Home of the largest Gay Village in Europe, Canal Street is a Mecca for those of us with LGBT orientations. Manchester’s gay pride has been in full swing for some time now, partly thanks to the efforts from organisations such as Manchester Pride who work to build community bonds and organise the city’s annual, most-colourful ‘Big Weekend’ festival.
For people with which the notion of pride is of the upmost historical and social significance, recent troubling news stories have forced Manchester’s gay community into a period of deep reflection.
In January of this year, Mancunian Matters reported that 46 year old Stephen Green was found dead in a ‘waiting room’ at H20 Sauna located in Manchester’s gay village. Naked and laid face-down, his faeces covered body was wiped clean by a helpful but seemingly somewhat negligent H20 attendant who had mistakenly presumed the man to be asleep.
Based on reports from the police, Manchester council and members of the gay community, it would seem that the attendant’s failure to make a proper assessment of the situation was far from the only health and safety issue at the sauna. Walls covered in bodily fluids, improper disposal of needles used to inject penis’ to keep them hard, and the most unappetizingly unhygienic food service – all under the one roof.
Also in January, Manchester Evening News reported on the council’s plans to gate off ‘The Undercroft’: part of the underground canal tow-path that runs from Minshall Street to Dale Street. This is a notorious hot spot for sexual encounters of the gay and outdoor varieties. After numerous reported crimes including the death of a man thrown into the canal by a would-be robber, attempted sexual assaults and complaints from boaters about having to witness some rather lewd public performances, the council are being forced into action and are proposing gating-off the area as the solution, however, critics of the plan have argued that this would likely just cause the activity to be moved further up the canal.
Beneath the furore and party antics of the LGBT community, there are happenings that are enough to give even the most stoic of people the heebie-jeebies. Freedom of sexuality is truly a blessing, but one that quickly become a curse when unsuspecting boaters have to feast their eyes on the sight of an unwanted ‘Long John Silver’. Of course, heterosexuals commit similar offences on a daily basis, but tend to be less prone to putting themselves and others at such high levels of risk.
The LGBT community have fought off prejudices for many years, but a minority of the group are now pushing the limits that the hard-earnt acceptance has granted them. Gay or straight, we should all be striving to raise the bar of social standards. People should be free to indulge in any manner of sexual activity, providing all participants are willing, and no one is harmed. The recent news reports should serve us a reminder to us all, that pride is of the essence!