Chichester Pride co-founder hopes city will ‘catch up’ with more LGBT+ information shared

Credit: PA/Wires

The co-founder of Chichester Pride says she hopes more education about LGBT+ issues will help her city “catch up” with the rest of the UK.

Melissa Hamilton, 37, founded the festival in West Sussex, along with friend Dawn Gracie in 2022.

Their second annual event will be held on May 27.

Other initiatives have been run throughout the year, including Melissa speaking to teachers and pupils at local schools.

Melissa, who has been a hair stylist for 22 years and came out as transgender in 2018, also campaigns for hair salons to introduce gender-neutral pricing based on the length of hair.

Speaking during LGBT+ History Month, she said: “I was reading an article about a non-binary person who was anxious about going to the hair salon and not knowing how much they would be charged depending on how the stylist perceived them.

“I thought ‘how would I deal with that?’, I thought I need to be backing what I’m living and make my service accessible for everybody.

Melissa Hamilton has been a hairstylist for 22 years Credit: Melissa Hamilton/PA

“I launched my new hair pricing in June 2021 and it had a really positive reaction from clients, it’s all to do with hair length.

“Dentists don’t charge you more or less because of your gender, you’re being charged because of the work being done, so why hasn’t that process gone into all industries?”

Melissa also believes there needs to be more education and awareness about the LGBT+ community in Chichester, West Sussex’s only city.

“I came out as gay at 14 and was told there would be more help and information in Brighton; then when I came out as trans at 33 I was told the same thing, why haven’t things improved?,” she asked.

“For me, Chichester Pride is about educating and doing stuff throughout the year. It’s about how we can work together as a city.

“I just want to get Chichester caught up with everyone else, we’re in this fundamental stage of making connections and being visible.

“LGBT issues are spoken about in PSHE lessons but often the people leading those classes are straight. I can’t answer a question about race as a white person, so going in to schools makes sure they’re getting the right information.

“Children need the right information when we’re at our most able to learn and having that information earlier isn’t to sway, there’s no ‘this is how you have sex’ or ‘it sounds like they’re trans’, it’s about asking children how they feel.

“The next generation of humans are much smarter than us and we’re only dumbing them down if we are not allowing them space to talk about how they feel.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…