Lifestyle & HealthOpinionPolitics

The world has little to be proud of when it comes to LGBT rights

It may be Pride month, but gay men, lesbian women, trans people and bisexual people across the country will have this same thought, even now as rainbow-striped flags unfurl in windows, held aloft in the streets, and astride flagpoles.

“I just want to be normal,” goes the refrain.

For many of us in the LGBT community – that possibility is closer than ever before.

It’s been fifty years since homosexuality was decriminalised – meaning most people can’t remember a time when it was illegal to be gay – and since then we’ve picked up civil partnerships, the right to adopt, and gay marriage.

Plus, we’ve repealed Section 28, introduced compulsory sex and relationships education in schools, got most of the biggest employers and companies to think of being nice to LGBT people as a good and sensible thing to do, so you could say the game’s up.

We have our rights, we’re all accepted and assimilated into society – we are well and truly normal – pack and go home to the husband and the labrador, right?

Not quite. Let’s face it – it’s been a tough year, and a tough couple of months, for LGBT people.

We live in a world where gay people are being rounded up, detained, tortured, harassed, kidnapped and most likely killed on Europe’s doorstep, with Chechnya’s autocratic leader facing little more than a rap on the knuckles from Russian president Vladimir Putin and the bulk of international leaders – including our own.

Almost three-quarters of a billion people live in countries where you can still be killed merely for being gay, while homosexuality remains a crime in a shocking 40 per cent of UN countries.

Closer to home, ours is a time when you are seven times more likely to be homeless if you’re LGBT, as families so often refuse to accept us for who we are, or create an environment so unkind, so unwelcoming, and so unloving that the dank, dangerous expanses of the streets feel more like home.

Ours is a time when a flailing Government licking its self-inflicted wounds must be propped up by a sectarian party whose record on LGBT and abortion rights is astonishingly backward – and whose repeated, on-the-record acclamations about the depravity and sinfulness of gay people seem to actively relish the prospect of being as cruelly medieval as possible.

And let’s not forget that this same DUP governs the one nation in our supposedly United Kingdom where gay people are still not able to marry – and where women still do not have control over their bodies as abortion remains illegal. While such issues may not end up on the agenda for a Tory-DUP deal, the fact that this Government would work hand-in-hand with such people rightly horrifies LGBT people and women alike.

All the while, of course, our National Health Service wasted vast chunks of its time and money fighting desperately to stop us getting access to PrEP medication that may well have been responsible for the first major fall in HIV infection rates since the 1980s.

Now, more perhaps than in recent, more plain-sailing years, our pride is our lifeline.

Obviously Pride conjures up a very specific image for most – the camp, colourful, loud, blaring parade of joy that will announce itself with aplomb on its way through central London in two weeks’ time.

But it so clearly means more than that – and must still retain a semblance of its political roots even as greater acceptance has meant recent events have felt more party than protest.

Pride month gives us that opportunity to make Pride about more than just the glitter and the loudspeakers on one glorious Saturday in London.

It’s a chance to take a moment to read up on our history – the battles we fought and won, and those we’re still tackling. It’s a chance to check up on those still struggling to cope with their sexuality, gender identity, or the way those closest to them haven’t always responded as they’d hoped.

Pride nudges us – and occasionally nags us – to remember that our fight for equality has too often left behind those of different races, different religions, those whose identities we’ve been too slow to understand, or simply those whose difference can be a little harder to blend into polite (read, straight) society. And more often than most of us would care to admit, our pride has actively worked to exclude those people – and that cannot abide.

To have pride in 2017 presents vast challenges for all of us – from those living in supportive queer bubbles beyond the reaches of ignorance and prejudice, to those stranded in a wilderness as often literal as emotional, chucked out by prigs outside the community and shunned by too many inside it.

As the whirlwind events of the past year have shown, Pride is as vital and powerful a force as it has ever been.

This month, of all times, we must let our pride open its doors who attempt to seek refuge in it. We must keep fighting for every inch of our pride, and never forget that our pride – our rights, our joy, our love – cannot for one instance be taken for granted.

[Original Article]




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