This is why LGBT+ Pride is essential, no matter what country you live in

Last weekend, thousands of party-goers descended upon Miami Beach for its tenth annual Pride parade. The expansive festival featured an entire week of celebrations led by LGBT-friendly celebrities and performers including openly gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy, who made headlines for his spontaneous crowd-surfing.

But, on Sunday, the festivities were overshadowed by reports that a gay couple had been attacked in a brutal hate crime. The victims, Rene Chalara and Dmitry Logunov, were beaten to the ground by a gang of four men, all of whom have since surrendered to police. The aggressors were reported to have shouted anti-gay slurs during the attack, which was captured on CCTV.

The incident is indicative of the recent rise in hate crimes reported in Florida, which reached a four-year high last year. Things are no better in the United Kingdom, either. According to the Metropolitan Police, the number of homophobic hate crimes reported in London alone has doubled over the last five years, with 2,079 incidents recorded between February 2017-2018.

Recent figures provided by the British Transport Police show that incidents of hate crime on public transport have also increased over the last five years; the number of faith-based attacks has quadrupled to 294, the number of homophobic hate crimes has tripled to 416 and a further 2,566 racially-motivated hate crimes were also reported in 2017.

These statistics may demonstrate the year-round prevalence of discrimination, but attacks are often planned and conducted during Pride season. Usually held during the summer months in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots – often described as the catalyst for a global gay rights movement – Pride events attract enormous crowds and demonstrate resistance against discrimination.

These events unite LGBT+ activists and allies against discrimination, yet significant legislative change and political progress has been made since those fateful riots. With this in mind, many are quick to question: Do we still need Pride?

According to Asad Dhunna, director of communications for Pride in London, the answer is, unequivocally, yes.

There is no doubt in my mind that we still need Pride parades. In London, we welcome tens of thousands of people who take to the streets not just to celebrate who they are, but also to make sure that LGBT+ people are visible – whether that’s in the workplace, in their faith or in their community.

This visibility is amplified across the world and provides hope to those who live in countries which continue to persecute them for their sexuality or their gender identity.

Pride events may attract hundreds of thousands of attendees in some of the world’s more tolerant countries, but they remain impossible in more than 70 countries worldwide which still outlaw homosexuality in some way.

Some punish same-sex sexual activity, whereas others – most notably Chechnya – are reported to have beaten, tortured and even committed extrajudicial murders of LGBT+ people.

Dhunna underlines the importance of remembering that Pride started as a “march and a protest”, stating that things may have progressed considerably over the last few decades, but that we cannot forget the UK’s history of homophobia.

In terms of legislation, things have undeniably improved in the United Kingdom; same-sex couples can legally marry, whereas workplace discrimination laws are in place to protect LGBT+ employees. But laws can be ignored, especially when they relate to issues like discrimination which can be difficult to prove. Emma Meehan, assistant director of insight and public affairs at the LGBT Foundation, also highlights that legal change doesn’t necessarily mean a shift in wider opinion:

We may have won legislative changes in the last 40 years, but LGBT+ communities are all too aware that attitudes take much longer to change than legislation.

We may have come a long way, but we still live in a society where some people feel they can’t hold their partner’s hand in public, or have to fight just to access the healthcare they are entitled to.

For these reasons, Meehan agrees that Pride events are still necessary. It’s also crucial to note that these parades and marches aren’t limited to the LGBT+ community; activist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, a queer black feminist more commonly known as Lady Phyll, co-founded UK Black Pride in order to create, as she explained to indy100 earlier this year:

[A] welcoming and inclusive aegis under which all diasporic communities are represented. No matter from which diasporic community you descend – African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Asian, Latin American – including our friends, allies and supporters, you are welcome, fought for and celebrated at UK Black Pride.

Events like these demonstrate that conversations around Pride need to extend further. This is a viewpoint shared by Stonewall UK, which has openly stated its support for UK Black Pride. Speaking to indy100, head of campaigns Robbie de Santos explains:

Pride is a time for the LGBT+ community to reflect on how far we’ve come, but also how much we have to do. Pride parades started as marches against discrimination and abuse and, despite the progress we have made, unfortunately the spirit of protest is still needed.

Trans and non-binary people still don’t have full legal equality and many LGBT+ people continue to face discrimination in work, school or in their community.

He goes on to cite Stonewall statistics which show that one in five LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime motivated by either their sexuality or gender identity over the last year alone, demonstrating that more work still needs to be done. He also states that Stonewall will this year visit 33 Pride events across Britain in order to push for further support.

This push for support is especially important in the context of trans rights; proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act were last year delayed due to controversy and media backlash, whereas the recent murder of Naomi Hersi, a trans woman of colour, failed to make headlines despite underlining an epidemic in violence against trans communities worldwide.

Ultimately, this most recent hate crime is yet more proof that, despite significant progress over the last 50 years, Pride parades are still as necessary as ever.

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