June is Pride Month in the UK. This will be celebrated in a number of ways moving forwards into summer. Many Pride events were cancelled in both 2020 and 2021, so there is a sense of anticipation.
While LGBTQ+ people and allies are excited, many LGBTQ+ campaigners argue that our rights are being eroded in the UK. This follows 20 years of progress which began with Labour’s election victory in 1997. The high-water mark of inclusion was probably the introduction of equal marriage in Northern Ireland in 2019.
LGBTQ+ people are being attacked on multiple fronts. Mainstream politicians now consider it acceptable to disparage trans people for electoral gain – in 2020 the Conservatives reneged on their pledge, made in the 2018 LGBT Action Plan, to reform the Gender Recognition Act. The UK is currently experiencing a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime, with hate crimes increasing year-on-year.
The situation for LGBTQ+ refugees is even more difficult, with asylum claimants not only having to prove their sexual orientation or gender identity but actually criminalised (and potentially even deported) for fleeing persecution. Our country is increasingly embroiled in so-called ‘culture wars’ with LGBTQ+ rights once again up for debate.
It is against this backdrop that Pride events are taking place – so protest will be at the heart of these events. There will also be a greater focus on intersectionality. One of the upsides of lockdown (and there weren’t many) is that more people were able to engage in online Pride events, regardless of ability, parenting commitments, affordability of travel or even being ‘out’ to friends and family.
The voices of trans people and women are increasingly prioritised. This takes Pride back to its roots. We often forget that the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York were initiated by trans people and lesbians. They fought back against police brutality – a brutality which was sanctioned by the state.
In the decade following the turn of the millennium, some Pride events became little more than another occasion for topless gay men to dance to house music. The world is changing – we need to be loud, proud and prepared to protest to protect our rights.