Every year, throughout June, there are gay pride festivals and events 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 queer communities fought back against the regular police raids on the city’s gay bars and clubs. The pioneering activists of the Stonewall Inn include Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Marsha, a black drag queen, and Sylvia a Latinx transgender woman. Without the fightback of these activists, gay liberation may have gone at a much slower pace.
Data published by the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA World) shows there are many countries throughout the world that continue to criminalise and oppress LGBT+ people; including 49 countries which punish homosexual acts with imprisonment and 11 countries that use the death penalty against LGBT+ people. Here, in the UK, and across Europe, we have seen huge strides in legal and social reforms. From decriminalisation of homosexuality in the late 1960’s, through to the liberation movements of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Towards almost full legal equality – with the advent of reforms including gender recognition, civil partnerships, equal marriage, anti-discrimination and equality laws and protections.
There is still much work to be done in terms of social reform. Violent crimes against LGBT+ people are on the increase, many hate crimes and hate incidents go unreported. Stonewall estimate over 80% of hate crimes and hate incidents against LGBT+ people go unreported. There is a lack of understanding and awareness of domestic violence and abuse in same-sex relationships, often remaining invisible. There is a significant level of underreporting of all types of violent crime, and a lack of help-seeking among LGBT+ people including those in violent and abusive relationships.
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. Often this happens at school, or on the journey to and from school. In some cases, this abuse is perpetrated by those working in the schools, including by teaching and support staff.
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 LGBT+ people fear experiencing discrimination when they seek help. This impacts on people’s health including presenting at later stages of illness and disease.
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. Often fearing staff, residents and visitors will discriminate against them or abuse them, when they are at their most isolated and vulnerable.
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 challenging and difficult.
Attacks on transgender people are increasing. Attacks are taking place on the streets, on public transport, in workplaces, inside people’s homes and across the media, social media and online. Including attacks online from high profile and influential people, with large audiences and influence. Using their platforms to promote hate directed at a minority of people in our community, primarily trans women.
We need Pride Month now more than ever; both to support our communities, as well as to educate and inform wider society about the harm and damage homophobia, biphobia and transphobia has on all of us. Pride began with riots in New York City in 1969. Led by Black, Latinx and Trans people of colour, and has become a global celebration of queer emancipation and visibility. We need to stand with our Black, Latinx, Trans and Non-Binary siblings and niblings. We need allies, leaders and role models, inside and outside of the communities, to stand up for our rights, protections and freedoms. Freedoms, rights and protections we should never ever take for granted. Thank you, Marsha and Sylvia, your legacy continues, your work goes on…