(Image: Kira and lovely wife-to-be Charlie)
Welcome to my second column. Before I even start can I just say a massive thank you to all of you who read my first ever column last month. The statistics hit the roof and I am so overwhelmed by the support from you all, so to all of you who read it, a big sloppy kiss from me!
There are a few things I'd like to chat about this month. The first of which is this years Owlies. For those of you not aware the Owlie awards celebrate and congratulate individuals and groups who have made outstanding contributions to the Leeds LGBT community. This year’s ceremony was at the Alea Casino and what a night we had! We have some amazing hard working and talented people in Leeds and this years awards had some nail biting moments. Some categories were so close that there was literally a point in it. In fact some votes were so close that instead of the usual three hall of fame awards, there were four, and we had to award two 'Darrell Hirst - Hero of the Scene' awards as the votes were tied. All the nominees at this year’s event really did deserve to be there, and the winners, all voted for by the public were the cream of the crop. I had the best time hosting this year’s event with the talented Mr Marky Mark and for me; it was all over far too soon. I would like to say a huge thank-you to Jon Bishop and Marky Mark for putting together this year’s event, and my very own Charlie for doing the sound and lighting. They all did an amazing job. I would also like to personally congratulate two very good friends on their awards. Mr Danny Cher Bailey for his 'Darrell Hirst - Hero of the scene' award and Mr Derek Towell (or DJ Degsie to you and me!) for his 'Hall of Fame' award. I'm so proud of you both. The only sad news regarding the event is that we have just been informed that the Alea Casino is to close as of immediate effect. Sarah-Louise and the team did an incredible job accommodating us for the Owlies the last two years and it is such a shame to see such a great venue close it's doors.
Now, we must not forget that this Sunday (10th of March for those of you a little behind!) is Mothers day. For me it has always been a difficult day as working in the entertainment industry I have always had to work Sundays. I love my mum dearly and missing seeing her on Mother's day has always been hard. I am however painfully aware that I am luckier than most and that although I don't see her on Mother's Day, my mum is still very much around. I think that having a stepdaughter of my own who is now a young woman and doing her own things has really made me see things from my own mum's point of view. We want to hold our children close and protect them from the world, but it's not always that easy. Today, I can truthfully say I have never been happier and it's only now that I can look back and realise that my mum did more for me than I ever knew... So, a very happy Mother's day mum! x
Another memorable date this month is Friday 8th March, International Women's day. Now women's rights such a vast subject that to get into it too deep would probably take all month. Instead, as one of the few female writers on GayLeeds, I think it's important to discuss what it means to me. I have never been persecuted for being female, but the fight for women's rights and the fight for LGBT rights are the same. It is all down to equality. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York city demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. On January 13th 2013 a reported 340,000 people converged around the Eiffel Tower in Paris to support same sex marriage. The fight for equality in all its forms goes on, and I know it is a battle that will be fought for hundreds of years to come. International Women's Day in today's UK society has been forgotten by most. People assume the fight for women's rights was won many years ago, but unfortunately that is not the case. We are all too aware of the fight for women's rights overseas, but here in the United Kingdom, 40 years after the equal rights act was passed, women are still fighting for equal pay. In fact studies show that female managers are unlikely to receive equal pay until at least 2067. To me that is absurd. Equal rights should equal... there are no differences, not in pay, not in opportunity, not in religious aspects and definitely not in the law. Like most laws passed in this country, there are loopholes. Excuses that allow the government to please the majority by passing laws and legislation's but also allow them to mold and change them within society as it benefits them. This is still the case with women's rights and so far appears as though it will be the case for equal marriage. The fight for equal rights continues.
In my life I have been lucky enough to know many inspirational women. These women have left a bigger imprint on my life than any man has managed to do.
My mum. She taught me love and respect, to be brave in the face of adversity, to never let anyone bring you down and to hold your head up high. To cherish your family. To let go once in a while and go a little bit crazy. It's what makes us alive. Oh, and to dance around the room singing with candlesticks!
My Grandma. An inspiration to most. Her and her daughter Susan have taught me many things. Compassion, to be selfless, to be the best person you can be, to love and care for others as you would expect in return.
Judy. Most of you see this lady hosting karaoke in the Bridge. The lady with all the laughs and the sharpest tongue in town. I see the mother figure. Fiercely protective of her own. She taught me to follow my dreams and to be strong. She took me under her wing and her relentless encouragement shaped my entire career, and my being.
Charlie. My Fiancee may seem like an obvious choice, but she inspires me every single day. She has taught me to never let anyone grind you down and to always be courageous. Her constant encouragement, relentless patience, and her willingness to take a backseat for the benefit of my career has made me who I am. She has taught me to be confident and resilient. For all that and more, I respect no one more than Charlie.
Joanne. I have to mention my big sister who I am so proud of. We have so many great memories together. We fought through most of our later childhood, and now, we couldn't love each other more.
Finally, my stepdaughter Chantelle. It seems strange adding her to a list of women who have inspired me. Mostly because she will always be my little girl. But she has taught me to love unconditionally, to be patient, to try and be a better person, because ultimately I want to inspire her like all these women have inspired me.
These women have offered so much, not just to me but also to everyone around them. Women continue to grow stronger in our culture and I hope that on the 8th March we can all acknowledge and celebrate the women in our lives that inspire us and continue to prove that the fight for equality is worthwhile.
On that note, I hope you all have a lovely month... try your best to behave yourselves until I see you next!
Love to you all