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Right to Pride denied

After years of participating in London's annual celebration of gay culture, Ju Gosling feels less proud of attitudes to disabled people at this year's event

I "came out" in June 1997, after the end of a relationship that had lasted longer than it might have done because my partner was also my carer. Shortly afterwards I went to London Pride, where I was relieved to feel welcome and part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) community. I was proud to be gay.

I later discovered that Regard, the national LGBT disabled people's organisation, had been working with Pride since the early 1990s to make the march a blueprint for accessibility.

There was Blue Badge parking at the end of the march route and a shuttle bus that collected disabled marchers from there and the main stations and delivered us to the start.

There was a "safe space" at the front of the march, with manual wheelchairs and pushers for those who couldn't walk the whole route. There were also access stewards trained by Regard, sign language interpreters, and other features that made Pride truly inclusive.

After that, Pride became - as it is for so many people - the place where I not only met old friends and made new ones but demon­strated publicly my pride in being gay.

Of course I joined Regard, and in due course became a co-chair.

In the noughties, though, everything changed. Suddenly Pride had new organisers who didn't want to take our calls. The access sub-committee was disbanded and some of the most critical access arrangements were cancelled, including the parking and the provision of wheelchairs.

By 2007, when London hosted EuroPride, so few Regard members could access the event that we had to pull out altogether.

In 2008 and 2009 we fought back, supported by the late great David Morris, then disability adviser to the Mayor of London.

But despite us repeatedly contacting Pride's funders and sponsors - the Greater London Authority, the TUC, Unison - and Westminster Council, no one seemed to take us seriously. How can people who are asexual and genderless be LGB or Trans?

Unsurprisingly, the promises forced out of the Pride organisers to reinstate the access arrangements in full proved to be false. In 2010, access was still so poor that Regard had to pull out again. Instead of being at the event, I spent the afternoon working in uniform for Graeae, the disabled people's theatre company, who refused me permission to wear a rainbow Pride scarf.

Like many other queer crips, on 3 July I simply felt isolated, excluded and miserable. It's hard to feel proud of being part of a community that doesn't want you as a member.

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