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If we continue to believe that Pride is all rainbows and happiness, we’re missing the point

Love and celebrate differences every day of the year, in whatever way you can. Solidarity can mean so much, and may just save someone’s life, writes Tian.

For me, pride month doesn’t generally provoke feelings of pride. Rainbow adorned windows and profit-driven companies selling pride products, while doing nothing every other day of the year, feels empty and exploitative. The rise in LGBTQ+ representation is often tokenistic; we’re a trope or a cliché. Rarely are queer lives portrayed as ordinary.

I can’t recall the last time a straight friend asked me how a public anti-queer tragedy or event might have impacted my mental health. I’m talking about the Orlando shootings, anti-LGBTQ+ parents protesting outside schools across the UK and lesbians being beaten up on buses. It’s seen as an anomaly and disconnected from the queer people we know and love.

From the moment I started to be tentatively open about my sexuality, I have experienced homophobic prejudice and discrimination ranging from gaslighting to verbal abuse and even physical assault.

Indeed, it is sickening yet sadly unsurprising to note that over 1 in 5 lesbians experienced a hate crime in the last year, and yet “lesbian” was the most viewed category on PornHub. Further, one in three LGBTQ+ people of colour have experienced a hate crime based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last year.

When I came out to my mum, in my mid-twenties, she wrote me a letter citing all the bible verses she believes condemn homosexuality, whilst reassuring me of her unconditional love and acceptance. I cannot even begin to explain the pain I’ve experienced as a result of being repeatedly told that my sexuality is a sin, unnatural, an abomination or a perversion. And the accompanying silence from people of faith. Personal experiences aside, the UK government are yet to ban gay conversion therapy, and young LGBTQ+ people of faith are more likely to take their lives, because of familial and institutional rejection. I’d recommend the films Prayers for Bobby and Boy Erased for some understanding (trigger warning for suicide and self harm in both films), and the Luke 7:1–10 bible verse in which Jesus heals the centurion’s gay lover, for an alternative perspective.

While pride month is about positivity and recognition of the impact LGBTQ+ people have had on the world, it is also about the ongoing struggles, prejudice and discrimination we face in the UK and across the world every single day. It is important for our friends, family and allies to know that comments undermining or ignoring these experiences, ill-thought micro-aggressions, assumptions and an unwillingness to attempt understanding, can hugely compound feelings of otherness, worthlessness and low self-esteem. I cannot overstate the difference love, support, inclusion, understanding and unconditional acceptance from friends and family makes when it comes to coping with these traumatizing and ‘othering’ experiences.

Pride has been positive for me inasmuch as I feel I can occupy space and be around people who get it and who accept me unconditionally, and do not question my existence as a queer person. I’m grateful to everyone who has recognised my experience as a queer person, and to everyone who has loved me because of – rather than in spite of – my sexuality. I respect my straight friends who check in, challenge micro-aggressions and blatant homophobia and I’m indebted to the babes in my life who have shown me what love and expression and belonging feels like, particularly at Uni. And to my wonderful, beautiful, inspiring partners.

So how can you show your support this pride month?

Check in on people. Ask them more than once if they are doing okay, like you would with a friend who is struggling with their mental health. Do the research. Do something about the disparities. Employing a couple of queer people isn’t enough. Having a gay friend does not mean you are incapable of harbouring prejudiced thoughts. Don’t just go to Pride to dance with drag queens; go to support your queer friends and family. Make it clear you are an ally. Use your position of privilege to elevate queer voices and empower queer people. Stand against family and friends who reinforce ignorance and hatred, even if it’s “just a joke”. Recognise that all LGBTQ+ people are unique individuals and our experiences of being LGBTQ+ vary greatly. Challenge people who say that being gay is a choice. Ask your friends and family what they need and how you can support them. Love and celebrate differences every day of the year, in whatever way you can. Solidarity can mean so much, and may just save someone’s life.

To borrow a slightly amended quote from a book I’ve been reading, too often, “we only publish the smiles and the [rainbows], censoring sadness. It just doesn’t look good on [Facebook]”.

But if we continue to believe that Pride is all rainbows and happiness, we’re missing the point.

Posted on: 18th June 2020

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