Every year, throughout June, Pride festivals and events are held across the world. These celebrations mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which began outside the Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, in New York City in late June 1969. The weekend of rioting is acknowledged as the birthplace of the modern gay liberation movement. It was the first time that queer communities fought back against the regular police raids on the city’s gay bars and clubs – and without their fightback it would be impossible to imagine where we would be now.
Whilst it’s true that we have made significant progress both here in the UK and across much of Europe in terms of legal and social reform – from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the late 1960s through to civil partnerships, equal marriage and the protection afforded within equality legislation – there is still so much to do to reach a place anywhere near safety and equality. But maybe it is because of this legal and social reform progress that a month dedicated to Pride sometimes raises eyebrows, and news stories can emerge like the one last week about flying the rainbow flag in Derbyshire:
Villagers living in Barrowash in Derbyshire were reported as being ”bitterly disappointed” with the parish council’s decision not to display the rainbow flag during Pride month for a second year running. The Ockbrook and Barrowash Parish Council has opted instead to display the rainbow flag for just one day in September, the same day a local Pride event is being held. The argument for flying the flag from the local residents was that it was important to support the LGBT+ community and commemorate the Stonewall riots. The council, however, had argued that flying the flag could give “the appearance that one part of our community is being made more special than all the others”.
I cannot help but draw parallels with the Parish Council’s response to that of those who reply to ‘black lives matter’ by saying, ‘no, all lives matter’ – both retorts have totally missed the point.
Of course all lives matter; so, too, all communities matter. In campaigning for or supporting Black Lives Matters no one is saying that other lives do not matter and that black lives are more important than others; likewise in flying a rainbow flag no one is saying the LGBT+ community is more special than any another community.
What we are doing by flying a rainbow flag during June, as well as celebrating how far we may have come on the journey, is showing our support to campaign for real equality. A journey to equality that has still such a long way to go:
- Violent crimes against LGBT+ people are on the increase. Many hate crimes and hate incidents go unreported. Stonewall estimate that over 80% of incidents are unreported
- There is a lack of understanding and awareness of domestic violence and abuse in same-sex relationships, often remaining invisible
- Many same-sex partners are afraid to show affection, to even hold each other’s hands in public, fearing verbal and physical attack, or worse
- Many children and young people, who either are LGBT+ or perceived to be LGBT+, are subjected to homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic abuse and bullying from their peers
- LGBT+ adults can and do experience negativity in a range of health, care and other settings, including social care, which can impact negatively on health and wellbeing
- Many older LGBT+ people, including those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia moving into residential care, are fearful of revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation
- Mental health, anxiety, depression, and loneliness disproportionately affect LGBT+ people, and both older and younger generations of LGBT+ people find access to support and services difficult
We need Pride Month now more than ever, both to support the LGBT+ community as well as to educate and inform wider society about the harm and damage of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. We need allies, leaders, and role models to stand up for LGBT+ rights, protections, and freedoms.
So, this Pride Month fly the rainbow flag. As one of the Barrowash villagers said in the news report: “It is more than just a flag – (not flying it) is a failure to listen to the community.”
Lucy Malarkey, Director