Sheffield audience hears Pride writer Matthew Todd argue that the fight for LGBTQ rights must continue
A well-known advocate of LGBTQ rights has spoke in Sheffield about his book tracing 50 years of the fight for gay liberation, arguing it needs to inspire a new generation.
Matthew Todd was the guest of the city’s Off the Shelf literary festival, speaking to Toby Oliver at the University Drama Studio about his new book Pride. It looks at the story of the famous 1969 Stonewall riot in New York, when the angry reaction to a police raid on a gay bar inspired a fight for LGBTQ rights and greater acceptance.
Pride: The Story of the LGBTQ Equality Movement looks at the stories of people who took part and argues that the fightback needs to continue to defend hard-won rights against new attacks.
The author is the former editor of ground-breaking British gay magazine Attitude and the writer of Straight Jacket, a book on the issue of mental health subtitled ‘How to be gay and happy’.
Matthew said he wrote Pride because “we don’t know our history, there’s not enough plays, not enough books. I thought I knew so much but there was a lot I didn’t know.”
Describing the 1960s as “a violent, scary decade”, Matthew argued that the young, racially mixed clientele of the Stonewall bar were fed up of repression and inspired by other campaigns such as the US civil rights movement, women’s liberation campaigns and anti-Vietnam war activism.
More respectable-looking campaigns had failed and young people turned to more militant tactics, forming the Gay Liberation Front.
“There was a sense of solidarity,” said Matthew. “We needed to learn a lesson about supporting each other and diversity and there was no need to segregate it.”
His book looks at key figures such as Bayard Rustin, an out gay black man who had been a prominent leader of the black civil rights movement, and early lesbian activists such as Maureen Duffy.
They include transgender people who also found themselves sidelined in the story of Stonewall, said Matthew. “The least we can do is to just know them and recognise them.”
Matthew said the book is not just about history, though: “This book is about the place of activism and getting off your bottom and doing something. I am terrified about climate change and am part of Extinction Rebellion.
“We have to get off our asses and if we don’t, who will? No-one is coming to save us.
“It is about having to take risk and put your body out there, especially in these days of keyboard warriors - seeing people going out and protesting is really important.”
He said that activism even more important in turbulent times, with political leaders such as Donald Trump, divisive issues like Brexit and the resurgence of the far right: “When there’s food not in the shops, that's when things are going to get really violent. We have to take these stories from the past.”
Pride: The Story of the LGBTQ Equality Movement is priced £30 in hardback and published by Andre Deutsch.
Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival runs to October 26. For the full programme, go online at