlands and Islands.
‘Equality is something everyone deserves regardless of sexuality. Although I am straight, I have gay and bisexual family and friends. This event will not only celebrate them, it will celebrate tolerance, acceptance and love.’
The Pride march will begin at noon from the forecourt outside An Lanntair.
The walk will follow a route through the Narrows, to North Beach, around the Town Hall and to the Carlton, where there will be light refreshments and a performance from drag queen The Duchess. There will be stalls on mental health and sexual health, crafts and baking.
In the evening, Era Nightclub will be holding an LGBT party night, from 10pm till late, and organisers hope everyone will join in the ‘be loud, be proud, be fabulous’ party spirit.
Organisers say they have received a lot of support from organisations including NHS Western Isles, Stonewall, the Equality Network and An Lanntair. Funds will be raised on the day for the local branch of the Penumbra mental health charity.
Maree Todd, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, expressed her support for the event in Stornoway. ‘I am absolutely delighted to see this big step forward happen,’ she said.
‘Due to our geography, topography and sparse population in the Highlands and Islands, it is easy to feel isolated so hopefully this will provide a much-needed space to bring people together to experience unity and strength.
‘To me, these events in Stornoway and Inverness are about freedom of expression, being proud of your identity and telling everyone you are Welcome here in the Highlands and Islands. I know just how important that is for all of us, but particularly for children and young people.’
Elly Fletcher, An Lanntair chief executive, said she was ‘delighted’ the arts centre could support the Pride event in Stornoway: ‘This event, and the strong community-driven movement of love and acceptance behind it, feels like an important moment for the islands. It’s a chance for us all to come together to raise awareness and celebrate LGBT+ people and diversity across our communities.’