The annual Pride in London march took place on 7 July 2018. But what is pride in the LGBT+ context, and why does it matter? Partner Tom Leonard muses on the history of LGBT+ Pride and why it is as important as ever.
The pride movement as we know it today began on 28 June 1969. In the early hours of the morning nearly 50 years ago, police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a bar popular with LGBT+ people, and the riots and protests that ensued are widely considered to be a watershed moment in the history of LGBT+ rights. The first official “UK Gay Pride Rally” in London took place in 1972 and since then it has grown (not without controversy) into an annual party that sees around a million people coalesce in central London to participate, including 30,000 in the parade itself.
Today, hard fought battles have been won and huge strides have been made towards equality under the law, but much remains to be done. It is estimated that between half and one third of LGBT+ youth experience bullying severe enough for them to skip or drop-out of school. 40% of homeless people identify as LGBT+. Trans people are 10 times more likely to contemplate committing suicide than their straight cis counterparts. Gay relationships are still criminalised in 72 countries, and homosexuality is punishable by death in 8. And it is only a little over 2 years since the Orlando mass shooting, in which 49 people (mostly LGBT+ and Latino) were killed when a gunman opened fire in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Even in the UK, it is only the in the last 5 years that is has been legal for same-sex couples to marry, and it was not until 2000 that the UK Government finally repealed Section 28, the controversial legislation banning any “promotion” of homosexuality in schools, which had the effect of preventing many LGBT+ youth from accessing the support needed in a school system that was not set up to adequately protect them (although it did also have the positive effect of galvanising the LGBT+ community and its supporters into action). Still, a very recent UK-wide survey of LGBT+ people found 68% had avoided holding hands in public with a same-sex partner, while 70% said they had at times not been open about their sexual orientation.
Pride for LGBT+ people is not a general feeling of pride in one’s achievements or background. “Pride” in the LGBT+ context means something very specific: the opposite of shame. Pride events are, in the opinion of this writer, crucial to allowing members of the LGBT+ community to come together in unity, strength and in celebration of overcoming adversity. With the huge strides made towards acceptance in recent years, it might be easy to think that the fight is over. Pride serves to remind each other and the rest of society that discrimination against and violence towards LGBT+ people still exists in this country and abroad and needs to be tackled in all its forms. There is power in visibility and in presenting yourself authentically. Pride is still necessary until all LGBT+ people can do that with safety every single day.
Kilburn & Strode strives to be welcoming to all employees, of course including those in the LGBT+ community. To help make a small positive difference, the firm often hosts events for IP Out. To sign up to the IP Out mailing list, click here.