Sorcha Hughes - LGBTQ+ Officer Elect
Each year, us LGBTQ+ folks remind and educate our peers and colleagues about the origins of Pride. Far from the Pride that we have the privilege of experiencing now; where we can immerse ourselves in queer culture, gay bars, and parades, the first pride was borne from violent opposition from the police towards queer folks doing just that. The Stonewall inn was a place where people of diverse LGBTQ+ identities could dance, take refuge, and forge relationships with other members of their community. However, with homosexuality being illegal, and systemic opposition to queer identity being the norm, police raids were a common and violent occurrence which aimed to disrupt these spaces. On June 28th, 1969, a raid took place, but this time it was different. Unrest grew and a riot eventually broke out; at the forefront queer icons of colour, such as Marsha P Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie threw bricks, and punches.
The Stonewall riots are an example of the collective power demonstrated when marginalised groups are pushed to a breaking point and engage in mass protest. And as we are all experiencing now, Black Lives Matter is a global movement which has come to a head after centuries of racial injustice. The power of protest is something which should not be underappreciated. Not only are protests a bold display of anger, fear, and desperate need for radical change; but they are a place in which pride can be found.
What pride means for me has developed throughout my life. Coming from a small town in Northern Ireland, my first Pride experience as a young closeted queer was the first time I had seen a city full of people, celebrating their identities loudly and brightly. However, it was also the first time I came into close contact with anti-LGBT protestors, in a designated police patrolled square, loudly expressing their distaste for the joyous parade in front of them. Getting this glimpse into how some LGBTQ+ people are treated for their entire lives, coupled with my own personal growth and confidence in my identity, helped me come to the realisation that there cannot be pride for some, without liberation for all.
It is easy to become complacent, if our daily lives do not contain the kind of violence and oppression that others experience. It does not mean that we are bad allies, or indeed people, that we sometimes forget who fought for us. What it does mean, though, is that a conscious effort is required of us to make sure that we do always consider the experiences of others, and in what ways we can aid them in their struggle to be afforded the same rights as everyone else. The following words help me to remember this, as spoken by Angela Davis: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
This is an important discussion that we all must have, and action that we all must take. But it cannot be done unless we are safe and well ourselves. Our generation has never experienced a pride like this, in times of COVID-19 isolation. Everybody is struggling with this change to our lives, but for many LGBTQ+ people, lockdown has meant that they are in an environment where taking pride in their identity is not safe, or possible. We are all missing the activities and groups which enable us to take pride, but there are things that you can do if you are in these situations, to safely celebrate your identity. Wearing a piece of clothing that makes you feel affirmed for example, be it a small piece of jewellery or a sparkling ball gown! Getting in contact with queer friends, and engaging in LGBTQ+ online content, these can all be ways to safely affirm your identity this pride season. However, if you are in need of more tangible help, there are resources available for you, linked below.
So this pride season, make sure that you celebrate your identity in a way which is safe and supportive, read about the people who paved the way for us to enjoy taking pride in the ways that we do; but also make sure that you support those who need it in these times of global revolution. Imagine how we can radically transform the world, what pride can become for everyone, and let’s make it happen!
Lots of love, Sorcha x
Affirming your identity in lockdown
LGBT Foundation (UK), All LGBTQ - 9am to 9pm Mon-Fri and 10am to 6pm Weekends on +44-345-330-3030
Connect with LGBTQ youth around the world