LGBT Rights? Gay Pride in Disabled Toilets Fiasco

I have to confess that I was at Gay Pride yesterday since I've just got a part-time job working at a cafe in the general locale.

I noticed several things that were depressing. First, I noticed that the police decided to relax or abandon the bye law against street drinking which is enforced the rest of the year for the homeless. It was, as they say, 'carnage' but then, hey, so is Notting Hill Carnival.

Second, I noticed that the police decided to relax or abandon the anti-drug laws enforced the rest of the year for the homeless. In fact, Sussex Police decided, instead of searching each customer (they were charging £17.50 entrance fee for the park...it's a park for Heaven's sake!) they left a 'drugs amnesty bin' for people to voluntarily hand over their drugs for the police. Did they? Well, the bin was empty and had fallen on its side. Why do they never think to try that with the homeless instead of dressing up as addicts and manipulating them to give or supply them with illegal or prescription drugs?

In a fit of what could be described as 'pride' or 'self-will', I approached a group of policemen and policewomen and asked them why they weren't arresting the cavalcade of revellers up and down London Road and enforcing the street drinking laws that they enforce so assiduously for the homeless and hostel dwellers of Brighton. They more or less told me it was a 'special day' and told me to go away. Fair enough. Hypocrites!

I got off work early and near this cafe was a disabled black guy, let's call him 'James'. He didn't have his 'RADAR' key for the disabled toilet. He had been sitting in his own faeces for about half an hour or more, waiting for someone to come from the Council to let him into the disabled toilet to clean himself up. I was off work and so I waited with him and a steward. For some unknown reason, the cafe doesn't have a disabled key because it is something that is the Council's responsibility. For over an hour, the Council were nowhere to be found. The guy had lost his 'radar' key recently in London and was down with some friends for Pride. He lost his friends somewhere near the front entrance. I hope and pray he found them again.

Clearly, the Council, while catering for the 'gay community' didn't think too much of catering for the 'disabled gay community' or just 'disabled community' and this poor disabled man had to sit in his own crap for, in the end, about an hour and a half if not longer, waiting to gain access to a toilet. I'd have considered taking him home, but we kept on being reassured, 'don't worry, just another 5 minutes'!

He had money but didn't yet have a ticket and so the steward, he and I, approached the security guards near the main entrance to the events (for which you would part with £17.50). A security fence, easily moveable to allow for access had been erected for him to get into the park for the other disabled toilet. The steward asked if we could go through the two 'gates' to get into the park because he was sitting in his own crap, frustrated, mightily pissed off and at times in tears (as one would be). Like something straight out of Nazi Germany, the security guys claimed not to have the 'authority' to let a disabled man sitting in his own dung through the gates into the park because these gates were to be closed at all times. They were just manning it so that nobody could get through because, you know, Gay Pride is a corporate affair now. So, the poor guy is sitting in his wheelchair desperate to get to a disabled toilet, the guards are manning the gates and they tell him that they can't give him direct access to the place because he hasn't paid. He replies that he will pay after he's been to the toilet. They say that he can't come in. It's like these security guards, aside from being short on human empathy also cannot think for themselves.

I tell the disabled guy that I can take him over to the Premier Inn across the road because there's bound to be a disabled toilet there. He wants to wait. Finally, thank God Almighty, a guy from Wettons arrives (toilet cleaning has been outsourced to Wettons, a private company) telling us that this was meant to be his day off, and that's why he's late because the other guy who was meant to be on duty called in sick. By this time it is, let me remind you, about 3-3.30pm! So, the guy from Wettons comes with me and 'James' back to the cafe where there is the original disabled toilet. Inside the park area for which you pay entrance are loads of portaloos and toilets and a disabled loo and a Council ran cafe which has a disabled RADAR key. But outside the park area, where were gathered throngs of revellers, the only toilets around were the gents and ladies with only one or two toilets each. Therefore the queues were truly massive.

So the poor guy gets in the disabled toilet and is let in by the Wettons guy. I ask him if he needs help but he maintains he's able to clean himself up. The Wetton's guy has by this time disappeared to God alone knows where. 'James' does indeed clean himself up, wanting no help from others, but leaves the disabled toilet floor covered in water, tissues and diahorrea. He emerges and the gang of revellers queuing make sick noises and laughing about how disgusting it smells because the poor guy has been trying to sort himself out.

By now I'm alone with the guy and on the way to London Road (by now he needs some incontinence pads from Boots and some new clothes from charity shops) I'm wheeling 'James' around while we are talking about Gay Pride, disabled facilities and the lackthereof, Nazis, security guards and gay marriage. He didn't change my mind on Gay Pride, matters LGBT or anything like that, but he did change my mind on what its really like to be disabled anywhere. Throughout the afternoon, he maintained his dignity and I was astonished by his resilience and positivity. We did talk briefly about the Catholic Church, sexuality and God over a peppermint tea later on, but obviously, his focus was on the horror of what had just happened to him.

By five o'clock, he has sorted himself out and wants to go inside the park and hand over nearly £18 to Pride for an evening of public entertainment. Well, I know as a Catholic I shouldn't be encouraging people to go to Gay Pride, but nonetheless, what with him being disabled and having had a rather rough day, I wheeled him right up to the entrance gate. I hope he found his 'friends'. Say a prayer for him, he is disabled because he stopped taking his HIV medication for a while. He is back on his meds now and is moving to Bristol where he hopes to become a teacher. Good luck to him! He wants to teach kids with disabilities and to be able to inspire the young to live life to the full despite disability.

Shame on you, Brighton and Hove City Council and shame on you, you corporate whores responsible for Gay Pride! You think everything of the gays but nothing of the disabled or presumably, those homosexuals who can't afford your ridiculous fees! Your absurd security guards wouldn't even let a disabled man sitting in his own sh*t through the gates to go to the toilet unless he went through another gate and handed over £17.50 while sitting in his crap! Nice! You'd have got on well in Auschwitz! What kind of  'authority' do security guards need to let a disabled guy who has defacated himself use a toilet? After they'd 'radioed' the guys above, the answer was actually 'No'! Tell you what you need. You need a heart and in the absence of a heart you need at least a brain! The gay movement has made so much 'progress' in modern society, yet neither the LGBT movement nor the Councils that fund and support it have yet comprehended that all people deserve to be treated with dignity!

Comments

Singalong said…
Well written! Any chance that your account could be published in the Argus so that people can see what really goes on?? Poor "James". All that detail brings the difficulties faced by disabled people young and old.
P├ętrus said…
I doubt The Argus would publish this piece. It would upset too many of its readers.

Well written though Laurence.