June is Pride Month and sees the start of the Pride Season every year. Although things will be very different this year, with all Pride celebrations and parades cancelled or postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still as important as ever to remember and recognise this time albeit virtually.
So why do we still need Pride, I hear you say! Don’t we already have equality?
Pride is a celebration of love, freedom and acceptance and its purpose is to spread hope, protest against injustices and remember the lives of those who have been lost in the fight towards equality. It is also a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, which took place in June 1969 in New York, some might say the start of the fight for LGBT+ equality.
Around the world today, people continue to be killed, jailed and attacked for their sexuality and gay relationships continue to be illegal in 70 UN member states and 11 countries where it can still result in the death penalty. (Figures from ILGA as at 2019)
With this inequality going on around the world Pride is a good opportunity to highlight this and to reflect and protest against how LGBT+ people are still being treated in different countries. Despite the progress that has been made in many countries, including the UK, it can still be difficult for LGBT+ people. UNISON has and will continue to challenge inequality for LGBT+ people and work hard to ensure workplaces are safe and open for LGBT+ workers, as well as the wider community.
Data from Stonewall UK highlights that in the last 6 years, the number of people who say they have experienced a hate crime within the last year has increased by 78%. That means that 21% of LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. A figure that increased to 41% when related to Trans people. A government report showed that 90% of this abuse goes unreported with respondents saying that they didn’t report it ‘because it happens all the time’ The report also found that LGBT+ people are less happy with their lives than the general population with Trans respondents ranking their happiness especially low. Nearly half of Trans children in the UK have tried to commit suicide and 80% have self-harmed and 45% of LGBT+ pupils have been bullied at school for their sexuality.
We also know that 25% of homeless people in the UK are LGBT+ meaning that LGBT+ youth are five times more likely to be kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality.
When we look at the state of our world today and in the face of this, we cannot allow ourselves to grow complacent on the advances that have already been made. Any arguments that Pride is unnecessary because we already have equality are so clearly false.
We live in a country where holding hands with the person you love is a sign of vulnerability more than it is of comfort and Pride is a fantastic opportunity to show LGBT+ people who are struggling that they are not alone. Pride is a safe space where people can finally feel free to be able to express who they are. UNISON has a long proud history of supporting Pride events, it is so much more than companies changing their logo to feature a rainbow flag or cashing in with some rainbow products, UNISON will continue to support keeping the politics in pride.
It has been a difficult few months since the country went into lockdown and loneliness and isolation has increased since we have all had to stay home, socially distance or self-isolate. So apart from the reasons I have stated above about why we still need Pride, as we celebrate Pride locally it’s an opportunity for us to connect and feel part of the wider LGBT+ community again and provide us with that safe space we all need to be ourselves.
UNISON Northern has an active LGBT+ Self Organised group to make sure LGBT+ voices are heard at all levels of the union. If you identify as LGBT+ you can get in touch via our website.
Neil Bellamy – Co-Chair Regional LGBT+ Self Organised Group