/prʌɪd/ (noun): “confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group, typically one that has been socially marginalized, on the basis of their shared identity, culture, and experience.”
We need not remind you of the trials and tribulations of the past year. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of fear, loss, and uncertainty to communities all around the UK and the world over.
So, it is somewhat ironic in that the pandemic falls on the year 2021 which, coincidentally, also marks the 40th Anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic hitting the UK.
This virus, dubbed ‘the gay plague’ by the media in the 1980s, wrongly convinced the public that the disease could be spread by even breathing the same air as queer people. The AIDS epidemic led to the loss of almost an entire generation of queer role models and visionaries, and turned the LGBTQIA+ community into even more of an ostracised target; this lasting stigma meant that the age of consent unfairly wasn’t even equalised until 2001 (another anniversary on its 20th year) and has left a legacy of misinformation about HIV/AIDS which are still around today 40 years on.
2021 also marks us passing the 20-year anniversary of the repeal of Section 28 (in Scotland, with the rest of the UK following in 2003): introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the ‘80s, this was a damaging piece of enacted legislation which banned local authorities from “promoting homosexuality and from publishing materials that promoted homosexuality” and “the promotion of teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
“This is even more poignant during Covid-19, which has prevented us from taking to the streets to unashamedly celebrate our sexual and gender identities, and from creating that safe space for young queer people at our local pride events (which are just as much about creating dialogue and handing out educational materials as they are about celebrating!)”
Of course, anniversary this… milestone that… this was all years ago, right? All in the past and everyone’s over it? We’ve got same-sex couples on Strictly and they can get married and everything – what else is there left to do?
The answer = A LOT.
Whilst it may seem to some that the fight is over and everyone is now equal, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is not about ignoring how far we have come, but rather about remembering how far we still have to go and remembering what pride is at its core – a protest (and there’s plenty to protest about).
With many of these types of crimes also typically going unreported, this is more than likely just the tip of the iceberg. These shocking statistics continue for the world of employment, where more than a third of the LGBTQIA+ community hide their identities at work due to fear of discrimination.
Now, more than ever, it is important for us to support the community and stand as allies with the LGBTQIA+ community, to amplify their voices to tell their stories, to challenge homophobia and transphobia, and to keep important conversations going when traditional vehicles such as pride events won’t be going ahead for everyone.
Being a gay man in the workplace, you never quite know what you’re going to get. I have worked in places previously where I have felt comfortable being open about my sexuality, I have worked in places previously where I’ve not felt as comfortable, and even in some cases worked in places where I have felt tokenised, almost like an accessory instead of a person.
Having been an employee of South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) for coming up to almost a year now, I have never felt so supported, seen, understood, and empowered to be exactly who I am.
SYHA celebrates individuality, which creates a really open and inclusive atmosphere which makes employees like myself feel like we don’t have to hide anything. I feel empowered enough to share stories with my colleagues and talk about my personal life without the fear of judgement or discrimination, and they have even supported me when I have shared recent circumstances of homophobia I have experienced outside of the workplace. What’s been so refreshing here is that everyone is super open to asking questions and learning more about the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community, as they actively want to be as inclusive and knowledgeable as possible in order to implement this when working with our customers.
Being so open in the workplace has allowed me to create a safe space around me where customers of mine, as well as other colleagues, have felt comfortable coming to talk to me about their own experiences.
Not only has being visibly femme and flamboyant benefitted me in my role in terms of networking and initiating conversation, but my colleagues have said that my fearlessness to be out there and unapologetically myself makes them feel comfortable to chat to me about things they may not otherwise to other people, and to be completely themselves.
One of my customers identifies as non-binary, and it was important that I used their preferred pronouns (they/them) when both addressing them directly, and when talking to others about them. This person had negative experiences in other community services previously, and so it was so important for me to make sure they felt empowered to be themselves, and to make sure they felt seen and respected as who they are. It also allowed us to bond over our shared experiences, which really helped to shape the trust between us and allow a more fruitful working experience to flourish; in one of our last sessions, we even had a look at different variations of LGBT+ community flags together!