PROGRESS in gender and sexual equality is being celebrated with LGBT History Month alongside suggestions for how to do more.

Among those taking part are councils across south Essex and businesses in the region.

Basildon Council is holding an event at Colors Nightclub in Basildon from 6.30pm to 9.45pm on Friday.

It will begin with a welcome from Essex-based performers and campaigners Jake Bedson and Joey Bambino.

There will be live music throughout the evening, with a number of video screenings and guest speakers exploring sexuality and gender identity.

Basildon based defence equipment firm Leonardo is also marking LGBT history month by displaying a rainbow flag outside its offices to show its support for the community.

Southend Council and Unison is backing the event.

Southend Unison LGBT+ is running a stall on Friday to celebrate the lives and achievements of the diverse community.

It will be available at the Southend Council foyer, Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue, Southend from noon until 2pm.

Councillors who are part of the LGBT community and LGBT event leaders said it’s very important to mark the event.

David Burton-Sampson, Labour councillor for St Martin’s, said: “The LGBT+ community has for many years struggled in gaining recognition and mutual respect from society in the fight for equality.

“We do need to mark LGBT History Month in Essex, but many people forget or don’t realise the struggles of the past.

“Essex sporadically marks LGBT History Month but this is not consistent across the county.

“I think councils need to lead the way on this through encouraging the community to recognise and celebrate the month.

“We should be encouraging businesses and community groups to get involved and take part in marking the month.

“I think this is a time when we need to reflect on the past but also recognise that true equality is not yet fully achieved.

“People should be able to be proud of who they love and proud of how they identify without the fear of recrimination.

“Hatred should be conquered with a show of love, as we did with Basildon Mini Pride last year.”

Garry Ormes, 44, chairman of Essex Pride, said he believes the event is about recognising how far we’ve come as a society.

He said: “There is always room to move forward towards having complete equality.

“I think it’s important to keep moving forward, and continue to recognise that people should be free to love who they want to love without feeling like they may receive negativity or worse.”

There will be a host of LGBT+ pride events across Essex later this year.

Essex Pride will be held on June 15 in Central Park, Chelmsford.

Basildon Pride will be launched on February 23 at Eastgate Shopping Centre, Basildon.

Southend Pride will be held in July.

Critics have raised concerns events are still required to drive equality however the latest figures suggest problems remain with homophobia and transgender abuse.