First raised in protest in San Francisco by Harvey Milk in 1978, the Pride rainbow flag created by activist and artist Gilbert Baker represents everything we strive for as an LGBTQ+ community. United against repression, campaigning for equality as one. A rainbow flag that has gone on to fly at Pride events, protests and parades around the globe, a flag we are proud to fly at Brighton & Hove Pride 2018.
But as we get ready to unfurl the rainbow across our city it is vital we reflect upon how far we have progressed since those early heady days of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. As we book tickets, plan outfits, organise events and get set to welcome over 300,000 Pride-goers (and a certain GLAAD Vanguard Winner Britney Spears) to our celebrations, it is important to take a step, however glittering, away from the party and reflect upon the reasons we are here.
Brighton Pride is a Pride with purpose, wearing its campaigning heart on its ever-fabulous sleeve. Since 2014 the campaigns 78 Countries: Freedom To Live, BrightonPride25, Uniting Nations and Pride Respect have ensured Brighton Pride has remained committed to shining a spotlight on LGBTQ+ issues.
Alongside the glitter and the glamour it is vital to acknowledge that whenever we party, campaign and celebrate with Pride, many LGBTQ+ people across the globe are denied the right to do so.
Since Pride’s Freedom to Live campaign in 2014 much has improved internationally, including legal recognition for same-sex relationships and transgender identities and a cultural revolution that has seen LGBTQ+ lives more visible than ever before. But as seen with the fight for women’s equality and civil rights, with every step forward comes the backlash, at times violent and terrifying. Never has the phrase ‘there but for the grace of God go we’ seemed more apt.
The number of Trans people murdered across the globe increases at horrifying rates, whilst state sponsored discrimination, arbitrary arrests and violence against LGBTQ+ people continues, apparently immune to global condemnation.
Government sanctioned homophobia across the world is costing lives in Russia’s Chechen Republic, torturing gay men in Azerbaijan, arresting LGBTQ+ people in Egypt, demanding the flogging, often in public, of gay men accused of homosexuality in Indonesia, creating registers of those proven to be lesbian or gay in Tajikistan, and ensuring the arrests and threatened deportations of LGBTQ+ activists in Tanzania.
When Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’s first independent expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity declared in 2017; “It is unconscionable that people with an actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression different from a particular social norm, are targeted for violence and discrimination in many parts of the world,” it wasn’t new news to the world’s LGBTQ+ community. Or indeed fake news as reports of the removal of legal protection for transgender students, the Justice Department’s attempt to allow discrimination within the workplace or President Trump’s desire to remove the right for transgender service personnel to serve in the USA sadly prove.
We could choose to ignore the global headlines, keep it local and focus on where the heart is. Home. Here in the UK, regardless of the enormous strides towards full equality our community has made together, we still have many battles to fight, especially for those who come here in their quest for the freedom to live without fear. In 2018, according to the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, those LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution from countries where homosexuality is a crime and who find themselves in UK detention centres still face “systemic discrimination, physical and verbal abuse and harassment from both staff and fellow detainees”.
For those LGBTQ+ people living and working in the UK discriminatory behaviour, violence and bullying in the workplace, home, online and in our education system continue to have devastating consequences for many.
Stonewall’s recent research found that “one in five LGBT people experienced a hate crime, a quarter of trans people experienced homelessness, 10 per cent of Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues, two in five LGBT students have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination” and “eight out of ten trans young people have self-harmed and almost half have attempted to kill themselves”.
Thanks to the Pride Festival, Pride Village Party and official event ticket sales, your generosity along with the support of our local community groups, businesses the Pride Community Parade and event sponsors, Brighton Pride continues to fundraise record amounts for the Rainbow Fund and Social Impact Fund. This then enables grants to be awarded to local LGBTQ+ organisations and charities empowering us together to continue to make a difference to the lives of so many people in Brighton and Hove, be they young, old, Trans, queer, HIV positive, lesbian, gay, bi, non-binary, intersex, able bodied or disabled, you or me – regardless of age, race, gender or religion.
As we get set to fly our rainbow flags high at Brighton Pride this August and come together to celebrate, campaign, fundraise and deliver real change for so many of us who call Brighton and Hove home, we should remember the grit alongside the glitter that drives our LGBTQ+ community. To stand proudly together next to campaigners like Sarah Hejazy and Ahmed Alaa, two brave LGBTQ+ activists recently arrested, interrogated and charged for raising a rainbow flag in celebration of LGBTQ+ rights at a concert in Egypt. Because if for Sarah and Ahmed the celebration is part of the campaigning then for us about to enjoy Brighton Pride campaigning must always be part of our celebrations.
To paraphrase a certain Ms Spears, this Brighton Pride its time to declare yes we’ll do it again, campaigning together with Brighton Pride until rainbow flags fly freely in every nation.