Two of Greater Manchester’s most senior politicians have sent a message of solidarity to lesbian, gay bisexual and trans people in Russia as the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi.
Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, and his deputy Jim Battle have been photographed together as part of the international Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative (#SSHHI), launched by Pride House International.
The #SSHHI campaign is simple – to get as many people as possible in Sochi, and around the world, to be pictured holding hands as a mark of solidarity for LGBT athletes participating in the Games, and LGBT people in Russia who live under the most punitive anti-gay laws in Europe.
Tony said: “Both Jim and I are really proud to support this campaign. It’s such a simple message which I hope demonstrates to LGBT people participating in the Sochi Games – and all LGBT people across Russia – that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Or perhaps that should be hand in hand.
“Russia’s anti-gay laws are, of course, wholly wrong. I hope that our small gesture shows that homophobia doesn’t have to be institutionalised by the state and that equality is not just a pipe dream – it’s something that’s in their grasp.
“Let’s not forget that, within living memory, homosexuality was a criminal offence in the UK, and much more recently we had Section 28 laws which the Russian legislation echoes.
“The road to equality in Russia is likely to be rocky. It certainly won’t be easy, but I hope that Russian people – and all those across the world who live in oppression because of their sexuality or gender identity – will find strength in the fact that they do not stand alone.”
The Pride House International initiative is a global coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups to promote the cause of equality in and by sport.
Previous Games have hosted Pride Houses, a venue welcoming LGBT athletes, fans and friends to enjoy the event, to learn about LGBT sport and homophobia in sport, and to build relations with mainstream sport.
Russia has banned Sochi from having a Pride House, so instead more than 30 remote Pride Houses have been confirmed around the globe, including one in Manchester – at Taurus Bar on the city’s world-famous Canal Street. More details on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pridehousemcr.
More information is available on Pride House International at http://www.pridehouseinternational.org/
You can submit your own #SSHHI photo at http://holdhandsinsochi.tumblr.com/.