By Liam Deary, Labour Students LGBT+ Officer
Pride month is a time for LGBT+ people to come together and celebrate the progress we’ve made as a community, often through hard work and sacrifice. But it’s more than that: it’s a time to be visible and loud, and to continue to fight for the rights that many of us, in the UK and overseas, are still denied.
The gains we’ve made over the decades should not be taken for granted – they can easily be lost and this is a very real threat that we currently face. Just this year we’ve seen protests against LGBT+ inclusive SRE (sex and relationships education), protests publicly and shamelessly backed by Labour MP Roger Godsiff. When protestors claim that teaching on LGBT+ identities is not age-appropriate for primary school children, they maintain dangerous stereotypes about LGBT+ identities, stereotypes that are harmful to children who happen to be LGBT+.
The damage caused by these protests should not be underestimated. Discussions like these reopen debates that ought to have died with Section 28. They provide a platform for homophobes like Anne Widdecombe, who just this month publicly backed the disgusting and damaging practice of gay conversion therapy, stating that “science may yet produce an answer” to homosexuality.
And while the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) consultation has largely been forgotten about in mainstream politics, trans people are still feeling the aftermath – especially trans women, who are faced with vicious and abhorrent transphobia on a daily basis. Stories that frame trans women as dangerous predators have become alarmingly commonplace in British media. Quite aside from the impact this disgusting rhetoric can have on trans people’s mental health, it legitimises transphobia and creates an environment where people feel comfortable airing their bigoted views, or even acting on them.
The difficult truth that we have to face is that the fight for LGBT+ rights in this country is not yet won, not by a long shot. Equal marriage and other legal protections are not enough to make LGBT+ people feel safe on our streets. One in five LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the past year, and the figures are even higher for trans people, at 41%. Three in ten LGBT+ people avoid certain streets because they do not feel safe there as an LGBT+ person.
And in light of all this, corporations will attend Pride marches up and down the country this month, using it as nothing more than a platform to advertise – spending more money on rainbow branding than supporting LGBT+ causes, or even their own LGBT+ staff members. Every year at Pride, the issues facing us as a community are pushed aside in favour of a party atmosphere that is more palatable to straight, cisgender people.
This is why Pride month is more important this year than ever, and why as Labour members we should take it as a vital opportunity to listen to and lift up LGBT+ voices. Voices that need to also be diverse and truly representative of our community.
And finally, allyship means standing aside and letting LGBT+ lead but it also means calling out homophobia and discrimination when you see it. Chris, one of the victims of the homophobic attack in London last week, said it best: ‘the photo of me and my date went viral after our attack – but only as we’re white, feminine and cisgender. Sympathy and action must be for all’.
Bigotry, homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated, especially within our own party. There is such a long way still to go, we have so much still to fight for and there’s too much at stake to give up.