Pride Month is about being out and proud. But while COVID-19 means we’ve all been spending more time inside, the LGBT+ community aren’t going to let a pandemic stop them celebrating, as our Equality and Diversity Advisor Rosie Tyler-Greig tells us.
June is Pride Month, when LGBT+ communities around the world celebrate the diversity and influence of LGBT+ people. Local organisers fill the month with events, headlined by Pride marches – loud, proud and colourful parades of LGBT+ people, our allies and our flags. We take over the streets for a few hours then spill into events and venues which centre and celebrate our love, our rights and the amazing versatility of glitter.
Pride started in New York in 1970 and spread round the world, arriving in Scotland in 1995. Each Pride marks the years following the Stonewall riots – three nights of unrest in June 1969, when LGBT+ people resisted arrest and victimisation during police raids on the Manhattan gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.
“Pride events not only celebrate the diversity of LGBT+ lives, but have raised awareness about issues facing the LGBT+ community”
From that inaugural moment of visibility and demand for equality, Pride events have not only celebrated the diversity of LGBT+ lives but have also raised political awareness about issues facing the LGBT+ community. They have kept a steady beat as the country has woken to LGBT rights – sexual decriminalisation in 2001, equal marriage in time for Christmas 2014, commitments to gender recognition for trans people last year.
Pride however looks a lot different this year. There is no flamboyance on our streets. Placard art projects are paused until Pride ’21. Celebrations have moved online, virtually re-imagined. For those who can get online, there has been an impressive offering of creative, educational and therapeutic spaces for LGBT+ people. With loneliness a particularly acute issue for LGBT+ communities, groups and organisations have had to adapt quickly to maintain that vital connection.
“When I go to the big Pride events, I’m genuinely proud. I know why I’m there. I really mean it when I raise my placard or wave a flag. And that doesn’t change when I join in from my sofa at home instead.”
I’ve enjoyed seeing more virtual events appear and being able to attend things I may not otherwise have got to. I’ve been reminded that it’s the connection we build and the conversations we have all year round that actually make each Pride an event. As a bi woman, the friendships I’ve made and the smaller year-round events I’ve attended have raised my awareness and given me a sense of having an identity to celebrate. I’ve also learned about my fellow community members and how to be an ally. When I go to the big Pride events, I’m genuinely proud. I know why I’m there. I really mean it when I raise my placard or wave a flag. And that doesn’t change when I join in from my sofa at home instead.
There will be future Pride parades. But in these locked-down times, my intention has become to nurture my pride by continuing to connect and learn with the LGBT+ community and improve my knowledge and support of LGBT+ lives, especially at the intersection of other identities. As Phyll Opoku-Gyimah from UK Black Pride says, ‘we have not achieved equality until every LGBT person, of every colour and background, is able to enjoy equality within our community and outside of it’.
The next time Pride is a physical event, flags and sparkle will make sincere statements about my identity and ally-ship. And in the meantime, I’ll tune in to the multitude of other ways to fly the Pride flag.
Rosie Tyler-Greig is an Equality and Diversity Advisor with Healthcare Improvement Scotland.