Pride Month 2024

A black woman wearing a brightly coloured dress smilesLiz, Bath Mind’s Diversity and Inclusion Lead, explains the significance of Pride Month and why it is an important event.

Content warning: this article mentions suicide, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and queerphobia.

 

What is Pride Month?

Pride Month is a global celebration marked every June. It highlights and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month a time for the community to unite (usually at in-person festivals featuring a pride march) to highlight LGBTQ+ causes.

The Pride movement was born from the Stonewall riots of 1969 and the early gay liberation movement, and has a strong political drive. It’s different from LGBT+ History Month because it usually focuses on the present and the future of the community by advocating for their rights, rather than through commemorating the past.

Dr Ian Lammon, a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University states:

Pride is an action, not a thing. It does, as they say, what it says on the tin; Pride is about being proud of who you are, in all your complexity, nuance, and intersectionality – being, and giving voice, to your own, authentic, self.

The Stonewall Inn

Amid frequent raids at dedicated spaces for the Queer people and the illegality of same-sex relationships, gay bars provided refuge, solace and a sense of community for LGBTQ+ individuals to express themselves freely. Places like the Stonewall Inn provided a dedicated space for LGBTQ+ people to socialise, unlike many other clubs, bars and restaurants that would excluded then. 

The Stonewall Riots

On the night of 28th June 1969, the police raided Stonewall Inn. Numerous customers were physically assaulted, and 13 employees were arrested on the grounds of violating liquor laws and a New York law requiring gender-conforming clothing be worn in public.

Political Context

This was happening against a backdrop of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s that had resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Customers at Stonewall Inn fought back, throwing bottles and bricks. The police barricaded themselves inside the bar, calling for backup, while outside the crowd tossed makeshift firebombs at the barricade. This sparked 6 days pf protests, with thousands of LGBTQ+ people and participating.

The Stonewall Riots are seen as a key moment in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, although there were several earlier LGBTQ+ uprisings as well, including:

Marsha P Johnson

Despite the Stonewall Riots catalysing support for the LGBTQ+ community, Queer people were still legally persecuted, and being LGBTQ+ was classified as a mental illness in the United States at this time.

Many LGBTQ+ people also suffered social persecution and were rejected by their families, leading to high rates of homelessness among them.

Marsha P Johnson was a prominent figure in New York City’s LGBTQ+ movement. Marsha, along with their good friend Sylvia Rivera, a fellow Trans activist, were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots.

They pushed for support for LGBTQ+ youth facing homelessness and fought for trans liberation, drawing from their own experience of being homeless after moving from New Jersey to New York City. Marsha’s compassion toward other LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing homelessness earned her the nickname “Saint of Christopher Street,” where the Stonewall Inn is located.

Throughout her life, Marsha experienced many mental health struggles and spent time in various psychiatric hospitals. In 1990, they were diagnosed with H.I.V and Marsha openly discussed her diagnosis, emphasising the importance of not fearing those with the disease, in an interview in 1992.

Marsha’s selfless dedication to activism ended abruptly when she went missing. Six days later, her body was found in the Hudson River, initially ruled a suicide. However, in 2012, after twenty years, activist Mariah Lopez succeeded in persuading the New York Police Department to reopen Marsha’s case as a potential murder.

Ultimately, Marsha P Johnson was a black, trans woman at a time where the LGBTQ+ rights movement was still predominantly centred around cis- gendered, white men and her contributions to the Queer rights movement foregrounded the importance of intersectionality

