The Collins dictionary describes ‘Pride’ as “a feeling of honor and self-respect; a sense of personal worth”. This statement resonates with me. For me, pride means acceptance. It means that I can be proud of who I am, and that I can celebrate that.
It took me a long time to start this journey of self-acceptance. First, I had to battle with the voices in my head that told me that I was not ‘normal’ or that I would have to live a life where I was constantly judged for being ‘different’. Such was the norm from growing up in the UK in the late 90s/early 2000s, where homosexuality was not the norm to see in the mainstream media.
This month, the month of June, we celebrate World Pride. World Pride is more than a party, it is about celebrating the activists, events and locations that have formed LGBTQ+ history and it is about highlighting the continued battle that we fight, uniting the community and our allies.
Pride is a protest, a demonstration against the continued discrimination, violence, and brutality that the LGBTQ+ community faces on daily basis. Forbes highlights that “It's still illegal to be LGBTQ+ in 70 countries, and that you could be given the death penalty in 12, as the world marks 30 years since “homosexuality” was declassified as a disease”. Even in the USA today, the LGBTQ+ community is still battling basic rights to healthcare and representation within the workforce in some states.
Pride started on June 28th, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in NYC’s Greenwich Village, led by Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman. It started as a protest against police brutality towards the LGBTQ+ community and very quickly grew into what we know as the Stonewall Riots. On June 28th, 1969, Police officers entered the Stonewall Inn armed with a warrant, ‘ruffed-up’ the patriots of the bar and arrested 13 employees and people who ‘violated’ the states gender-appropriate gender statue. Fed up with the constant police harassment and community discrimination, crowds soon appeared outside the Stonewall Inn – as people were manhandled by the police, angry protests soon broke out, this resulted in a violent riot where hundreds of people were involved.
One year later, on June 28th, 1970, thousands of people marched through the streets of NYC, from the Stonewall Inn, up-town to Central Park – this was then called “Christopher Street Liberation Day”, the first LGBTQ+ pride parade in the US. The official chant of this parade was “Say it loud, gay is proud!”.
In San Francisco in 1978, a flag appeared with eight separate colors, the rainbow flag - sexuality symbolized by hot pink, life by red, healing by orange, the Sun by yellow, nature by green, art by blue, harmony by indigo, and spirit by violet. This flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker and is commonly seen at events and establishments associated with the LGBTQ+ community. The following year a six-color flag, which is more commonly used today was designed with red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
Since moving to the US, I have been fortunate enough to be able to volunteer with the Hetrick Martin Institute (HMI) in NYC. The Hetrick-Martin Institute provides community, basic needs, health, education, and career services to thousands of LGBTQ youth every year. A lot of the youth that HMI provide support to, do not have homes or basic access to healthcare, clean clothes or even food. A lot of the youth have sadly been disowned by their families for being part of the LGBTQ+ community. There are lots of incredible organizations like HMI that continue to fight for equal rights and provide safe places and resources to the LGBTQ+ community, globally.
I am a proud gay man, and an advocate for change. I love diversity. I love to learn about people, their experiences, cultures and traditions and I celebrate everyone for being unique. I encourage you to tell your story, give your advice and use your voice to standup for what is right. It took me a long time to be able to stand tall and say that I am a proud gay man but now that I have found me, and I have found my voice, I will never hide from anyone.