Jo has lived in Reading for over 30 years and we asked her opinion on what changes she has seen within Reading regarding the LGBT Community of Reading.
We asked her “Have you had any impact on the diverse culture of Reading, especially the LGBT community within your time as councillor?” Jo replied “I hope, together with my colleagues, we’ve, as a Labour group, always been very supportive of grants to any group that’s working with that community, we’ve always been very supportive of the pride event. Things have changed now, there was a time when support for gay groups was very controversial and we had Section 28, we had prime ministers – a Conservative prime minister criticising Reading Council for giving out a grant to an organisation in Reading which is presumably still recorded in Hansard. These days, thankfully, all the main parties are very supportive of the rights of gay people and it’s been good to see that moving forward, but that wasn’t the case when I first got elected, it was certainly a very hot potato politically. But we’ve always stood up for our principles and had the arguments.”
We asked her about Homophobia at the time “I don’t think it was overt on the streets or anything, but I think it certainly manifested itself in debates in the council chamber when we were giving out grants that were regarded as controversial. As I say, we had Section 28 imposed upon us, although we weren’t an educational authority when that came in, obviously, but it certainly had an impact and I think, you know, I was also a teacher as well as being a councillor and I think, talking to colleagues, it made staff very wary of having open and honest conversations with young people who needed support and help, not made to feel that they were somehow committing an offence, which clearly homosexuality, thankfully, was no longer illegal then, but, nevertheless, there was still this feeling, and I think older people were very critical of any move towards a more liberal approach to the issue and I think that’s moving now. I still do encounter older people who don’t quite understand why gay marriage and all that has come from because… it’s the culture they grew up with, I suppose, but the younger people are much, much more tolerant now than I think they were and it’s just of no more interest to people, amongst younger people, than whether or not you’ve got a new pair of boots, to be honest. So yeah, I would say that society is gradually changing – I wouldn’t say it’s not under the surface, particularly with older people still.”