What Pride Means To Me
I’m writing this piece ahead of Pride Month, which is now celebrated each year in the month of June to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City. The uprising took place at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan, and was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the US. After it was raided by the police in the early hours, three nights of unrest followed, with people from the LGBTQ community, long frustrated by police brutality, finally fighting back. Lesbians and trans women of colour were some of the key heroes involved in this act of resistance, including Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, and Sylvia Rivera. Memorials are held during Pride Month for those members of the community who have been tragically lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. But this anniversary is also a reminder of the power of standing together in defiance of those who seek to divide us – a month to recognise and celebrate the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals have had on history locally, nationally and globally.
I’m also writing this piece as a now out-and-proud gay man living in London, feeling incredibly lucky to live in a city and in a country that is now much more accepting of just allowing people to love whoever they love. I feel lucky because I now live in a world where I am allowed to marry who I want – although same-sex marriage was only legalised in the UK from 2014 onwards – which scarily doesn’t even feel like that long ago… Nevertheless, I feel lucky to live in a place that is (on the whole) more accepting, but I’d be lying if I said it had always been that easy for me.
Growing up all my life in the Middle East, where homosexuality was and is still illegal, I could never even begin to contemplate understanding my sexuality, let alone accepting it to then be able to celebrate it. But I thought, don’t worry – that’s fine – I’ll get to university in the UK and everything will fall into place – but there was still a fear inside me that was so innate and all-encompassing, it wasn’t until 4.5 years after starting university that I felt ready to accept my sexuality.
A million and one different possible scenarios ran through my head: what if my parents no longer love me? What if my friends don’t understand and no longer want to spend time around me? What if people at work don’t understand, and I’m no longer taken seriously? Once I’d worked through this and taken the dive, I never looked back – although I still vividly remember telling my first set of friends that I was gay, and them asking me why my hands were shaking so uncontrollably whilst I was trying to get my words out of my mouth!
Not a single soul showed me anything but love, but I completely appreciate I may have been one of the luckier ones in this world who was accepted for accepting their own sexuality. Countless others around the world will not have that same experience, whether it’s for how they feel about their sexuality, sexual orientation, their gender or their sex – they may face much more adversity and a lack of understanding – and I think this highlights exactly how important it is to celebrate the month of Pride, so we can keep pushing to create a world that is more inclusive, no matter who you decide to fall in love with.
Pride isn’t just for people within the LGBTQ community; the concept of allyship becomes incredibly important when it comes to countering discrimination against the LGBTQ community and, indeed, allies are instrumental in the fight for rights, and are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBTQ movement.
I would say we’re definitely heading in the right direction, with plans such as the recent passing of a bill that effectively bans conversion therapy, and the very recent announcement that the UK will host an international conference next June to discuss the advancement of LGBTQ rights. However, we shouldn’t settle here. It’s one step to see the big corporations adapting their logo with one of the rainbow flags during the month of June, but we need to do more. As with any strand of D&I, the very crux of diversity is to constantly develop, to never stop, and to keep thinking of ways in which we can make the world a more inclusive place.
Pride Month isn’t just about rainbows and parades. It’s about celebration, being your authentic self, and having community. It’s about gender euphoria, protecting trans youth, and fighting for equal rights. It’s about honouring those who have paved the way, validating intersections in diversity, and feeling at home in yourself.
For me, Pride Month is about feeling free, being accepted and respected as ourselves, and loving yourself more than needing to be loved by others. In the famous words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, then how the hell are you going to love anybody else?”.