Why We Need Pride.

Pride in bold white text on a rainbow-glitter background.

With LGBTQAI+ and Disability Pride months taking place in June and July respectively, the summer is a busy period for people who belong in both groups. Indeed, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at least, Pride literally comes before the Fall. It’s a time to celebrate our diversity and embrace our differences, or some other wishy-washy sentiment, and in terms of empowering marginalised communities and highlighting the issues they still face, it’s very important.

Invariably, not just for these two months but also any other event celebrating a marginalised group such as Black History Month or International Women’s Day, people outside of the group will start to complain; where is their special month, and they’re not xenophobic but why do we need to make such a fuss about said characteristic? It’s a comment I find coming up again and again on my social media, especially TikTok; the commenter would apparently have no issue with me if only I would shut up about being bisexual, non-binary, or disabled.

So, why do we still need Pride? To understand this, we need to take a look back at history. [Insert wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey effect here.]

Social activism movements have been a big part of society for over a century, and probably much longer, but I didn’t pay attention in history class so I wouldn’t know. The first such movement that springs to mind is perhaps the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th Century, which while it did involve a peaceful suffragist aspect, the more “violent” rioters of the suffragette movement are more well-remembered. In terms of civil rights for Black people, perhaps the most famous leader is Martin Luther King Jr., although it should be said that for every MLK is a Malcolm X or indeed the Black Panthers. Both of these movements changed the political landscape not just for the people in their specific groups, but also for other marginalised communities, and disabled and LGBTQAI+ people played significant roles in both.

As for LGBTQAI+ Pride, it is not nearly widely-enough known that the first Pride was a riot started by people such as Black, Trans woman Martha P. Johnson who, after having finally had enough of oppressive treatment, threw the first bricks.

Pride, before capitalists saw an opportunity to make even more money by sticking rainbows on everything in sight, was never about nice, soft sentiments like embracing your identity, and was all about causing havoc until rights and equity were forthcoming. It would be nice if being nice got you rights, but frankly, it does not. Sometimes, you need to throw bricks.

But that’s all history, right? Gay marriage is allowed these days and they’re talking about banning conversion therapy, so why do we still need Pride?

The ugly truth of the matter is that legislation to protect the rights of marginalised groups has huge gaps, such as maintaining that conversion therapy should not be banned for trans people, or that “reasonable adjustments” are so poorly defined as to allow employers to basically ignore them, and even where legislation exists it is not necessarily upheld. Furthermore, those who are openly queer, trans or disabled are far more likely to be abused online and in real life, both verbally and physically. Pandemic Twitter is proof enough that most people would rather disabled people stayed out of the way rather than wear a mask or socially distance. Our rights are still eroded away at every opportunity, and the uncomfortable truth for people outside of those groups is that they do not face the same risks we do, much like I don’t face the same risks non-white communities come up against on a daily basis.

In fact, in a rather ironic way, it is because people would rather we shut up and just got on with being ourselves quietly that we need Pride. People would much rather not be reminded of their own privilege or even the part they might have played in the oppression of others, because that would require honesty with themselves. I know, because I was that white person and I am not proud of it, but I am also proof that we can grow and learn.

If you really do wish we would just shut up and go away, the best thing you could do (apart from joining us) is shut up and go away. It is perhaps the sweetest irony, but complaining, cis-gendered, heterosexual people are precisely why we need Pride.

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