Many Pride events have been cancelled across the world due to COVID-19. Whilst this fills me with a great deal of sadness, it does provide us with an opportunity to reflect on what Pride is and how Pride should be. Now that LGBTQ+ rights are enshrined by law in the UK and that we largely have equality between straight and LGBTQ+ people, is there any need for Pride in 2020?
Yes, absolutely. The need for Pride remains.
It’s always important to remember that social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is a relatively new phenomenon and is by no means universal. In the UK, up until 1967, homosexuality between two men was illegal (for some reason, homosexual activity between two women, which nonetheless faced huge discrimination, was never explicitly banned).
Only as little as three years ago did the government posthumously pardon the thousands of men convicted of offences that once criminalised homosexuality. Separate to this there is a process in place for those living with convictions to have past sexual offences that are no longer criminal disregarded, but as Pink News reported in September 2019, fewer than 200 of these convictions have been deleted from the records since the scheme was introduced in 2012 (it is estimated that around 15,000 men are still affected by this). It is really humbling to recognise that many of the older gay men and women that are living today remember a time when the love they had for each other was illegal, with some of them still carrying criminal records.
Even today, acceptance of homosexuality only goes so far. In January 2020 the BBC reported a 55% rise in homophobic hate crimes in London alone. There continue to be reports of gay people facing discrimination in the workplace; take for example the recent story of a gay man employed as an engineer who was awarded £175,000 in compensation by an employment tribunal after being subjected to homophobic comments and discriminatory practices. From its launch in 2015, Haseltine Lake Kempner has been involved in IP Inclusive, a pan-professional diversity task force committed to helping make the IP profession more inclusive. It is great to work for a company that strongly supports the initiative and the values of equality, diversity and inclusion that it promotes.
With the rise of populism there has been a worrying increase in anti-LGBTQ+ politics in Europe, with countries such as Poland and Hungary demonstrating anti-gay views within their political sphere: Hungary recently voted to end legal recognition for Trans people. As we have seen throughout history, rights and freedoms can be taken away just as easily as they are given. We must also remember that homosexuality is still illegal in many countries across the world, with the death penalty in place in some.
At its heart, Pride is a celebration of inclusivity and equality. It is a living demonstration that LGBTQ+ people can flourish when we are accepted and have the same rights as straight people. For all those people who live in places where LGBTQ+ people continue to be persecuted as degenerates and criminals, it shines a beacon of hope. This political statement cannot be underestimated. When Pride returns, hopefully in 2021, the message will remain as important as it ever was; but more than anything, it’s fantastic fun! If you’ve never been to a Pride event before, make 2021 your first!