Consciousness of dignity and the harnessing of humanity: why Pride matters to me

6th July 2018

 

In 1972, the first UK Gay Pride Rally was held in London. The date was the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, a period still considered the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and modern fight for LGBT rights in the US.

Fast forward more than 45 years, and the Pride movement and attitudes to LGBT+ rights have made significant strides—perhaps best represented most recently by the ever-increasing number of countries around the world electing to legalise same-sex marriage.

The increased legal protection and certainty for same-sex couples heralds a step-change in social attitudes, but there remains deep-rooted concern about acceptance and full equality for the LGBT+ community more broadly since the decades of struggle to overcome prejudice.

Recent research from not-for-profit group Pride in London, the volunteer-run organisation behind delivering what has become one of the largest annual UK Pride events each year, highlighted that the majority of Brits are more likely to care about animal rights than gender equality or tolerance for people with different sexualities or gender identities.

These findings – and the current LGBT+ sentiment within the UK – make for uncomfortable reading. And not only because of the threat of derailing the international standing on LGBT+ rights the UK as such a progressive country has achieved to date, but in demonstrating how much more needs to be done on equality for marginalised groups.

My own story is thankfully a very positive one of unconditional love, support and acceptance from family and friends who understood my angst and who simply wanted me to be happy. My nan, for whom I had particular anxiety about disclosing my desire for damsels, said: “My darling, you were born an original, don’t die a copy. Your difference is your greatest asset and you must never be afraid to be you.” (Only later did I realise this had been entirely plagiarised from the book of the same title, by John Mason.)

Neither of my siblings felt compelled to call a family meeting to declare their heterosexuality, and nor did I ask for my life to be a subject for debate. I simply needed to be me; with the same opportunities as everyone else for a safe, happy and fulfilling existence.

My now wife-to-be is a firefighter, and I was honoured last year to be able to participate in the Pride march with the London Fire Brigade (LFB). I recall it being a day of jubilance and celebration in the way that Pride always is but, that year in particular, I was struck by an even bigger feeling of unity among the crowds.

The march occurred just weeks after the tragedy of Grenfell; horror and heartbreak still so prominent. It made me wonder about the events in life that remind us of our humanity and how alike we all are—and that equality should not be a debate about what makes us different, but what makes us human.

We have all earned our right to happiness and, in 2018, love and being who you are should not offend or be something simply ‘tolerated’.

This week the government launched its LGBT Action Plan, which includes a ban on controversial “gay conversion therapies” alongside improvements in response rates to hate crimes and diversity in education institutions. It’s a welcome step, and one that will be monitored with interest and expectation by those for whom it means so much.

The greatest movements in history began as small groups successfully synchronising their shared beliefs to create bigger networks and deliver lasting change. Through continued collaboration and by harnessing our humanity and shared connections we can ensure a brighter, safer future for those unable to speak for themselves.

When I see the 500 LGBT+ parade groups and tens of thousands of spectators that will line the streets of central London in celebration this weekend, I’ll be reminded that I am one of the lucky ones