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Monday, August 15, 2022

Bolton LGBTQ+ community leader on coming out, experiences and changing attitudes

The leader of a community group set up to combat the isolation of the LGBTQ+ community has discussed his experiences growing up in the area.

Luke Page, 36, set up the Bolton Rainbow Community in 2017 as a place where LGBTQ+ people had a place they could go and feel safe.

Social isolation is a big issue for members of the LGBTQ+ community, says Luke, originally from Bury, although he says that attitude to have improved since he was young.

He said: “I was 14 when I came out. Now it wouldn’t be as bad, but this was the 90s. It didn’t happen like that. I got bullied a lot. That’s when the isolation began.

“All my friends were male and all of a sudden, they didn’t want to hang out. It was really tough.

“It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that things became easier.

“At 18 I was stabbed for being gay. Because at that time I had a lot of accepting friends I was a quite flamboyant. I didn’t feel I had to hide.

“I was at a nightclub in Bury and someone went to stab my stomach, but I jumped back, and he stabbed me in my arm, just missing a major artery. I’ve still got the scar now.”

Luke Page

He added: “Police refused to admit it was a homophobic attack. That was my first ever dealing with the police. From then on, if I needed anything doing, I’d deal with it myself. It completely destroyed my confidence with the police.

“A couple of years later I was walking through Bury holding hands with my boyfriend at the time and someone spat in my face. I could have gone to the police, but I didn’t think anything would happen. First impressions stick.”

Through the Bolton Rainbow Community, Luke has since worked alongside the police, which has helped that relationship build back up.

He said: “When I started the Rainbow Community, GMP have a LGBT liaison officer and he started coming down. He was absolutely brilliant. He’d do anything for us, and it restored my confidence.

“A lot of companies now have training about LGBT awareness, the police included. As the world is changing, companies are adapting, including the police.

“We’ve had people come to our group who are scared to go to the police when they’ve been the victim of a hate crime, and we try and talk the round.”

The Bolton Rainbow Community is struggling to operate due to the aftereffects of the pandemic and are no longer regularly meeting in their usual weekly meetings on Thursday evenings, although Luke hopes to get it up and running again.



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