I’ve written a few times now about Pride, the Gay Community and what being LGBTQ+ in the modern world means. Since lockdown, and with most Prides around the world being either cancelled or postponed, this seems like an opportune moment to go back to basics.
From resetting the environment, through to resetting our lives. Lockdown has presented a unique opportunity to reflect and maybe find a better way.
A lack of ‘Pride’ events in the UK reminds us of why they are still important. Yes, they are a celebration, yes, they are a protest, yes, they are ‘messy’, and yes, they are connecting. Pride can be all of those things and whatever else you want it to be if you keep these 5 things in mind.
Knowledge is power
At Pride events up and down the country I am always learning new things about what is going on with our LGBTQ+ family across the globe and closer to home. Issues with suitable care for LGBTQ+ needs in care homes, issues with gender recognition and support, mental health and support for coming out related challenges – all sorts. We could all just live in our very nice little UK bubble, or we could expand our horizons. Explore worlds outside our own and see the world through other’s eyes. Hear about their world, their lived experiences and maybe do what we can to make it a little easier for them as it has been ‘easier’ for many of us.
People say, “why do we need ‘specialist’ services for LGBT people”, and to them I say I pray you never need to use them. While the challenges our community faces are similar to others, they can often be specifically unique and complex. And if you have ever been in that sort of situation, even remotely or seen it ‘third party’, you would understand immediately why you can’t have a generalist supporting that person, it has to be someone that gets the pain, gets the anguish, and can provide the right support to the right person.
Reflection is learning
Like it or not you, LGBTQ+ person reading this, enjoy your life today thanks to the work and sacrifice of others. From basic civil rights to allow you to not go to jail for just being you through to fighting stigma and educating the wider public. You can ignore it, you can play it down, you can revel in the ‘safe’ UK and that is your right to do so. But maybe, just maybe, take the opportunity both during pride and outside of it, to go and speak to some of those people that fought for your nice life.
At my own local pride, Essex, their online pride gave a brilliant segment on LGBT history in Chelmsford and Essex. From the first ‘celebrity’ local gay man through the history of the bars and local charities. I learnt more from that reflective video that I ever would have had access to via word of mouth.
Pride is an opportunity to reflect. Give thanks and enjoy all the things that those that came before us could not. They fought for your right to be free, to challenge and to party (or not). Either way it is your choice and that’s a choice you enjoy because of them. So, remembering them through Pride, is the very least we can do.
To challenge is to evolve
At Pride events up and down the country, and indeed some in other countries, if you open yourself up to it you can expand your mind. Challenge your preconceptions of the world. And learn so much more about the human experience.
Personally, I’ve learnt so much about gender, mental health, sexual identity, sexual expression, community, history and the world through the LGBTQ+ community. Every single pride has a community element to it – some more than others. Have you explored these sides of it? The art festival at Brighton, the community networking events at Manchester, the local charity support stands at Essex (to name but a few).
If you want to see new ideas, examples of the challenges we face, and some amazing examples of community and the real face of humanity, go and see some these events, charities and organisations.
Participation is community
Pride brings people together. LGBTQ+ or not, it brings everyone out and raises awareness. We are here, we have a rich and diverse culture, and we are most certainly not going anywhere.
When the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was attacked, I was there at the vigil in Soho. I had not seen the community mobilise so quickly before and had never seen so many people out to remember those we lost outside of pride. That, plus the vigil at Manchester Pride and various other events have been golden examples of how we are very much a community. And like a community it has its problems, it isn’t perfect and there are aspects of it to love and hate. But the fact remains, it is a community. We all have the same things in common and there is more of what unites us, than divides us.
It could be worse
It sounds like one of those hollow statements, but it really is true. Legal rights don’t just appear, they are granted through hard work and determine and as quickly as they can be granted, they can be taken away. We are lucky in the UK because of things like democracy, a free press and an independent judiciary. But not everywhere enjoys that.
While I’m not suggesting the UK is heading towards being the next China, even some of the basic fundamentals that mean nothing to you may mean the world to someone who is being denied them. Someone who, every single moment of every single day, is being reminded that they are not a human in the eyes of the law/their employer/the police etc.
If you can’t picture what that feels like, good. I hope you never have to. But that doesn’t take away from the need to ensure that until we live in that perfect world that we all want, we do what we can to remember, respond and remind everyone that we are here, we are human beings and we will not go back to the days of criminalisation and marginalisation.
I’m not saying you need to be a card carrying, flag waving front and centre member of the community. Instead, make pride what you want of it. A moment of personal reflection and appreciation all the way through to a front and centre card carrying, flag waving member of the community.
It is what you make of it, just be glad that it can be what you make of it.
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