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June 22, 2022

Pride Month – What It Is and What It Isn't

Alice Gledhill

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June is Pride Month in the U.K., U.S. and Australia. Since 1970, Pride parades have advocated for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans rights and freedom of expression. Now, they also give a voice to queer, intersex and asexual/aromantic/agender people, too. (These make up the full acronym, LGBTQIA+).

As a privileged queer woman, I recently began to wonder what all the fuss is about. Haven't we reached equal rights by now? And isn't condensing the entirety of LGBTQ+ history into one month a year a bit reductive? After all, it's not like LGBTQ+ people exist only during the month of June!

But recent events demonstrate that we do indeed still need a Pride Month. Here, I explore what Pride Month is today, what it means for my colleagues, as well as why we still need it more than 50 years after the first Pride riots.

Why Do We Still Need Pride Month?

While it may seem like we have reached total equality in the U.K., U.S. and Australia, LGBTQ+ people still experience many injustices in these countries.

Earlier this year, the U.K. Government failed to include transgender people in its ban on conversion therapy. In the U.S., multiple states are considering a "Don't Say Gay" bill to restrict schools from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation until after third grade. And earlier this month, an Australian journalist attempted to "out" actress and comedian Rebel Wilson. With cases like these in the headlines, it's easy to feel like we're taking two steps back with each step forward.

Clearly, we still need Pride Month in order to tackle these barriers to freedom and equality.

In the words of Mind Tools Coach, Mike Barzacchini, "The ability to be who you are and to love who you love should be fundamental. To me, Pride Month means both celebrating and advancing those freedoms. And never taking them for granted."

Celebration, Visibility and Education

Pride started out as a series of riots in 1969. After police raided a New York City gay bar (the Stonewall Inn) in the early hours of June 28, neighboring residents fought back. The following six days consisted of violent protests and clashes with the police.

These riots were pivotal in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and safe spaces.

Now, Pride is more of a celebration for the community, and a chance to look back on all that has been achieved since then. Though the hard work isn't over yet!

As Senior Web Content Manager, Kevin Wiltshire, points out, "I celebrate Pride to recognize that we've achieved so much; to acknowledge the people who got us here and who continue to work for acceptance and equality; and, importantly, to call to mind that there are places where, not only is Pride not possible, but also dangerous just being LGBTQ+. They can't be visible, so I must."

Mind Tools Writer/Editor Melanie Bell feels a similar way. She says, "Pride Month is important for acknowledging the progress that's been made toward securing rights for the LGBTQ+ community and fighting for those rights that are still absent, threatened, or uncertain.

"It's about more than that, too: it's about being recognized for an important aspect of who you are and finding community in this. It's also about recognizing and celebrating the many valuable contributions that LGBTQ+ people have brought to the world."

Chief Impact Officer of Emerald Works, Nahdia Khan, highlighted the need for further education around intersectionality. "Pride is a great celebration of the achievements of the LGBTQIA+ movement, but I would like to see a greater debate around systemic issues that affect communities disproportionately. Economic deprivation, mental health and wellbeing for example, and how we can advocate for solutions."

Pride Month Isn't an Excuse for Rainbow Washing!

Pride Month evidently means so much to so many people, but every year it is also rendered meaningless by hundreds of businesses that use it as a marketing ploy. I once looked forward to June and my city's Pride parade, in which everyone felt welcomed and accepted, but now I've come to dread seeing our flag stamped on sandwich wrappers, shampoo bottles, and coffee cups in shops.

I feel like part of my identity is being monetized, reduced to a commodity that anyone and everyone can buy. This phenomenon has been given a name: rainbow washing. We've seen similar appropriations of Black History Month and Juneteenth.

Well, newsflash: we don't want 50 pence coins and colorful sandwich packaging. We just want to exist without facing prejudice or discrimination. Businesses need to do better to build inclusive cultures that aren't superficial!

Pride Month Is About Change

Now, we're seeing shifts in both directions – for better and for worse. Pride Month is an important reminder that the fight for gay rights is still very much on, particularly in countries outside of Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

In a positive shift, Thailand held its first Pride parade in 16 years this month. Calls for same-sex marriage were heard: the government is soon set to vote on a same-sex union bill. While we can't predict this outcome, it's clear that the Thai Pride parade is sparking change in the country's attitudes.

Emerald Publishing Inside Sales Representative, Sarjit Kaur, has observed this, too. She said, "In Asia, LGBTQ+ still revolves very much around relationships, rejection, taboo, mental stress, and emotions. Probably because one's identity relates closely to one's position in the family, community, society, and religion. Sexuality and gender play a significant role in the culture.

"Despite all of that, LGBTQ+ rights vs. Asian values are being challenged by certain activists to encourage people to talk openly about the issues and rights. Today, with the growing LGBTQ+ movements spreading strong messages, I can see people beginning to embrace the LGBTQ+ community and hopefully the situation will change."

Why is Pride Month important to you? What barriers do you think we still need to dismantle in order to achieve equality? Let us know in the comments section below.

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