I’ve been to a fair few Pride events over the years but Folkestone’s first Pride was one of the most heart-warming. There is always a fear about the reaction you will receive when you go on any march, an extreme example of which is the tragic events of the 12th August in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, the people of Folkestone opened their hearts to Pride and made the event a positive, happy day.
Pride has come under some scrutiny of late: who is it for? Is it run for the right reasons and in the right way? Although I appreciate these views and think that the recent poster ads for London Pride were inappropriate, I would respectfully argue that inclusion at such events can only be a good thing. I was one of ‘Thatcher’s children’ who grew up under the black cloud of Section 28 (UK Government 1988), a piece of legislation forbidding educators to “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” (UK Government 1988). From my experience, this seemed to reinforce negative stereotypes about members of the LGBTQ+ community, stopped young people discussing the complexities of social constructions of sex and gender and created fear and misunderstanding about the community. The importance, therefore, of an event like Pride that enables the community to be visible, includes the local community and starts constructive discussions about these issues is in my opinion, invaluable. This was epitomised in Folkestone Pride where people came together from all walks of life to celebrate the achievements of an important part of this diverse community.
I was adopted (for the day) by the Folkestone and Hythe Labour Party who were inviting, friendly and incredibly supportive of this important event. They worked hard throughout the day to make sure that local people were listened to and that the community knew that the Labour Party would fight their corner. I also had the chance to talk to lots of people throughout the day and I would like to finish by reflecting on one of those conversations. I met a person who was attending their first Pride event. They explained that they had lived through homosexuality being a crime until its de-criminalisation (UK Government 1967, UK Government 1994, UK Government 2003), homosexuality being classified as a psychiatric disorder until its de-classification (APA 1987, WHO 1992, Cochran et al 2014) and had been left somewhat scarred by the whole experience. It was only now, surrounded by so many friendly and inclusive people that they felt able to come forward and march with us in solidarity.
This moving story reminded me how far we have come since 1967 but also how far we have to go. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community across the world still experience significant discrimination in, amongst other areas, education (Rankin 2005), health (Goldblum et al. 2012) and the workplace (Risdon et al. 2000). Change is needed, and I believe the Labour Party is the party to do this. The 2017 manifesto pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010, appoint dedicated global ambassadors for LGBTQ+ rights and support ongoing research into Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention amongst other important LGBTQ+ related pledges (Labour Party 2017). The dedication of local branches and the national party to support inclusion and diversity is evident but we need to make sure that this remains a priority and that we continue to fight for the rights of the community now and in the future.
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