CERIAN JENKINS

Diva (UK) - - Welcome | Contents - NOW MORE THAN EVER WE NEED TO STAND UP, SAYS CERIAN JENKINS @Ce­ri­an­jenk­ins

Do we still need Pride? Of course we do!

“Ceri, it’s Pride month, can’t you write about some­thing happy for once?” I know, I know, and I prom­ise that not all of my col­umns are go­ing to be so gloomy, but the dis­cus­sion sur­round­ing Pride and why we need it more than ever this year is an im­por­tant one, so bear with me, and I’ll do my best not to be such a party-pooper next month.

I’ve re­cently been flaunt­ing my ob­ses­sion with dystopian nov­els all over Twit­ter, ea­ger to pour praise on the clas­sics and to re­ceive new rec­om­men­da­tions from any­one who’ll put up with me long enough to lis­ten. War, death, op­pres­sion; you name it, I’ll read about it. Call me mor­bid if you must, but I’d rather be read­ing about fan­tasy de­spair than liv­ing through the real thing – a lux­ury that, even to­day, not many LGBT+ peo­ple have.

Only a few weeks ago, the world looked on in hor­ror as dis­turb­ing de­tails of Chech­nya’s “gay con­cen­tra­tion camps” emerged. It has been re­ported that hun­dreds of gay men from the Rus­sian repub­lic have been cap­tured and brought to the pris­ons in the town of Ar­gun, where they en­dure bru­tal and sus­tained tor­ture at the hands of their cap­tors.

In a chill­ing re­sponse to global crit­i­cism, a Chechen gov­ern­ment spokesper­son de­nied that there even were any gay peo­ple in the coun­try, in­sist­ing that “you can’t de­tain and ha­rass some­one who doesn’t ex­ist in the repub­lic”.

And yes, whilst the cam­paign of hate in Chech­nya may feel like a world away from the West and our ar­guably pro­gres­sive so­ci­ety, we can­not sen­si­bly ig­nore the fact that we are fac­ing a tu­mul­tuous time for LGBT+ rights as well.

Within the US White House sits an ad­min­is­tra­tion hos­tile to many of our hard-won vic­to­ries. Last year, a guy went into the Pulse gay club in Or­lando, Florida, and shot 49 peo­ple dead. Closer to home, it should not be for­got­ten that gay bars have also been tar­geted here in the UK in the past ( just think of the 1999 nail bomb attack on the Ad­mi­ral Dun­can in Soho), and re­cently a group of les­bians on a night out were bru­tally at­tacked by a gang of men in Portsmouth. Look­ing at the larger pic­ture, UK and Euro­pean aus­ter­ity mea­sures have hit ser­vices ca­ter­ing to the most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety – an is­sue for our com­mu­nity be­cause les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple are at higher risk of men­tal health is­sues, poverty and abuse than much of the av­er­age pop­u­la­tion.

Yet de­spite all that, at this time of year the “do we re­ally still need Pride” crowd come out in force. So let’s take a mo­ment to break it down and think about it, be­cause ho­mo­pho­bia, bi­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia haven’t evap­o­rated into thin air. Many straight and cis­gen­dered peo­ple may now be com­pletely cool with gay, bi and trans peo­ple, but not ev­ery­one’s got the memo – and some still would pre­fer to see us re­moved from the pic­ture com­pletely.

Yes, we still need Pride. It com­mem­o­rates our his­tory, from early Euro­pean move­ments in the 1870s (when so­cial re­form­ers be­gan to de­fend ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and a se­cret Bri­tish so­ci­ety called the Or­der of Chaeronea sprung up, count­ing mem­bers such as Os­car Wilde in their midst), or a black trans woman named Mar­sha P John­son who stood up by throw­ing a shot glass at po­lice of­fi­cers, kick­ing off days of ri­ot­ing as LGBT+ peo­ple rose up against the po­lice sys­tem’s bru­tal­ity and big­otry, right through to mod­ern-day his­tory, such as win­ning the right to marry the peo­ple we love, and to adopt.

Yes, we still need Pride. Some LGBT+ peo­ple still suf­fer from iso­la­tion and alien­ation within their ev­ery­day com­mu­ni­ties, and so the role of Pride events in in­still­ing a sense of be­long­ing to a com­mu­nity is im­per­a­tive. March­ing side by side with LGBT+ friends and al­lies is a hugely lib­er­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and one not to be sniffed at.

Yes, we still need Pride. At its core, this an­nual cel­e­bra­tion is a fiercely hu­man­is­ing event. In a world which too of­ten po­si­tions straight­ness as “nor­mal” and shames those who do not con­form, Pride al­lows our com­mu­nity to de­mand that we be treated with the same dig­nity and re­spect as ev­ery­one else, re­gard­less of our sex­ual or gen­der iden­ti­ties. Pride is about queer peo­ple as­sert­ing their hu­man­ity in a so­ci­ety that so of­ten treats them as less than hu­man – and about us hav­ing a bloody mar­vel­lous time whilst do­ing it.

See you there?

Only a few weeks ago dis­turb­ing de­tails of Chech­nya’s abuse of gay men emerged

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