Pride is finally here and we need to acknowledge the importance of it.
In recent years we have made huge progress world-wide in terms of LGBT rights. We can get married properly, we are protected in our workplaces and in every day life. We can adopt or get surrogates to have a baby for us. We are accepted as true, legitimate families and Wales has recently announced that it is going to start actually teaching about LGBT relationships in schools to help with that. We live in a wonderful time and that needs to be celebrated.
We also live in a time where we can be beaten up or murdered for so much as holding a loved ones hand. We could die or be permanently physically injured or worse for daring to do something as innocent as love. Fair enough, it’s not as dangerous now as it was, say, in the eighties when the AIDS crisis enhanced tensions and hostility towards the LGBT community, but it took a lot of work to get us to where we are now and there’s still more to do. In the extreme parts of the Middle East people can be thrown off buildings for simply being suspected of being gay. In Russia gay people are persecuted on a daily basis in the most brutal, horrific ways. In Chechyna gay people are fleeing for their lives or face being slaughtered in a “gay purge.” In Uganda you can be imprisoned for life for being gay, or again, killed. Even in Dubai, the glamorous holiday destination, adored by the West is a dangerous place for LGBT people.
This is why we need Pride.
Why Do We Celebrate Pride?
Pride is a symbol of the fight our community have endured and the pain they have suffered to get us to this point. It is an important part of our culture and as we enter Pride season it is vital that we should remember and respect those who afforded us the Prides we know and love now.
To most of us, Pride is an event where we can go and have fun with friends and family. We can enjoy music and entertainment and march through our respective cities with rainbow flags flying. We march hand in hand with our same-sex boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives. We can do it with pride. We can do it safely without fear of repercussion. It wasn’t always the case.
Worldwide, Pride isn’t safe. In the countries mentioned before, and so many more, there are often devastating scenes of cruel attacks. These Pride marches are nothing like ours. Ours are a celebration of what we have, theirs are dangerous. They are life-threatening political performances where often the events are cancelled last minute for the activists’ safety. On the instances they defiantly go ahead tragedy often follows close behind.
How Did Pride Begin?
The origins of Pride began on 28th June 1969. A police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a well known New York gay bar, owned by the Mafia, sparked riots that would change the world. Back then police raids on gay bars were common. Arrests were frequently made for tiny, inconsequential things such as men wearing womens clothing. It was during these riots at Stonewall that the drag queens were among the first to fight back. Marsha P Johnson, a founding member of Gay Liberation Front was apparently one of the first to kick off her heels and fight the police. It was a major moment for LGBT people and Stonewall became an iconic image of rebellion and resistance. It stood for our strength and our refusal to back down.
From that moment we have celebrated Pride and we have marched to represent our strength and unity. Our community is strong together and Pride shows just that! In modern days it is a bright, colourful and joyous celebration, which sadly wasn’t always the case.
Why a Rainbow Flag?
The flag was devised by Gilbert Baker after he was challenged by Harvey Milk to create a “symbol of Pride” to represent the LGBT community. It debuted at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade and has been an icon of our community from that day.
There were originally eight colours instead of seven:
Hot Pink (now taken out due to manufacturing issues) represented sex.
Red is life.
Orange is healing.
Yellow is sunlight.
Green is nature.
Turquoise is magic/art.
Indigo is serenity
Violet is spirit.
A modern variation, created in 2017, added black and brown stripes to highlight the People of Colour within the LGBT community. There was a mixed reaction and a lot of controversy because of how the flag never represented “race” and was always meant to cover everybody of every background and changed the artists original vision.
Pride Still Gets Criticised:
There are, however, those who believe that we shouldn’t have Pride. There are those who believe it segregates us from the rest of society and that we “have too many rights” (How can we have too many rights when we might still be murdered for simply being in love?) and this is coming from someone in our own community. I guess it takes all kinds. You can read the shocking article here.
It’s very offensive though, that someone can make such a sweeping generalisation about Pride and be praised for it. Yes, there are some people who may use it as an excuse to get drunk and with being drunk comes some bad behaviour but the entire ideology of Pride and the strength and sense of community, hope and love that come with it cannot be tarnished by a very small minority of people!
It’s important that we think about the true meaning of Pride – that we remember the heroes who marched before us and fought. We need to remember Marsha P Johnson and the heroes who fought at Stonewall when they had enough made a stand. We need to think of the brave souls who marched in the early Prides. They could have expected to be attacked, lose jobs and family just for being seen in the parades. We need to think of the LGSM who marched in support of the miners and won us support from the most unlikely people. They stood as a perfect example of how we can overcome any barriers and borders to create a more accepting and loving society. This is the true meaning of Pride. Not being half-naked and drunk, draped in a rainbow flag as the aforementioned, ignorant article would suggest.
How Can We Support Pride?
Sadly, smaller Prides are dying out due to lack of funding and only the big ones in the south seem to thrive by charging for tickets. Lately Primark have made waves by releasing their line of Pride merch, just in time for the season. However, the items are made in anti-LGBT countries, thus creating jobs and funding the hatred in those places. Not a single penny goes to the Prides that they are supposedly supporting. The money goes to the charity, Stonewall, which is fair enough. Surely the money would be better suited going towards the local Pride events though. It would help them to thrive and be a symbol of hope to a younger generation of LGBT people.
You can support your local Pride by donating to them or by purchasing merch at their event. Most Prides are volunteer-led so you could volunteer to help out on the day too. Every event is different so you could also contact your local Pride to find out more about ways to help.
How Can We Best Celebrate Pride?
This Pride season please take a moment to remember the past, live in the now and make a stand for the future. We are in a better position now than we’ve ever been in so it’s up to us to keep fighting and we can do that by being visible. Be brave and hold your partner’s hand. Share a kiss goodbye in public. Love openly, live proudly and be happy. Be the change you want to see. Be the role-model you wish you’d had as a kid because you never know who is looking up to you and above all, be proud!