LGBT-Who? A guide to some of Lancashire’s greatest LGBTQ+ figures
You might know their name, but what else?
Lancashire, as we all know, is a place of wonder, sheep and countless fields. But it also has a lesser-known claim to fame – it’s home to some of Britain’s best and brightest LGBTQ+ figures. Given that February was LGBTQ+ history month we thought we would enlighten you to who some of these people are and what they’re known for. Some you may already be familiar with, others you’re less likely to have heard of. All of them are great in their own way.
Sir Ian McKellen
First, we have Sir Ian McKellen. You’ve definitely heard of him before, either as Gandalf or Magneto, but you may not have known that he’s from Burnley. His acting career, spanning six decades, has made sure he’s lost any trace of a northern accent, but you can’t take the north out of a man – Sir Ian has given public lectures at Lancaster University and even has an honorary degree from the uni. He has been openly gay since 1988 and is a co-founder of the LGBTQ+ lobby group, Stonewall. It’s only fitting that he tops this guide.
Next, Bethany Black. Bethany is a comedian from Chorley, who has been described as “Britain’s only out goth lesbian transgender comedian”. She describes her own style as “black comedy” and covers issues like mental health based on her personal experiences, as well as “coming out twice – once as a trans woman, then as a lesbian”, in her performances. Black has also branched into television, featuring in Russell T. Davies’ series Banana that focuses on LGBTQ+ youth in Manchester, as well as an episode of Doctor Who alongside Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.
Cat Smith, MP
Next up we have another face you’ll probably be familiar with – Lancaster MP, Cat Smith. Cat attended Lancaster University for her undergrad degree and was the elected Women’s Officer for LUSU, so she’s very familiar with the uni itself. She is now, of course, the Labour MP for the Lancaster and Fleetwood area and is openly bisexual. Cat has also held the position of Shadow Minister of State since January 2020 under the Labour Party’s Shadow Cabinet.
A significant LGBTQ+ figure for any sports fans out there is Lily Parr. Lily lived with her partner, Mary, in Preston where she also played football, sustaining a career that lasted over 30 years. She is reported as having scored over 900 goals over the course of her career and was renowned as having “the strongest shot of any woman footballer” – an asset not unnoticed when most of her games were played against all-male teams. Lily was the first female footballer commemorated at the National Football Museum, with a statue, in Manchester.
If you were a fan of the British Youtuber scene in 2012-2014, you’ll recognise Phil Lester in a heartbeat. For those who are unfamiliar, Phil comes from Rossendale – just outside of Blackburn – and was one of the first people to join YouTube as a “vlogger” back in 2009. He went on to become one half of the “Dan and Phil” duo that ruled YouTube in the early 2010s and co-hosted “The Dan and Phil Show” on BBC Radio 1. Phil came out publicly in 2019 but has said that he lived an openly gay life amongst his friends and family before that.
Finally, we have Gregory Doran. Gregory was raised in Preston and is the current Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company – he was branded by the Sunday Times as “one of the great Shakesperians of his generation”. One of his most famous productions was Hamlet (2008) starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, which you might’ve had to watch as part of your GCSE and A-Level English class. Gregory is openly gay and lives with his partner, Sir Antony Sher, whom he has been with since 1987. The two entered a civil partnership in 2005 and married on the 10-year anniversary of their partnership in 2015.