This is the time of year when LGBT communities around the world celebrate Gay Pride. The UK Pride season is back in a big way for 2022 as we celebrate 50 years of Gay Pride in the UK. There are more than 160 Pride events around the country and OutUK has a full listing of all the upcoming UK Pride Events.

The June/July period, has always been chosen to honour the Stonewall Riots that occurred in 1969 in New York. It was the first time gay people fought back physically against police harassment and entrapment. The riots involved 300 gay men, lesbians, and drag queens. This historic event sparked the modern LGBT equality movement throughout the world, bringing LGBT people together like never before.

Gay rights have certainly moved forward in many countries around the world since 28th June 1969, but certainly not in all, so OutUK correspondent Josh Aterovis has been wondering what it all means more than half a century on from those Stonewall Riots.

Chances are you won't be hearing any proclamations or statements in honour of Pride from many church leaders. However, you probably will hear someone saying that a celebration of Gay Pride is a passé concept. That it's silly to be proud of being gay because it's like being proud to have brown eyes - it's something you have no control over. Maybe you've even said or thought the same thing yourself. Now I'm the first to insist that everyone has the right to their own opinions, but I don't necessarily agree with that idea.

I understand the concept that we should be proud of who we are rather than what we are. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do that right away.

I think it's great when people are secure enough to simply be proud of accepting themselves, but I do think "Gay Pride" has its place - especially for young gay kids or people first coming out. It's a need of many oppressed minorities - the events of the past year with Black Lives Matter shows that only too well.

The current controversy with members of the England Football Team who have pledged to continue to "take the knee" before each match in the Euros, demonstrates the reason why they need to. The sort of fan who will boo and hiss at them, is exactly the sort of fan who needs to be better educated about equality and treating all others with respect. Footballers have a obligation to entertain and delight and fans have an obligation to support their team without demeaning or abusing any of the players on the pitch.

BLM and Pride both take communities that have been oppressed or demeaned and makes them something worthwhile and powerful. It's easier to accept being black or gay if you are no longer made to feel that you are somehow a second class citizen.

When I was first coming out, I wore rainbow Pride necklaces all the time. I never left home without one. I grew up in an extremely conservative religious family, never knowing a single openly gay person. For me, as it is for many from rural areas or religious upbringings, being gay wasn't something to be proud of. These necklaces were a physical link to a community to which I didn't feel I fully belonged yet.
I wanted to belong, but I was still searching for my own individual identity, which at the time was almost consumed by the fact that I was gay. Wearing that necklace, that symbol of Pride, of belonging, allowed me to be proud of something I was still coming to terms with. It helped me to be proud of what I was: a gay man.

As I became more comfortable with who I was, I found I didn't need to constantly announce the fact that I was gay. Being gay no longer defined me as a person. It was merely a part of my sum total. My pride shifted from what I was to who I was - but I needed that first step. I had to accept being gay before I could become a whole person.

That's why I think Gay Pride is still extremely important - maybe now more than ever.

The LGBT community is under constant attack in the USA even though we've won the recent equal rights appeal at the Supreme Court. A vocal minority of people who claim to be religious are frequently misquoting scriptures to spread hatred and fear. We've gained visibility, but with visibility comes increased attention. Homophobic attacks still take place in our cities, with some of them resulting in severe injury or death.
There is an abundance of negative information floating around out there these days, so what messages are gay kids receiving? If they're relying on the mainstream media, the messages are coming through loud and clear. Sexual orientation is excluded from equal opportunities legislation in many countries, so gay people do not deserve the same rights as others. Gay families are less valid than "traditional families." It's okay to discriminate against minorities. Hate is acceptable when it's targeted at those without rights.

We need to counter those messages with the truth, and one of the ways we can do that is through Pride.

Imagine, for a minute, a young gay child. Maybe he doesn't even know he's gay yet, or maybe he's just starting to realize his attraction for other boys. Maybe he only understands that he is different. He's being inundated with negative information on a daily basis: from school, from church, and maybe even from his parents. Where are the positive messages?
The Right would like us to live in shame, fear, and silence. Pride celebrations defy them in a powerful and positive way. By making ourselves visible and celebrating who we are, we're sending a clear message to both our critics and impressionable minds. We're here, we're queer, and we're not going anywhere!
To me, Gay Pride is less about those of us who are already out and more about those who have yet to make that step. It's a powerful statement, but the best part is, we come together to make it! Without our Gay Pride events this year it's going to be more difficult but you don't have to be a part of a large celebration to do it. You can make a statement right where you are, about who you are.
American author Richard D. Mohr, writer of The Long Arc of Justice: Lesbian and Gay Marriage, Equality, and Rights, relates this story in his book. "The town I live in is girded by cornfields. It's nowhere near large enough to support a Gay Pride parade during that last weekend in June. That's the time when, in normal times, many cities across America commemorate with parades the so-called Stonewall Riots that launched the modern lesbian and gay rights movement in 1969. Our town's gay men and lesbians do something more radical and more ordinary than that. We have a gay contingent in the town's all-American Fourth of July parade. The parade draws in crowds from all of the county and much of the rest of east-central Illinois. Last year, a purple parade banner streamed by the crowds reading 'Lesbian and Gay Pride.' I saw a little girl, maybe five, lean over to her father and ask, 'Daddy, what does Pride mean?' Apparently she already knew what lesbian and gay meant."

Whether you do it in the city or in the country, as part of a large celebration or a small act of defiance, get out there and show your Pride! It's important.

Find out more about Pride Events taking place in the UK this year. We have a full listing of all the upcoming UK Pride Events.

 

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