Why is Gay Pride Still relevant in 2016?

In 2016 it is easy to think that gay rights are pretty sorted. It’s easy to assume that being gay isn’t an issue anymore, and that because we can get married, the fight is over. Unfortunately this is not the case. Homosexual people may have many of the same legal rights as heterosexual people, but legal rights are not day to day realities.

Many gay people are often asked why gay pride still exists, and the answer is not a simple one.  Sure, a massive part of gay pride is the party, the colours, the music and the drag queens, but we should never forget the history and the message behind it.

Gay Pride as a movement effectively started with the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969. Many people came together to oppose the undue harassment of gay people by the police. Since then, pride parades have been held annually across the world. Pride events generally take place in June and July to pay homage to the riots. The parades are traditionally led by a drag queen to acknowledge that it was drag queen Marsha P. Johnson who threw the first brick in the riots.

There are still 74 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. In 13 of them, it is still punishable by death.

One of the main reasons for pride in the UK nowadays is to show support for gay and transgender people in those 74 countries (homosexuality was only decriminalised in the UK in 1980.) It is also hugely important that we educate the younger generation on gay rights and equality from a young age. No one is born prejudiced or with any kind of hate in their heart, and thankfully here at the NSPCC, we are in a position to help educate the children of today, and hopefully, stamp out homophobia.

Research carried out by LGBT Foundation’s Exceeding Expectations programme in Manchester schools found that;

  • 95% of pupils hear the word ‘gay’ being used as an insult for something they don’t like
  • Only 9% of pupils thought that a pupil or member of staff would feel safe telling people they were LGBT in schools
  • Over half of pupils had witnessed homophobic bullying in school
  • 75% of staff had witnessed homophobic bullying in school
  • 58% did not feel that their school was a safe and welcoming place for lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils
  • 28% of pupils felt that homophobic language or bullying was dealt with well in school
  • 13% said that reporting bullying actually resulted in anything being done about it
  • 21% of pupils said they would report homophobic bullying or stand up for a pupil who was being bullied.

These stats show that something needs to change, and thankfully it is. 95% of young people polled by EndAbuse support the change to include attacks on sexual orientation and gender identity as hate crimes.

Our children, and all future generations, will ‘hopefully’ grow up in more open and more accepting society, but the risk is never far away. The horrific attack in Orlando in June is a prime example of that. It was not only the highest death toll of any LGBT attack in history, but also the highest death toll of any mass shooting in US history. This was an attack specifically on the LGBT community by someone who hadn’t been educated in dealing with that part of themselves. Last year Childline handled 5,257 counselling sessions about sexuality and gender identity – an 11 per cent increase from 2013/14. There were also 1,299 counselling sessions where the young person mentioned either gender dysphoria or transgenderism – a 22% increase from 2013/14. After Orlando, Childline saw a marked increase in contacts relating to sexuality and gender, and this information will be available in the Childline annual review in September.

So why do we need pride in 2016?

We need pride in 2016 so that our kids, and their kids after them, can walk down the street holding hands with whomever they love without having to glance around to make sure they aren’t going to get attacked. So they can get married and raise children without snide comments or barriers. So they can be who they are and not feel ashamed or scared by it. But mostly so they can love without fear just like everyone else.