A man who was persecuted for being gay is looking forward to showing off his LGBT business at Eastbourne Pride.
Ivor Putnam faced prison in his home country Zimbabwe, and said he was threatened with surveillance and arrest if a man went inside his house.
He has now lived in Eastbourne for six years and said starting a new life in another country was the ‘best thing’ he ever did.
The Herald spoke to him about his experiences with homophobia and why Pride is still needed.
He said, “I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, their stance is gay is not allowed at all, so I had that struggle.
“I auditioned to be in Grease and they said, ‘you can’t do that’. And I said, ‘I’m gone’ and that’s when my dance career started. It was very liberating.”
Ivor said of Zimbabwe, where homosexuality is criminalised, “It’s very difficult for a gay man to survive there.
“I was arrested and given all sorts of ultimatums. So I could pay a fine or go to prison.”
He said just days after paying the fine an officer approached him and told him ‘to watch his step’ and that police were watching his house.
“It’s a very difficult thing to live with when you know your house is being monitored by the police,” he said, “So I said I’m going to leave the country, it’s probably the best thing I ever did.”
Now he has set up his own online business called Totally Gay Weddings, which is dedicated to providing decor, gifts, clothing and accessories for LGBT celebrations.
As a wedding photographer, Ivor’s idea came from struggling to find anything for his clients that wasn’t Mr and Mrs. Now his business sells Mr and Mr, Mrs and Mrs, and all kinds of inclusive items.
He said, “I have started this hoping I will be able to supply the LGBT+ community with things they need for their weddings. I’m so excited about this shop.”
When asked about the importance of Pride, he said, “I think Pride is vital because two same-sex people cannot walk down the street and show any form of affection without feeling nervous first.
“We have got to kind of look over your shoulder. I’d love to see that stop.
“Some people say, ‘why do you still need Pride?’ It’s the only time most gay people can just be yourself.
“I was gobsmacked at the amazing turn-out at Worthing Pride, I’m sure Eastbourne Pride will be just as good.”
Totally Gay Weddings will have a stall at Eastbourne Pride in Princes Park on Saturday (July 21).