A question I’ve been asked countless times. Followed by “there should be a straight pride”. Honey, every day is straight pride.
There are still countries in the world where it is punishable by death to be gay, and up until 1967, it was illegal for men to be homosexual in England and Wales. Pride month, and the various nationwide Pride parades help us to remember that and campaign for total equality whilst also celebrating diversity.
LGBTQIA+. That’s a lot of letters, and represents diversity. To those who do not know, this stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and the ‘+‘ represents all of those who do not identify as straight, nor as any of the preceding letters. A proportion of these people may identify as non-binary, where their gender does not fit into the the binary male or female genders. These terms are not exclusive, so one person can identify as more than one of these terms. If any of these terms or identities is new to you, then that proves there is a need for Pride month.
There has been a lot of progress in the UK with regards to legal entitlements for LGBTQIA+ people in the UK, including bringing in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which permitted same-sex couples to marry. The UK government also introduced ‘Turing’s Law’ in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which posthumously pardons men who were convicted of homosexuality prior to 1967.
This is all amazing, and certainly something to be proud of, but it is essentially legal entitlements and little else. Despite these advances, there is plenty of research and evidence to suggest that this group of people still face regular discrimination, bullying and harassment in education, the workplace, in the streets and in health and social care to name a few. There are higher rates of addiction and mental illness, lower rates of life satisfaction, and shorter healthy life expectancy. The statistics are even worse for BAME individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Things ARE getting better for us, but we are far from achieving total equality yet.
I went to school during the ‘Section 28 years’. This was a clause in the Local Government Act 1988, passed under Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative government in May 1988. It stipulated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Just reading those words makes me feel sick to my stomach. Mrs Thatcher banned teachers from telling students that gay people exist, that it’s okay to be gay, and that it is not something to be ashamed of.
This has resulted in millions of us growing up, and feeling like we were doing something wrong, like we didn’t exist, and that it was not okay to be ourselves.
There is an amazing new NHS initiative called the Rainbow Badge Project, developed by consultant paediatrician Dr Mike Farquhar. Piloted at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the project is now available to all staff working in NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups and GP surgeries in England. They are to symbolise that the wearer is a safe person for patients to talk to about gender and sexuality. As a result, the multi-coloured pins are not just freely distributed. Potential wearers are expected to read through several articles and resources, including Stonewall’s coming-out guidance, and to sign up to key principles. So be sure to look out for these next time you visit a healthcare professional.
A recent example of why Pride month and further diversity education is required can be seen at the protests outside of Anderton Park Primary school in Birmingham. Groups of parents were rallying against the school’s new implementation of LGBT awareness teaching. These protests have been so extreme and disruptive that the High Court has had to file an injunction to prevent further protests and demonstrations. The awareness education was simply for children to acknowledge that different types of families exist, and that these are all normal and okay. It is simply a reflection of the diversity of the UK, and something that I wish I had at school.
Pride month and LGBT education is not there to turn people gay. By that logic I would be as straight as a ruler, as I was only exposed to heteronomitivity whilst growing up, and was never taught about diversity in relationships at school. It is simply there to promote inclusivity, to demonstrate that different types of relationships exist, and that it’s okay to be yourself. In turn, this will hopfully address the shocking health and social inequalities faced by the LGBT communities, namely the high rates of mental illness and addiction
So that is why Pride month is still needed, and that is why I am a firm believer and supporter of its cause.
I’m going to put together a piece about LGBT and health, from the perspectives of both the clinician and as the patient, so be sure to subscribe and to not miss it!