COMMENT | "Pride is for all of us, of all ages and backgrounds to express ourselves honestly and authentically"

Pride season is finally here! It’s time to dig out the rainbow flags, the glitter and sequins!

In part one of this series on Pride, I’ll be exploring why Pride is so important to us as a community.

In recent years we have made huge progress worldwide in terms of LGBT+ rights. We can get married properly, we are protected in our workplaces and in everyday life. We can adopt or get surrogates to have a baby for us. We are accepted as true, legitimate families and Wales has recently announced that it is going to start teaching about LGBT+ relationships in schools to help children understand about same-sex relationships. We live in a wonderful time and that needs to be celebrated.

We also live in a time where we can be beaten up or murdered for so much as holding the hand of a loved one. We could die or be permanently physically injured or worse for daring to do something as innocent as love. Fair enough, it’s not as dangerous now as it was in the eighties when the AIDS crisis enhanced tensions and hostility towards the LGBT+ community but it’s still bad. It took a lot of work to get us to where we are now and there’s still more to do.

In parts of the Middle East people can be thrown off buildings for simply being suspected of homosexuality. In Russia, gay people are persecuted on a daily basis in the most brutal, horrific ways. In Chechnya, gay people flee for their lives or face being slaughtered by their own families in a gay purge. In Uganda, you can be imprisoned for life for being gay, or again, killed. Even Dubai, a glamorous holiday destination, adored by the West is a dangerous place for LGBT+ people. This is just a handful of examples.

There are still currently over 70 countries in the world where you can be imprisoned for being gay and our rights that we take for granted are not safe. Just a few months ago, Boris Johnson, our British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs failed to stop the abolition of same-sex marriage in Bermuda less than a year after the law had passed.

Worldwide, LGBT+ people aren’t safe yet they defy their countries laws and hold Pride marches. In the countries mentioned before, and so many more, there are often devastating scenes of cruel attacks. These Pride marches are nothing like ours. Ours are a celebration of what we have and how far we’ve come, theirs are the complete opposite. They are life-threatening political performances where often the events are cancelled last minute for the activists’ safety. On the instances the very brave few go ahead, tragedy often follows close behind.

In 2015, Shira Banki was stabbed to death at a Pride march in Jerusalem by ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, Yishai Schlissel who had committed a similar crime ten years previously and served a decade-long prison sentence. He claimed he was “doing God’s work.” when he murdered Shira three-weeks after being released from prison. Shira was just sixteen years old.

Sadly scenes like this are too common.

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This is why we need Pride.

Pride is a symbol of the fight our community have endured and the pain they have suffered to get us to this point. It is an important part of our culture and as we enter Pride season it is vital that we should remember and respect those who afforded us the celebrations we know and love now.

Throughout most of the Western world, Pride is an event where we can go and have fun with friends and family. We can enjoy music and entertainment and march through our respective cities with rainbow flags flying. We march hand in hand with our same-sex boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives. We can freely identify ourselves as we wish and we do it with pride. We do it safely without fear of repercussion and stand in unity alongside people of all backgrounds, races and sexualities: Gay, bi, trans, straight. Pride is for all of us, of all ages and backgrounds to express ourselves honestly and authentically. Even our straight allies are proud to march with us in solidarity and that is a shining example of how far we’ve come. It wasn’t always the case.

In history, it was a criminal offence to be homosexual. If we were caught out for these “crimes” we could be imprisoned or forced to undergo “Conversion Therapy.” War hero, Alan Turing, who created the Enigma machine that helped us win the war was arrested in 1952 for “gross indecency.” He accepted chemical castration as an alternative to going to prison. After all he did for us, and he was treated like a criminal just for being gay. He was essentially tortured with cancer-causing drugs and eventually died a few days before his 42nd birthday from cyanide poisoning. While initial inquests ruled suicide, it has since been decided that his death was from accidental poisoning.

Homosexuality was eventually decriminalised in the UK in 1967 but it wouldn’t be until 2013 that Alan would be posthumously pardoned for his “crimes.”

In 2017 a new law came into effect that pardoned all gay men of historic offences linked to homosexual activity pre-1967. This law has been informally nicknamed The Alan Turing Law in his honour.

This is why we celebrate Pride. We celebrate because we can. We do it because of these horrendous laws in the past that prevented LGBT people from being allowed to express themselves. We celebrate our right to exist in a world where we’re making progress and raising awareness of the troubles still faced by other in less fortunate regions across the world.

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