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Why Pride still matters

Overview

As this June marks LGBT Pride month, Martin Hammond, PSL in the financial services and markets department, and Chris Edwards, CSR and Diversity Manager, reflect on why Pride as a concept and a movement still matters in the modern age.

It is hopefully uncontroversial to suggest that the history of people who identify as LGBT around the world has not universally been a happy one throughout the ages. Even in countries such as the UK which today might be considered to be leading proponents of LGBT rights globally, the relatively recent past has seen LGBT people facing criminalisation, discrimination in the workplace and in social settings, and suspicion and vilification as some kind of "fifth column" that was perceived to be corrupting public morals and order. 

Tremendous progress has been made, and for some LGBT people the modern world is happily a much safer and more welcoming place. In many jurisdictions, legislation now works to protect people who identify as LGBT from discrimination and hate crime and allows full or near-full participation in civic rights, including marriage and assumption of parental responsibilities. 

But just when the battle seemed won, and progress towards full LGBT inclusion seemed inevitable, we were shocked with a terrible, numbing event which reminds us that the fight is far from over. Pride this year has, once again, taken on a new meaning.

Pride reminds us that even in the UK we must not be complacent. The word 'dyke' is used 1,000 times a day on Twitter, 'faggot' 4,500 times a day. 26 per cent of young gay people attempt suicide and 52 per cent self-harm. Hate crimes against LGBT people continue to rise, and even in metropolitan areas, same sex couples refrain from holding the hand of their partner for fear of reprisal.

Further afield, many LGBT people across the world still face varying degrees of discrimination (in some cases officially sanctioned by law), harassment, violence, criminalisation, and in extreme cases, both judicial and extra-judicial execution, on the basis solely of their identity. It is illegal to be homosexual in 78 countries. five countries carry the death penalty for people for simply being gay.

From our own experiences, we recognise that living as an LGBT person is, for many people, an ongoing journey.  As one of the speakers during our last Diversity Week astutely observed, "coming out" as an LGBT person is not a single event, but occurs continuously every time that you meet a new person and have to make a split-second decision on how that person will react.  Events like Pride demonstrate that there are other people who may also understand those experiences and who have become comfortable enough to identify openly as LGBT while living contented and successful lives.    

Pride isn't just for people who identify as LGBT either. Every year many thousands of non-LGBT parents, siblings, and colleagues participate in Pride events to their support and solidarity.

Yes, Pride is often hokey, and kitsch and commercial. But it's also diverse, vibrant, enormous, powerful; a rejoicing of the battles that have been won, a staunch rallying of all who support freedom to love and now, more than ever, to show the world hope.