Proud black members rep, Yemisi Ilesanmi, reflects on why Pride remains important to her: A straight friend once asked me why we still celebrate Pride, after all it’s not as if people are bothering gays on the streets of London. This isn’t the first time I have been asked “Why still celebrate Pride?” and normally comes from those outwith our community. I believe it is necessary to remind them, and myself, of the many reasons why we still celebrate Pride.
As a bisexual Nigerian woman living in the UK, these are the 5 reasons I celebrate and march at Pride:
1 – International solidarity
Pride serves as a great opportunity to extend international solidarity to the many LGBT+ people who still live under draconian laws. As a Nigerian bisexual woman living in London, marching at Pride gives me a chance to celebrate the freedom I am denied in Nigeria because of my sexual orientation. Coming from a country where being LGBT+ means I face 14 years' jail term under anti LGBT+ laws, it is no wonder that I appreciate and celebrate my freedom and sexual orientation whenever and wherever I have the great opportunity to do so.
By joining Pride I not only celebrate my freedom to be me, I also see it as giving a voice to the many voiceless Nigerian LGBT+ people who still cannot be themselves. When Nigerian LGBT+ people come to Pride to march and fly our banners, we are bringing attention to the plight of our fellow Nigerians, Ugandans, Cameroonians and many others whose same-sex relationships are criminalised.
We recognise that unlike those of us living in the UK, our persecuted LGBT+ family back home live in fear and do not have the luxury of being free to enjoy and celebrate their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In celebrating Pride, we celebrate our own victories while also remembering and empowering our LGBT+ family who do not have such privilege.
We recognise that our LGBT+ family could be put in prison for years, thrown from a tall building or lynched by an LGBT+ phobic mob just because of who they are and celebrate their tenacity to continue fighting for their own freedom.
When I march at Pride, I think of all the hate mail I get just for being bisexual and for speaking out for LGBT+ rights, and I stand tall with my head high and celebrate all that I am and hope that one day, we all will be truly free from such hate, prejudice and deadly bigotry.
2 – Not everyone has the same privilege
We must not assume all is well with the world just because some are not faced with the same problems as others different to them. Privilege, whether on the basis of your sexual orientation, gender identity and race, protects all of us, to differing levels, from experiencing the discrimination others within the LGBT+ community still contend with, even in “tolerant” Britain.
In the workplace, on the streets, within the family, in schools and closed community groups, LGBT+ people still face subtle and sometimes, not so subtle discrimination, bullying, hate and prejudice daily.
When people, who never have to face this type of discrimination, ask, “Why do gays still celebrate Pride, after all no one is disturbing them?”, what I hear and see is their privilege coming to the fore. The fact that they don’t personally experience such discrimination does not mean it isn’t happening.
In this case, heterosexual privilege could be acting as a shield from the experiences of LGBT+ people. Such discrimination might even be happening right under their nose and they won’t recognise it as discrimination because they are so used to this being the status quo.
In some, so-called, civilised LGBT+ friendly societies
- Gay/bi men still cannot donate blood
- Same sex couples still can’t marry legally
- Murder rates of trans people remain disproportionately high
- Subtle discrimination against LGBT+ people still goes on in workplaces.
- LGBT+ youth still must face coming out to their parents, friends and society where acceptance is not always guaranteed. This has led to a rise of homeless LGBT+ youth in need of shelter because they were rejected after coming out.
- Adoption is not always smooth sailing for same sex couples. Societal perception as marriage being between opposite sexes is still prevalent. So-called traditional marriage and its values still means same sex couples must fight to have the Equality Act recognised in many aspects of their relationship, in their dealings with establishments, institutions and with the general public.
When we are faced with navigating these discriminations every day, it’s not surprising that we just want to come out and celebrate what makes us unique as well as human. The LGBT Pride provides the opportunity to party and for us to make a political statement under the rainbow umbrella.
3 – Celebration of hard-earned victories
Britain wasn’t always tolerant of LGBT+ people. It wasn’t long ago that LGBT+ people were stoned on the streets of London. This year celebrates 50 years since the Stonewall protests of 1969. Following the first Pride in America in 1970, a year after the riots, London had its first Pride in 1972.
LGBT+ people living in UK and America did not always have it so easy. People, especially our heroes, have had to fight hard to get us to where we are today. Enjoying police security and the support of allies to celebrate Pride on the streets wasn’t handed out, but fought for. It is a hard-earned victory and we should enjoy it.
4 – Education and changing attitudes
The British people have come far in accepting LGBT+ rights as human rights. They have enacted equality laws to protect these fundamental rights. However, they can still do more. Laws are one thing, implementation, creating social awareness, changing attitudes and achieving true equality, are another.
Pride not only gives room for LGBT+ people to celebrate, it also creates opportunity to continue the education on why LGBT+ rights are human rights. Remember, same-sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland have only just got the right to marry. Northern Ireland is yet to legally allow same sex marriage.
There are still establishments, workplaces and private business owners who feel that based on their religion or personal opinion, they can discriminate against LGBT+ people. Pride affords us the opportunity to be visible, out and proud. It also sets the mood for educated discussion and enlightening people on the issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.
5 – Why still celebrate pride? Well, why not
Diversity is something that should be celebrated, especially when the right to celebrate was hard-earned. Taking to the street once a year to celebrate how far we have come and celebrate love and gender in all its diversity is not too much to ask. It is not the place of a straight person to inform LGBT+ people, “We now accept you, get over it.”
- We will celebrate our struggles.
- We will celebrate our victories
- We will celebrate our diversity.
- We will celebrate our same sex love and queer identities.
- We will celebrate because we are fabulous like that and we know how to throw a colourful and magnificent street party.
We will continue to celebrate because we can. Don’t ask us why, just join us and be happy with us. Together we can continue to build a more tolerant, diverse and equal society. Together we can all be ourselves. Together we can build a better world for ALL.
Proud attends many Pride events across the UK each year. If you would like to help organise around your local Pride, contact email@example.com for further information and advice.