As Pride Month is well underway, the Oxford Mail is showcasing the LGBTQ+ people leading the way in Oxford.

Pride Month is an annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues the community faces and tackle prejudice.

June marks Pride Month due to the fact the Stonewall Riots, a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, occurred at the end of June in 1969.

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In Oxford, several people are working tirelessly to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, make the city a safer and a more inclusive place.

Chrissie Chevasutt

Oxford Mail: Chrissie Chevasutt. Picture: Ed Nix Chrissie Chevasutt. Picture: Ed Nix

Chrissie, 63, is writer, advocate and outreach worker at St Columba’s United Reformed Church on Alfred Street. She works with the transgender, intersex and non-binary communities in Oxford. It is believed this church is the  first in the UK to appoint such a role.

What Pride Month means to Chrissie

“Until LGBTQIA+ people enjoy equal rights throughout society with straight cis-gender folks then we need Pride Month as a reminder to society that inequality and oppression of LGBTQIA+ people is still a daily part of our all lives in the UK.

“Not least, in the church which claims to represent God’s love but a large part of which still heaps shame, judgement and exclusion upon LGBTQIA+ people.

“As a trans person, having watched the attempts of a small minority to cut us out of Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community, I love Pride because it demonstrates that we as trans are an integral part of the LGBTQIA+ community. That our gay, bi and lesbian friends stand shoulder to shoulder with us.

“The trans community especially has been under a lot of hate and oppression, not least from this Tory government, so for me Pride is a chance to party and celebrate in the face of all this discrimination.

“But, I would rather Pride threatened the patriarchy like the civil rights movement did, maybe we are not marching enough?”

Who are Chrissie’s heroes and heroines?

“I have to put pioneers like April Ashley and Jan Morris at the top of my list, but my all-time heroine is Kristen Beck, former US Navy Seal who served in Afghanistan with distinction and is an incredible advocate for the trans community.”

Oxford Mail:

How is Chrissie involved in the community in Oxford?

“My main involvement in the LGBTQIA+ community is through my role as outreach and development worker with transgender, intersex and non-binary people for St Columba’s URC. I work pastorally within the trans community, but also work in advocacy on a local and national level.

“One of my roles is to represent the community within the church and speak in churches to raise awareness, educate and help transform some of the deep prejudices that exist in so many churches.”

Chrissie’s proudest achievement since working with the community in Oxford

“I’m proud be a very small part of the process which enabled Oxford County Council to become a trans affirming and friendly council, helping to make the city and county a safer space for trans people, and we have just launched a National Transgender, Intersex and non-binary Theology Conference to be hosted in Oxford in September.

“For me healthy theology is vital to the flourishing of the LGBTQIA+ community, so the conference is a major milestone for us.

“I’m proud to represent St Columba’s URC as a fully affirming and inclusive church.”

Debbie Brixey

Oxford Mail: Debbie Brixey. Picture: Ed Nix Debbie Brixey. Picture: Ed Nix

57-year old Debbie is specialist IT Trainer working with people with disabilities with a charity background including fundraising and social media. She is the chair of Oxford Pride and works with Pride groups across Oxfordshire to help put on events.

What Pride Month means to Debbie

“Personally I feel that we should celebrate Pride all year around, not as events but in the things that we do and work together to be more inclusive and celebrate the diversity of people.

“I do have to say that I love to see Pride on the streets and to see people getting together.

“For me the driving factor in Pride is that there is always someone for whom it is their first Pride (and that can be any age!). It is really important people know that they are not alone and that there are people like them in all walks of life.”

Who are Debbie’s heroes and heroines?

I would say Sue Sanders for her work with Schools Out, Marsha Levine for her work setting up InterPride, Lady Phyll for setting up UK Black Pride, Lisa Power for Stonewall.

“There's a theme here I think ... women within the LGBT+ community who have got their voices heard - oh and I am lucky enough to know them all.”

Oxford Mail:

How is Debbie involved in the community in Oxford?

“I am the chair of Oxford Pride. I was chair in 2019 when the last in-person Pride was held before the pandemic.

“I sat on the committee before that but first came to Oxford Pride in 2014 which is where I met my wife, also a former chair of Oxford Pride.”

Debbie’s proudest achievement since working with the community in Oxford

“I think watching the Pride Parade/March coming through Oxford and seeing everyone together and so many people all in one place.

“I love the fact that we can use this visibility to illustrate that there are still many inequalities in this country and the World but also to celebrate what has been achieved so far. Standing together as a community is one of the most important things and I am proud of being even a tiny part of that.”

Alana Stewart

Oxford Mail: Alana Stewart. Picture: Ed Nix Alana Stewart. Picture: Ed Nix

Alana is a 22-year graduate student at Oxford University.  They joined Oxford Pride in September 2021 as the communications officer and also co-founded Oxford Against Conversion Therapy.  Alongside studying for a master’s degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Culture they also work at the Jolly Farmers.