Timeline of LGBTQ+ rights and Pride movements in the UK

  • 1972: The first Pride festival took place in London on 1st July with 2,000 people taking part. Now, more than one million people celebrate it in the UK’s capital, and Pride events take place all over the world!
  • 1973: The Sussex Gay Liberation Front marched through Brighton, followed by a “Gay Dance” at the Royal Albion Hotel.
  • 1979: Liverpool held its first Gay Pride Week.
  • 1983: Birmingham hosted ‘five days of fun’ at various venues with an ‘It’s a Knockout’-style competition.
  • 1985: Manchester Pride began as the Gay Pub and Club Olympics with boat races down the river and drag queens judging egg and spoon races!
  • 1988: A law called Section 28 was introduced. This meant that teachers were not allowed to ‘promote’ gay relationships in schools. Many people argued that this prevented teachers from talking about gay relationships. It wasn’t until 2003 that this was overturned.
  • 1991: In Belfast about 100 people with helium balloons attended a Pride parade. The parade had to keep their route a secret to avoid protestors.
  • 1992: London hosted ‘Europride’, attended by 100,000 people and described by the local news as ‘the lesbian and gay event of the decade’.
  • 1995: Following a number of smaller events in the 1980s, including ‘Lark in the Park’ to protest section 28 laws, Scotland’s first large-scale Pride event was held. The march through Edinburgh ended with a festival in the Meadows.
  • 1997: Birmingham Pride was officially launched.
  • 1999: Cardiff Mardi Gras (now known as Pride Cymru’s Big Weekend) was held on 4th September in conjunction with a national police conference. The police aimed to work with the community following a rise in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people in south Wales.
  • 2000: A law was changed which allowed gay, bisexual and transgender people to be in the armed forces.
  • 2002: A law was changed to allow same sex couples (and also unmarried couples) to adopt children.
  • 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in England and Wales: The ban on ‘promoting’ homosexuality in schools (Section 28) was overturned.
  • 2004: The start of civil partnerships for same sex couples. This meant that they had similar rights to people who were married, but civil partnerships are not exactly the same as marriage. Some people didn’t think it was good enough and that gay people should be allowed to get married.
  • 2008: It became illegal to encourage homophobic hatred.
  • 2010: Liverpool was the largest UK city to not have an ‘official’ annual Pride until its council-affiliated Pride march was established in 2010, held on the closest weekend to the anniversary of the murder of 18-year-old gay man Michael Causer in 2008.
  • 2013: Gay marriage was made legal in England and Wales, and later in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, gay marriage became legal in 2019.

Where does Pride’s rainbow flag come from?

Early version of the Pride FlagGilbert Baker designed the first version of the rainbow flag in 1977. Baker created banners and flags for marches and protests, and created the rainbow banner which was carried by Harvey Milk in San Francisco in the 1970s. According to Baker, pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity and purple for the spirit.

 

In 2018, a designer began a campaign to “re-boot” the LGBTQ+ Pride flag to make it more inclusive by adding a five-coloured chevron to represent queer people of colour as well as the trans community. There are also a range of other flags that represent a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities such as the lesbian flag, bisexual flag and trans flag.

 

The LGBTQ+ Community and Mental Health

Being LGBTQ+ doesn’t cause mental health problems, but some things you may go through as an LGBTQ+ person can make you more likely to experience mental ill health.

For example:

  • According to national Mind42% of gay men and 70% of lesbian women experience mental health problems
  • In 2014, a survey by the University of Cambridge found that Britain’s LGBTQ+ population are twice as likely to suffer from chronic mental health problems than those not in the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • Gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to attempt suicide across their lifetime than the rest of the population. 
  • CliniQ, a service working with transgender people in London, reports that over 50% of transgender people have considered or attempted suicide, and over 80% experience depression. 

Some things you may go through if you’re LGBTQ+ include homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, experiences of stigma and discrimination, social isolation, exclusion and rejection, and difficulties getting the healthcare you need for reasons such as discrimination, or long waiting lists for gender treatment if you’re trans.

Rainbow Washing

‘Rainbow washing’ (also known as ‘pink washing’) is defined as “superficial support of the LGBTQ community’ by a company or institution to sell products. For example, using Rainbow marketing to sell products.

It is important to note that not all marketing during Pride Month is ‘rainbow washing’ but often, companies jump on this trend as a tokenistic approach to supporting the community.

Large companies taking on the rainbow flag may seem supportive at first, but it can actually make LGBTQ+ individuals feel more marginalised and exploited if it doesn’t actively promote their rights.

If you action starts and stops at using a rainbow, that is ‘rainbow washing’ and does not meaningfully advocate for the LGBTQ+ community effectively.

How can we meaningfully engage with Pride Month?

Here are some tips for how to be a meaningful ally, this Pride Month and beyond:

  • Take opportunities to advocate for LGBTQI+ inclusion and equality in all aspects of your life. This could be through conversations with friends and family, advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices in your workplace or school, or supporting LGBTQ+ representation in media and culture.
  • Attend a pride
  • Take the time to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ identities and experiences. This includes understanding the diverse spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations, as well as the challenges and discrimination that LGBTQ+ individuals face.
  • Use your platform and/or privilege to amplify their voices and experiences, especially in spaces where they may be marginalised or silenced. Recognise that you may not fully understand their experiences, but you can still validate and support them.
  • Whether it’s confronting derogatory language or advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in your workplace, school, or community, use your voice and influence to create a more inclusive and accepting environment. This includes calling out homophobic, transphobic, and other discriminatory behaviour, even if it’s uncomfortable.
  • Actively listen to the experiences and perspectives of LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Use the correct pronouns and names as a sign of respect for an individual’s gender identity, whether they identify as he/him, she/her, they/them, or other pronouns.

Finding Support

Posted on: 1st June 2024

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