Where did Pride come from?
Today, Pride serves a significant purpose, to recognize and celebrate that LGBTQIA+ people exist, and to remember the history of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is, sadly, a history that has been fraught with persecution, movements against intolerance, and hard-won rights. And that history, the very context of the date of Pride, is important to anyone who considers themselves a part of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, or an ally to it.
In June of 1969, only 52 years ago, it was still illegal for any gay person to be served in some establishments. It was still illegal to get married to someone who wasn’t of the opposite gender, and the legal system of society was said to be explicitly ‘anti-gay’. Being gay was seen as something to be ashamed of, something that you had to hide.
On one day, amidst a storm of police brutality against the New York LGBTQIA+ community, the police raided the Stonewall Inn Pub in New York City. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and erupted into the famous ‘Stonewall Riots’. The riots lasted six days and are widely considered to be one of the most major events leading up to the gay liberation movement.
Years later, the world looks a lot brighter for the gay community. We have allies, some laws on our side, and more chances at a future than ever before (at least in certain parts of the world), but there is still a lot of work to be done to create an inclusive society where people can truly be themselves, regardless of sexual or gender orientation.
Queerness and mental health
Occasionally, you’ll see on TV or (sadly) in real life, someone ask why we don’t have a straight day. There are two simple answers I have for that, whenever asked:
Which is why I think mental health is something we should really talk about. Homophobia is still very much alive. Children are still rejected when they come out, people still lose friends, and people are still made to feel ashamed.
Hate crime, where someone receives abuse for their sexuality, gender, race, religion or any disability, is on the up, too. Statistics from Stonewall show how in 2018, the reported number of LGBTQIA+ people who have experienced hate crime had risen by 78 percent.
Put simply: being gay can just be harder than being straight. And the knock on effect that has on your mental health can be dangerous.
Just look at the statistics. MentalHealth.org reports that half of LGBTQIA+ people experience depression, and three in five experience anxiety. One in eight gay people aged 18-24 have attempted to take their own life and almost half of trans people have thought about taking their own life.
In my own experience, I was heavily bullied at school because I came across as “too feminine”. People would mock how I spoke and acted every day, it even stopped me playing sports at school in fear of the changing rooms. The teachers at my school were not sure what to do to help, which I think was due to lack of training; it was not long since Section 28, aimed at stopping teaching or promotion of LGBTQIA+ ideas, had been revoked, so people were still learning how to handle homophobia in the classroom. I developed a lot of insecurities from this, which have stayed with me throughout my life.
How employers and employees can build an LGBTQIA+ inclusive workplace, together
Being LGBTQIA+ in the workplace can be tough, a lot of employers don’t even have an LGBTQIA+ section in their policy document, and there are still existing discriminations against LGBTQIA+ people, especially those who are also part of an ethnic minority.
Personally, I have never been the target of any abuse as a gay man in a workplace, but whenever I join a new office, initially I suppress who I really am a little bit, as I fear I’ll lose out on opportunities due to my sexuality.
I have also been in situations where I have overheard homophonic slurs and insults being used simply to shut people down, and I’ve been made miserable by having to present a false version of myself at work. Only when I see that my employer has groups, policies, and comms designed around the LGBTQIA+ experience, do I feel comfortable to be myself. Today, I am in a place where I think it’s my responsibility to speak out in the workplace and educate people as much as I can. So, here’s a few suggestions on what employers can do.
To create a more inclusive workplace, my advice for employers is to educate your staff. Ensure they know that casually homophobic language is more painful than they realize, and happens more often than they’d think. Make it a policy to have pronouns on email signatures, as this is a great way to show members of the LGBTQIA+ community that you are inclusive towards their needs. Little things like this can go a long way towards helping employees feel safe and able to be themselves at work.
For employees, it’s fairly simple too…Go to Pride! Educate yourself!
Honestly, Pride is a great day out for anyone (restrictions permitting, of course). You’ll see every color of the rainbow, you’ll learn something, and hopefully you’ll want to join the fight for equality.
I also recommend reading any LGBTQIA+ books, articles, or blogs to really understand first-hand what the history and the things that still happen to the present day.
Finally if you have children regardless if they do become a member of the community or not, bring them up in an inclusive world where people are allowed to be different, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity.
What’s in a name?
You have probably heard the term LGBT a lot, but you may be less familiar with the current acronym, LGBTQIA+. To help you understand what each letter means, let’s break down each term. The acronym itself stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Plus/Others.
Hopefully by now, pretty much everyone is familiar with what it means to be Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual, but the other terms may not be so clear to you. So let’s look at them:
Transgender (or Trans) is a term used when somebody experiences a gender identity which is different to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Originally used as an insult towards gay people, the term has been re-appropriated by the community and is typically used by people who are not straight, but do not want to conform to specific labels.
This term is used to describe people who don’t ‘neatly fit’ into the categories of man, woman, male, and female. For example, if someone’s gender blends elements of being a man and a woman, or someone does not identify with any gender. They also might call themselves Intersex.
Asexual is a term used to describe people who do not feel (or have a lack of) sexual attraction towards others. Low, inconsistent, or entirely absent sexual desire characterizes someone who is Asexual.
The plus in the LGBTQIA+ acronym exists to recognize that labels are just that, labels. They cannot convey the full depth of the queer spectrum. Not everybody is comfortable being called a certain label, and not everyone feels they fit certain labels, the plus exists to help us remember that.