This year is an important year for our LGBTQ+ community. It’s fifty years since the Stonewall riots this Pride Month, so this should be a June to celebrate more than ever.
We’re only nine days in but we’ve already had many disgusting stories in the headlines where LGBTQ+ people have been targeted and hurt because of their sexuality or gender identity. We have had companies hiding behind rainbow branding, actively damage our community. At the time of writing, it’s the 9th of June and I have a handful of examples of high profile stories. This doesn’t count the small, unreported moments – the couples holding hands who get glared at, the LGBTQ+ people who are told by strangers (and even people they know) that “being gay isn’t normal,” and the ignorant, uneducated comments faced by LGBTQ+ people every single day.
The main concern this Pride Month is that every single company seems to take on our rainbow flag in an attempt to “be cool,” but they don’t seem to think about what it actually means. The rainbow is more than just a flag. It flies as a visual representation of the beauty and diversity of our collective community/family. We wear it as a badge of honour in memory and respect of those who fought for us and paved the way for our equality. Now it is cheapened by this mass adoption every June by companies who tend to only bring it out for a few weeks a year and then forget it ever happened. If companies can’t respect our community or contribute to us in any way then they don’t deserve the right to use it to drive their own corporate gain.
This year we have had the Home Office using the rainbow colours all over their social media while trying to deport Ken Macharia. Ken has lived here in the UK for a decade after escaping from Kenya where homosexuality is illegal and he could have been imprisoned (by law) or beaten or even murdered by anyone who took umbrage to him living his truth.
— Sky Sports Rugby (@SkySportsRugby) June 3, 2019
Ken had been detained and threatened with deportation last November when it was ruled that he could live his life openly in Kenya despite the dangerous possibilities that actually faced him back there. He was allowed to go but was summoned to the Home Office on Thursday 6th June where he, once again, faced deportation. Thankfully, Ken was allowed to stay in the UK but he still isn’t completely safe and could still face deportation again at a later date.
Youtube has been another company that have hurt LGBTQ+ people during a recent ongoing saga with Carlos Maza and Stephen Crowder. Maza is a writer for Vox, a left-wing news site while Crowder is an inflammatory, right-wing YouTuber who hosts “Louder with Crowder” on the video platform with an audience of millions.
The story unfolded when Maza posted a thread on Twitter, exposing the abuse he had been facing from Crowder who had consistently called him vile names and made outrageous accusations about him for being gay and Latino for years. Maza rightfully called for YouTube to acknowledge the abuse and to do something about Crowder.
Since I started working at Vox, Steven Crowder has been making video after video “debunking” Strikethrough. Every single video has included repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity. Here’s a sample: pic.twitter.com/UReCcQ2Elj
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) May 31, 2019
YouTube wrote back a few days later with:
“Our teams spent the last few days conducting an in-depth review of the videos flagged to us and while we found the language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.”
This decision sparked outrage and soon after, YouTube decided to reverse their position again and demonetise Crowder with a statement saying:
“Update on our continued review. We have suspended this channel’s monetization. We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against out Youtube Partner Program Policies.”
Shockingly, it appears that Youtube may have been planning this for a while and Crowder’s demonetisation might not have even been anything to do with Maza’s tweets. Instead, with the announcement crossing over with the timing of this very public drama, Maza has ended up facing all the backlash and is suffering, even more, hate and harassment. Whatever YouTube’s reasoning – whether it was pre-determined or because of Maza and the backlash, their handling of events have made things much worse. Even high profile people like Grandpa Munster ahem I mean, Ted Cruz, have got involved: You can read more about this interesting take on events here.
Such an honour to shoot for and be interviewed by the iconic @Playboy.
— ＭＵＮＲＯＥ ?? (@MunroeBergdorf) May 17, 2018
Most recently the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) had launched a campaign with trans-activist Munroe Bergdorf. On Wednesday 5th June, Bergdorf spoke out about her excitement to help play a part in an important role:
“The wellbeing and empowerment of LGBTQIA+ identifying children is something that I have been passionate about throughout my career as an activist. I’m excited to have the opportunity to let more kinds know that they are not along in how they feel. There are people who care, people who can help and people who have been through the same things as you, so PLEASE don’t suffer in silence.”
Proud to be announced as @childline's first LGBT+ campaigner. The wellbeing and empowerment of LGBTQIA+ identifying children and young people is something that I have been passionate about throughout my career as an activist. pic.twitter.com/baSnTo7S7X
— ＭＵＮＲＯＥ ?? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 5, 2019
However, soon after she spoke out about her involvement, anti-trans activists, including a Times journalist and other Twitter users became involved, accusing Bergdorf of being “dangerous,” a “porn model,” and they threatened to cancel their direct debits to the charity if they allowed their association with her to continue.
