June is Gay Pride month, and I’d like to ask that you indulge me while I discuss the history of it, and where it is now.
“When you hear of Gay Pride, remember, it was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay. It evolved out of our need as human beings to break free of oppression and to exist without being criminalised, pathologised or persecuted.
Depending on a number of factors, particularly religion, freeing ourselves from gay shame and coming to self-love and acceptance, can not only be an agonising journey, it can take years. Tragically some don’t make it.
Instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride be grateful you have never needed one.”
Pride Month Parade
On June 28th 1970 in New York, there was an event called Christopher Street Liberation Day, in remembrance of the Stonewall riots which happened a year previously. There were also simultaneous marches in Los Angeles and Chicago, these were the first Gay Pride marches in US history. The following year marches were added in Boston, Dallas, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. It was the birth of the Gay Pride movement on a massive scale.
For many these days Pride events are just an excuse for a party, we seem to have lost some of the intended meaning. Maybe that is because in many of the countries where Pride parades are held, we appear to already have equality (yes, I said appear to not do) so people forget that rights are still being fought for in so many places. We are lucky we are able to hold pride parades, this isn’t the case for so many.
There are 196 countries in the world, and not many of them offer equality for gay rights. Only 22 of those countries allow same sex couples to marry. Only two countries in the world ban conversion therapy (a repellent practice where people undergo psychological torture to try and make them heterosexual).
In ten countries homosexuality is punishable by death. 40 countries (including the US) allow a ‘gay panic’ defence, where someone can claim they were justified in assaulting or murdering a person of the same sex by saying they came onto them. In 72 countries homosexual acts are illegal (in Singapore homosexual acts between men are illegal but not between women). 22 countries (in Europe) require trans people to undergo sterilisation to be legally recognised as the gender they identify as.
It is important to remember Pride is not just a party. It is, was, and should be a means for social change. Not just in the countries that are already considered safe (more about that in a minute) but around the world. Until people everywhere can hold their partners hand without fearing recrimination, there is still work to be done.
I mentioned about countries that are considered safe, such as the UK, USA, etc but even though in these countries it is not currently illegal to be homosexual but that doesn’t mean people don’t face persecution. Or that they are never on the receiving end of violence or abuse.
I also feel there is a big problem with intersectionality in the community, the more marginalised in the community sometimes get forgotten or pushed out. And when it comes to Pride events that charge an entry fee it is the most marginalised who suffer because they can’t always find the money (£30 here in Birmingham this year) to attend. I understand ticket sales are usually to raise money for Pride related charities but at the same time they are pushing out the people who could most benefit from the support and community Pride can offer.
It’s a fine line between speaking out and speaking for someone. I am in a very privileged position; I identify as the gender I was assigned at birth, I am white, and as a bisexual I can pass as heterosexual. This doesn’t mean I never face discrimination it just means I am in an easier position than many. It does mean people have a tendency to dismiss my sexuality, especially if I am in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, which is annoying but not oppressive. If I can use my position of privilege to speak out for the voiceless it is my responsibility to do it, and that is what I feel Pride should be about. Remembering those who spoke out so we could have the advantages we do and taking our turn to speak up for those who don’t yet have it.
This Pride month whether you are LGBTQIA or simply an ally, please show your support for the community. Rejoice, spread love, and remember what Pride is really all about.