Pride in London have released the results from a survey which reveals 74% of British LGBT+ people are still unable to live their lives without hiding who they are when doing things that most would consider being a thoughtless occasion. This won’t be newsworthy to most of the LGBT community and to the rest of the world it may seem insignificant but it’s something we ought to be embarrassed about as a country. Most will agree that attitudes towards the LGBT+ community have evolved in recent years; in most parts of the country, we can agree that tolerance is better than what it was before. It is, however, important to note that tolerance is only half of the battle. In fact, I’d go as far as saying its offensive in itself; acceptance is what we’re aiming for. A culture that doesn’t ‘otherise’ our lifestyles, and erase our experiences. When 74% of LGBT+ respondents in Pride in London’s survey still feel the need to lie about their sexuality or gender identity its safe to say that things being great on paper haven’t had the effect we need on social attitudes.
Social interactions may be a struggle but it’s even more shocking to see that hate crime towards the LGBT+ community in the UK is happening at extraordinary levels with most of it going unreported, and globally we’re still seeing people suffer scandalous acts of evil. This month the Orlando shootings shook the LGBT+ community worldwide, I’m still trying to get my head round it as I type. Sadly it was a reminder of the adversity that people are facing not just in the UK but across the water in countries where social attitudes towards the LGBT+ community are still hostile and, lives are at risk of harm because of the laws or lack of laws in place to protect people. The issue of acceptance (as opposed to tolerance) became an evident issue on Sky News last week when Owen Jones had the unfortunate experience of being shouted down by two presenters who were persisting that the Orlando shooting was not a homophobic attack despite the fact the LGBT+ were a clear target of the attack at the gay club in Florida.
The interview was yet another example of people who think it’s OK to erase the experiences of the LGBT+ community. For far too long people have insisted that in order for the LGBT+ community to use Pride parades as a way of highlighting community issues, we need to somehow compensate by creating a ‘Straight Pride’, which is both ludicrous and funny all at the same time. I’m afraid some of our so called allies need to realise that listening is the most powerful thing they have to offer. Otherwise, you risk becoming like Julia Hartley-Brewer and you start to silence the concerns of the LGBT+ community at the worst possible time.
Recently I’ve realised I have little time for people who attempt to take over spaces set out to talk about issues that largely affect a certain community. Oddly though, you’d think the same concept would be easily understood by white gay men who largely seem to grasp the need for Pride from 9am-5pm; but then from 6pm-8pm will chant ‘All Lives Matter’ from the top of their voices. I’m not sure if they’re close cousins of the same men who will shout ‘but men get raped too’ halfway through a space set out talk about issues affecting women but either way I’m left frustrated.
Anyone who thinks we’re done can take several seats. We still have so much stand up to here in the UK, abroad and within our own community. When the trans community is having to stand up for what most people would consider basic rights, the black community is still the target of extraordinary amounts of racism, women are still mistreated, and internalised homophobia means we’re still really obsessed with masculinity and heteronormativity I think it’s quite clear we’re far from done.
This year Pride in London will sit on a worldwide stage again, serving as a reminder that the rights of the LGBT+ community are far too often denied, restricted or at risk even in 2016. However, we must not be caught out by forgetting the many intersections of our community, who are facing an even bigger upward struggle within and outside of the LGBT+ community. So when you’re out there celebrating this year at Pride in London, Pride in the Park or UK Black Pride this weekend, have fun, but bear in mind what this all stands for.