June 2019. International Pride Month, 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and a celebration of love in all its forms.
We’ve come a long way as a community since that historic night. Twenty-four countries worldwide have legalised gay marriage, starting with the Netherlands in 2001. Pride in all its forms continues to be celebrated and embraced by more and more countries each year; in the last two years alone, countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Uganda and North Macedonia were to hold their very first pride parades organised by passionate activists and attended by community members and allies alike.
With progress such as this on the international front, and a growing awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities among the younger generations, many people have found it easier than ever to ‘come out’- in Britain, recent surveys show an increased percentage of LGBTQ+ identifying individuals; celebrities and public figures are and have been more comfortable in being publicly out and open about their sexualities, thus creating more awareness and acceptance, with recent notable examples being YouTubers Dan Howell and Lily Singh, actress and performer Janelle Monáe, actress Tessa Thompson and many more; and a recent US report shows that millennials, on average, first discovered, began dating and came out at a younger age than the generations before them.
These are all things to be celebrated, and Pride Month is nothing if not a time to rejoice in the progress we have made as a community and a time for gratitude to the people who came before us and sacrificed everything to be themselves. Those people, our ancestors, family and history, paved the way for all of us and claim as much a right to this month as we do today.
But there is still work to be done.
2019 marks a pivotal point in the global political landscape. We are at the tipping point, and it is now, as always, that we need to fight for a future of equal rights and opportunities for everyone, regardless of things that make us different.
In 2019, it is illegal to be gay in 76 countries around the world. In the last six years, Pride parades in Istanbul, Montenegro and Serbia have all been met with violence from police and protesters alike. In a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program, 2017 was named the deadliest year in recent history for the LGBTQ+ community in the US, and the rate of hate-crimes against LGBTQ+ people continues to rise all over the world.
LGBTQ+ youth continue to suffer from mental illness, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts at disproportionate rates; they are 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers, and transgender individuals are almost 5.9 times as likely. Approximately one-third of LGBTQ+ identifying youth have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and this number only increases in studies that include the intersections of race, socioeconomic class and physical or intellectual ability.
LGBTQ+ people of colour, transgender individuals and disabled community members experience hate crimes at a much higher rate, and are often left out of or forgotten in conversations surrounding accessibility, equality and issues in the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride month is a time to celebrate and give thanks, but it is also a time to look at ourselves, our community and our society and see how we can do better. There is a time for talking, for listening, and for action; our time is nearly up, and if we do not act now then we will have nothing to say and no excuses for ourselves and our community when future generations ask us, “But what did you do ?”
The time for action, in all of its many and varied forms, is always. Action may be organising a simultaneous Pride March in New York City to protest against the increasing consumerism and corporate presence at pride events with little motive beyond the monetary; or arguing against and writing about the over-sexualisation of queer (used here as a descriptor for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole) identities, by society and pornography alike, or protesting for the rights of our people on the border fleeing from hate and prejudice and only being met with more from the people who ought to help them.
There is never a time when doing nothing is better.
Pride Month is a celebration, a recollection, a reflection, but most of all, it is a protest. It is finding the strength and the compassion to fight back against those people and laws that are unjust, immoral and hateful. It is not backing down when you are expected to, not giving up when that is what is easiest, and not choosing to look the other way and be complicit in the crimes and abuses humanity will remember always as a dark and painful part of our history.
Fifty years ago, a group of black, white, gay, lesbian, disabled, transgender and incredibly brave individuals fought for five days and their entire lives for the freedoms we enjoy today. Revolutions begin every day: which side do you want to be on?