Why Celebrating Pride Matters More Than Ever Right Now
Yes, we still need Pride — and we always will.
It’s Pride month, otherwise known as the time of year when someone, somewhere, will take to social media to ask why the LGBTQ community still “needs” Pride, or bemoan the fact that “Straight Pride” doesn’t exist. Here’s the thing; Straight Pride does exist! It’s every day. Any time you can hold hands with your partner in public without fear of reprisal or violence, because society deems your love “the norm” — that counts as Straight Pride.
For the rest of us, it’s important that we take time to celebrate the progress that has been made in LGBTQ equality, and look ahead at the work yet to be done.
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Pride originated in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a way for the LGBTQ community to protest harassment at the hands of the police, and to serve as an “annual reminder” to the public that they were being denied basic civil rights. The now-famous Stonewall riots in 1969 marked an opening of the floodgates, and Pride marches became a global phenomenon, eventually evolving into the floats-and-fairy-wings extravaganzas that we now enjoy every summer.
But just as protestors were doing nearly sixty years ago, we still have to remind the general public that there are people within our global community who aren’t given the same rights as everybody else. Being gay still carries a prison sentence in some countries, sometimes even the death penalty — we can’t ever forget that. And in what we would consider “progressive” countries, hate crimes remain all-too-common; this month marks the two year anniversary of the murder of 49 LGBTQ people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Here in the UK, marriage equality was a landmark moment, but I’ve seen it cited by well-meaning straight folk as the “end of homophobia” when in fact it was simply a step in the right direction. The legal right to marry might give certain assurances to same-sex couples, as well as symbolic vindication, but homophobic violence is still very much a reality — and holding up a marriage license isn’t going to stop anyone from kicking your head in.
In 2017, the Home Office reported that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes had increased by 27% in the year following the outcome of the Brexit vote, with more than one in five LGBTQ people having been verbally or physically attacked. Hate crimes relating to sexual orientation are still the second most commonly reported hate crime in the vast majority of police forces, and that’s before you even consider the number of hate crimes that go unreported.
Trans people are by far the most vulnerable in terms of violence, and to add insult to injury, their rights are under attack in the media every day. There are some disturbing parallels between the way that trans and non-binary people are currently being covered in the media, and the way gay men were treated in the tabloids of the past; carefully phrased headlines question the safety of children around trans people in public spaces, or imply that they are mentally ill.
Gay and bisexual teens are more than five times likelier to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and that figure is even higher among trans youth. Nearly a quarter of homeless youth in this country identify as LGBTQ, and according to The Albert Kennedy Trust, 77% say that coming out to their parents was the main factor in them running away or being kicked out of the family home. Homophobia and transphobia are creating a lost generation, and that is why need Pride.
Pride is a time to be loud, visible and unapologetically ourselves precisely because there are people who would rather we hide behind closed doors, or simply not exist at all. The positive impact of such joyful visibility on a young person who might be struggling with their sexuality or gender identity cannot be understated.
And within the community, Pride is a time to reaffirm the solidarity we owe each other, and remember that the rights we have were hard-won. Trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera paved the way for Pride as we know it today; now it’s time for the L, G, B and all the other communities that identify along with us to stand up for the T. Because until every niche within our gorgeous and diverse community is respected, there will always be a need for Pride.
Besides, who doesn’t love a party?
- Words by Philip Ellis.