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The Meaning of Pride

I’m Tasha and I work for the grants team of a homeless charity in central London. I’ve worked in the charity/not-for-profit sector in a variety of different roles for the best part of 20 years, and I’m incredibly passionate about the sector I work in and the work I do. I was born and raised in London, left London for a bit, and then returned 6 years ago because there’s nowhere else quite like it. And as a gay person, it’s also a place where I feel safe and at home.


What does Pride mean to me?

I have been asked to write about what Pride means to me, and for me it’s something which I have a complicated relationship with. On the one hand, Pride helps affirm who I am and allows me to celebrate with other LGBT+ people but on the other hand, it can also exclude huge sections of the community. Especially with the larger Prides, they can be inaccessible for a number of reasons - from a personal perspective, I struggle with the corporatisation, the focus on alcohol and the exclusion of sometimes the most marginalised groups in society. In 2019, The Outside Project (London’s LGBT+ homeless shelter) and a number of other groups were temporarily stopped from taking part and there has been a lot of debate around the representation, or lack thereof, of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. This led to Stonewall, the UK LGBT+ rights charity, from withdrawing from Pride in London in 2018 so that they could support UK Black Pride (links to articles about both of these are below).


What is Pride about?

Pride is the celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT+)* community, with the colourful rainbow flag being its symbol. In recent years, this flag has been redesigned in order to incorporate people who identify as transgender along with those who are from the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) communities as it felt the original flag excluded people from these groups. June was chosen as Pride Month as this is when Pride marches in the US would take place to coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, where LGBT+ people fought back against police harassment at the Stonewall Inn on 28th June 1969.


I imagine that for a lot of people, the images they associate with Pride are of colourful drag queens, and (mostly white) men with small amounts of clothing dancing. Yes, that does actually happen at Pride and they do indeed bring a lot of colour to the festivities, but the LGBT+ community is one which is diverse and also includes women, non-binary people, and people of colour. As mentioned above, some groups can feel marginalised from the community due to these stereotypes and images, with racism and other forms of prejudice being an issue within the LGBT+ community. I know as someone who has mental health issues, the Pride event can feel quite overwhelming at a lot of times and I often observe from a safe distance at the sidelines. In the past, I’ve also felt incredibly uncomfortable at the sponsorship of Pride by large alcohol companies and the focus on and around alcohol and usually I leave fairly early on in the festivities.


Some of my experiences

For me, the sense of Pride has been a sometimes difficult journey. I feel incredibly lucky to work for a supportive and inclusive workplace, who participate in Pride each year. When I went for my interview, I was a bit anxious about interviewing for a charity who were based within a religious organisation. I was fearful that they would discriminate against me on the basis of my sexuality (this is actually illegal, but doesn’t mitigate the fear). However, at my interview I saw the Pride version of their logo proudly displayed for an event they were holding. I feel that being out at work is important in order to bring my authentic self to the table, rather than hide who I truly am. Being out means that I’m able to bring some of my lived experience, and have been vocal in championing diversity monitoring in order to see whether our organisation is underserving marginalised groups, including people from the LGBT+ community. Having this support from my workplace helps me feel seen and allows me to flourish as a person. Hiding who I am would result in me feeling anxious, worried and that I was somehow ‘less than’.


There have been times I haven’t felt this way. When I lived in another part of the country, my then partner and I would regularly experience homophobic abuse from neighbours. My mental health at this point was already quite fragile, and experiencing this hostility led to a worsening of my mental health. Feeling like I wasn’t able to be part of a community was difficult and shaming. Not being able to express myself was detrimental to my self-esteem and made me feel like who I was was wrong.


I appreciate how quickly the world has changed in recent years with regards to how we talk about gender and sexuality, and that it can feel both overwhelming and also anxiety provoking in terms of being able to say the right thing and use the right language. I too have taken time to deconstruct and interrogate my own ideas and feelings around transgender identity after getting to know people who identify as trans. A lot of organisations in the sector I work in, including my place of work, have pronouns in their signature in order to allow people to feel comfortable in sharing theirs and raising awareness that people may use different pronouns. For example, some people use a mixture of pronouns, such as she and they, and displaying pronouns allows others to be aware of this. There’s lots of great information out there around trans identity, and I really recommend the organisations Gendered Intelligence and Gires if you want to find some more information. I’ve added some links to the bottom of this post.


Even though I have my own issues with some aspects of Pride, I do miss being able to celebrate Pride in person, and look forward to marking the occasion once restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, you’ll find me re-watching the film Pride for the hundredth time and trying to convince my colleagues that I won’t be ex-communicated from the community for not watching Eurovision!**


*Over the years this acronym has changed, and I use this one for brevity, but some prefer to use the more inclusive LGBTQIA+ as it acknowledges those who are queer, questioning, intersex and asexual. The + is to include all others who feel they identify under the LGBT+ umbrella, but don’t identify as one of the letters used.


**This is actually true.


Photo credit: Jason Leung on Unsplash




Sources:

‘Police Stop Group of LGBT activists from marching at Pride in London’ (Pink News, July 2019)t:https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/07/06/police-stop-group-of-lgbt-activists-from-marching-at-pride-in-london/


‘Stonewall withdraws from Pride in London over ‘lack of diversity’ (The Guardian, February 2018): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/23/stonewall-withdraws-from-pride-in-london-diversity-uk-black-pride


Other useful links:

Gendered Intelligence: https://genderedintelligence.co.uk

GIRES: https://www.gires.org.uk

Switchboard, the UK LGBT+ helpline: https://switchboard.lgbt

Philosophy Tube has a great video about the process coming out as trans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AITRzvm0Xtg

Micro Rainbow support LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers: https://microrainbow.org

UK Black Pride: https://www.ukblackpride.org.uk

Pride Inside: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCBQ3DKgJmB/

The Naz Project is a BAME LGBT+ sexual health charity: https://www.naz.org.uk/who-we-are

Naz and Matt Foundation: https://www.nazandmattfoundation.org

House of Rainbow: https://www.houseofrainbow.org

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