Pride is about more than just rainbows – it’s about radical change

Heather Childs-Potter, Regulation Assistant and Diversity & Inclusion Champion, IPA

What is Pride?

Since 1970, the LGBTQ+ community has marked June as Pride month. Pride month celebrates LGBTQ+ culture, achievements and the history of pride through a series of organised activities including pride marches, film festivals, art exhibits and other programmes. Pride month recognises and appreciates how far we have all come in LGBTQ+ rights but also acknowledges the need for greater acceptance and equality. 

The history of Pride

In the late 1960s, being openly gay was illegal in most places. The gay bars and clubs in the 1960s were places of refuge, where people could express themselves openly and not fear punishment, discrimination or abuse. On June 28, 1969, the police raided a club called the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar in New York. It was quite common for police to shut down gay bars, confiscate alcohol and arrest employees and customers. On this night, the customers at the club decided to fight back and stand up for their freedoms. The Stonewall riots soon became a symbol of resistance to social and political discrimination that would inspire unity among LGBTQ+ groups for decades to come.  

What is Pride today?

It is fair to say that we have come an incredibly long way since 1970. London Pride saw 1.5 million people celebrate and protest in support of LGBTQ+ rights in 2019. But as Pride grows, so has the commercial and corporate influence. It seems that there’s more emphasis on performative participation than intentional activism. Commentators have argued that the Pride parade in London is now filled with corporations showing off their rainbow merchandise and being congratulated for this alone. It raises concerns about the prominence of corporate logos and the money pouring in from wealthy companies – does it lead to activism for LGBTQ+ and radical change?

Why is Pride important to me?

I have never been to a London Pride parade, but that doesn’t mean I do not celebrate Pride. In fact, the celebration of pride for me is not a once-a-year thing, but more of a 24/7-365-days-a-year thing. 

I am proudly part of the LGBTQ+ community and identify as a queer, bisexual with pronouns she/they. When I finally started to embrace this part of me, a lot of amazing people came into my life, most of them identifying as queer, non-binary, gay, bisexual, lesbian & trans. Through my connections with them I have learnt so much, not only about their experiences but myself too. This community forces you (in a good way) to be your truest, authentic self and actively challenges you to think about your own unconscious biases, pre-made assumptions of other people and how society has been formed. Personally, I would like to live in a world where cis-heteronormative couples are not the “norm” and embrace more of the wonderful different connections people can have, for example: lesbian couples having children, gay men adopting children, platonic friends buying a house together etc. The most important thing for me is that because I was not born in the UK, this community feels like home, and I am so proud to be a part of it. 

What can be done to continue to raise awareness and strive for radical change?

To understand the importance of pride and equality for LGBTQ+ people, it is important to understand intersectionality within this context. LGBTQ+ people exist within all communities, including people of colour, the young and old, people of faith, those with disabilities and different socio-economic backgrounds. Each of these backgrounds bring a different lived experience, perspectives and sadly, levels of discrimination and oppression. A gay white man may have to deal with homophobia, but a gay black man is likely to experience both homophobia and racism. Another example is a lesbian Muslim woman who might have to deal with racism, islamophobia and sexism, as well as homophobia.

These examples are not just hypothetical; findings from Stonewall show that a third (35%) of LGBTQ+ people hide their identity at work out of fear of discrimination, and this figure rises to 42% for black, Asian and minority ethnic employees and 51% for transgender workers. Disabled LGBTQ+ people are also heavily marginalised, and people who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to develop problems like low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating problems and misuse of drugs and alcohol.

While this may be uncomfortable to read, it is vitally important for people to acknowledge the reality of living with an intersected identity to understand the multiple barriers and adversity some LGBTQ+ people face.

What can we do to show support and allyship?

  • Listen
  • Be visible in your support
  • Educate yourself and stay informed
  • Be mindful about confidentiality and “outing” someone
  • Avoid assumptions to do with gender and sexuality
  • Speak up and challenge homophobia, biphobia or transphobia
  • Uplift the most marginalised voices in the community

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Below are some photos from the Stonewall Inn and National Monument in New York, which I recently visited.