— ＭＵＮＲＯＥ ?? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 8, 2019
Bergdorf replied that she has “never shot porn in [her] life,” and saying that “demonising those who do, isn’t okay either.” She had posed for Playboy in 2018 but the shoot was actually very tasteful and the images captured were strong, beautiful and empowering for Bergdorf who also spoke about her experiences as a trans woman in the accompanying article. Not a single one of those photos could be considered pornographic; in fact, they were more akin to the edgy fashion modelling one would expect from a fashion magazine.
Despite this, the NSPCC has dropped Bergdorf’s campaign and turned their backs on her saying,
“Munroe Bergdorf has supported the most recent phase of Childline’s campaign which aims to support children with LGBTQ+ concerns. Munroe has been referred to as a Childline Ambassador. At no point has she been an ambassador for the charity. She will have no ongoing relationship with Childline or the NSPCC. The NSPCC does not support, endorse of authorise any personal statements made by any celebrities who contribute to campaigns.”
This sends a cold and dangerous message to the people this campaign is meant to help. By leaving Bergdorf behind and refusing to acknowledge her is cruel. How can LGBTQ+ children trust a charity who might treat them so nonchalantly? This is a cruel betrayal of not only Bergdorf but of the entire LGBTQ+ community. Especially the trans community who currently suffer the same kind of hatred through misinformation and lack of education that the gay community faced in the 80s. I spoke about this before in a previous article. You can read more about it here:
The most heartbreaking part of this is that it comes at the same time Childline, which works closely with the NSPCC, confirmed that over the last twelve months they have dealt with over 6,000 counselling sessions with children and young people about LGBTQ+ issues.
Birmingham Live revealed that almost 800 calls were made to the Birmingham branch of Childline and some children have even been told to “kill themselves” because of their sexuality. These are some of the loneliest, most desperate and vulnerable children and they are being failed.
What kind of message does it send when in the news we see our very existence as a daily hot topic for debate. We are bombarded with people digging their noses into every inch of our lives, deciding whether we’re “appropriate” enough to exist or not. We see the protests in Birmingham over LGBTQ+ inclusive education and are told by strangers online that we are “mentally ill,” that “we are not normal,” and that we are “disgusting.”
Despite the fact that relationship education is becoming mandatory by law, and an injunction taken out which restricted parents protesting outside the schools, they still continue just outside the restriction zone. The protests led by Shakeel Afsar, who doesn’t even have children at the school, have recently been endorsed by Roger Godsif – Labour’s MP for Birmingham Hall Green.
The protests were also defended by Shabana Mahmood back when they first started in March.
On 30th May, a lesbian couple was brutally attacked on a bus by a gang of young men – aged between 15-18 – all because they wouldn’t kiss for their entertainment. This attack wasn’t just a homophobia based hate crime. It was a misogynist hate crime too, just because the two women didn’t want to “entertain” the young men. It’s a horrendous, heartbreaking story. Luckily the women involved have remained resilient and refuse to back down and be scared. The heroines have spoken out and intend to continue to live proudly and visibly.
But that wasn’t the only hate crime this week. On Saturday 8th June, a performance of Rotterdam was cancelled due to some of the actors being victims of a hate crime. Rotterdam is a play about a young lesbian who is about to come out to her family in an email but before she can send it, her girlfriend tells her that she identifies as a male and wants to start living as a man. It’s about how they begin to navigate their relationship and love for each other. It’s a wonderful, modern story that deserves to be told and clearly has reason to be heard.
Sadly, we can’t hide from the fact that our community are the target of so much hatred in the current political climate in which this extreme right-wing attitude is legitimised and even fuelled by people like Donald Trump with his transgender military ban and the proposal of bills that mean it’s legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, etc.
In the UK, Brexit Party member, Ann Widdecombe, stated that it’s entirely possible that maybe one-day science will cure homosexuality and Tory Leadership candidate, Esther McVey stuck up for the parent’s protesting against LGBTQ+ inclusive education by saying “parent’s know what’s best for their children.”
The Brexit Party did unexpectedly well at the recent EU elections and McVey stands a good chance of becoming our next PM.
What does this say about the future? Nothing positive. That’s what. All that we can take away from this is that on this fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, we must all adopt some Stonewall spirit and keep fighting. It is an undeniably terrifying and uncertain time to be LGBTQ+ but we must be brave enough to remain visible and dignified. We must live honestly, love openly and not let them silence us.
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