What Pride Month means to Alana

“Pride has its roots in something deeply political. Pride Month is in June because it marks the anniversary of the Stonewall riots where queer activists fought back against the police.

“Pride is still, or should still be, a protest against systems that oppress us. Sometimes Pride Month feels quite removed from that because it feels like an excuse for corporations to stick a rainbow up and take money from queer people. But, we unequivocally still need pride - and we will need it until there is liberation for all queers.

“Homophobic hate crimes are on the rise in the UK, our Government is deeply transphobic and refuses to protect trans people against conversion therapies that are killing them, and recently the Home Office admitted that their abhorrent plan to send refugees to Rwanda will lead LGBTQ+ refugees to persecution.

“So, pride month to me is about an ongoing fight.”

Who are Alana’s heroes and heroines?

“I don’t know about heroes, but there’s a lot of queer people who have been incredibly influential to my life and my politics: Eileen Myles who’s a poet, feminist, and non-binary lesbian; Jose Esteban Munoz who wrote an incredible book full of so much hope called Cruising Utopia; the absolute legend and musical pioneer who was SOPHIE, and, obviously, Tracy Chapman for writing ‘Fast Car’.”

Oxford Mail:

How is Alana involved in the community in Oxford?

“I studied at the University of Oxford and graduated in 2021. When I was doing my undergraduate degree prior to the pandemic I wasn’t really involved in LGBT student groups. I co-founded Oxford Feminist Society and we were really big supporters of the protests against Womens Place UK (amid allegations of transphobia which have previously been denied). Other than that, I didn’t even really have the confidence to go to LGBT student drinks, and I never went to Pride.

“Now I’m actually on the pride committee as their communications officer, I work in the gay pub, and I’m doing my MA in queer studies and gender studies.

“I started working at the Jolly Farmers last spring and I met so many new people and I absolutely love it there. It’s so good to feel part of a community and to feel accepted. Recently, I co-founded Oxford Against Conversion Therapy to address the government’s lack of a full conversion therapy ban.

“I would’ve been shocked if you told me that three years ago!”

Alana’s proudest achievement since working with the community in Oxford

“I’m proud of the work I did in setting up the protest and co-founding OxACT. Though, I can’t really claim it as “my” work because I had an amazing team behind me who pulled so many strings to make it happen in the space of about ten days.

“We had around 300 people turn up to Bonn Square, and we had so much incredible feedback from people who were taken aback to see Oxford unite for trans rights like that.”

Hannah Massie

Oxford Mail: Hannah Massie. Picture: Ed Nix Hannah Massie. Picture: Ed Nix

62-year old Hannah helps run TransOxford, a leading independent dedicated support group for transgender and gender non-conforming people in Oxfordshire.

What Pride Month means to Hannah

“Diversity is the engine of evolution and without diversity we wouldn’t exist. Every single one of us is unique, our own living example of diversity. Pride month is when we recognise and celebrate diversity in all its wonderful forms.

“Although it has its roots in the LGBT+ communities Pride Month is for all. For me personally it is an opportunity reflect on how nature made me and the huge challenges that arose from this and to celebrate all I have achieved in dealing with this.”

Who are Hannah’s heroes and heroines?

“I’m not sure I have specific heroes as so many have gone before me who have stood up for who they were and played their part in the fight for understanding and acceptance.

“However if I was to single anyone out it would probably be Julia Grant, who was the subject of the BBC documentary ‘A Change of Sex’ broadcast in 1979.

“I was 19 at the time and I was captivated. But I was also truly horrified at the appalling way she was treated. She had extraordinary courage and strength.”

Oxford Mail:

How is Hannah involved in the community in Oxford?

“I help run TransOxford, the Oxfordshire transgender support group. We provide advice and support to those who are transgender, especially those going through their journey of discovery, acceptance and dealing with it.  

“We support folks across the whole gender spectrum, with all degrees of dysphoria and the many different ways they deal with this. Everyone and their path is unique. 

“The group also forms a focus for the local trans community to connect and interact with other organisations and much of its work is involved in educating, working with and supporting other local groups and organisations.”

Hannah’s proudest achievement since working with the community in Oxford

“I’m not sure I have a proudest achievement. It was great to see four local Oxfordshire councils passing trans inclusion motions recently and to be able to support those involved in these.

“I was proud to see our local politicians stand up to the sustained anti-trans hate campaign being orchestrated in this country by a small group of folks with extreme ideologies.

“But what makes me happiest is to see those that come to us at the start of their journeys struggling both emotionally and in their lives and to see them gradually find and become true to themselves, as nature made them, and to move to being at peace within themselves and living, as my brother put it, ‘as the person you were always supposed to be’.”

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Read more from this author

This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing: sophie.perry@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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