Philip Baldwin

Pride festivals are integral to the LGBTI community. They are safe spaces to celebrate who we are, meet or make new friends and are a visible reminder that LGBTI people are here to stay. We are fortunate that in the UK LGBTI rights are now, for the most part, considered mainstream. Our rights have been hard fought for, and by marching in your local Pride parade you can acknowledge this history and continue the UK’s proud legacy of LGBTI activism.

© M J Chapman

© M J Chapman

Whilst I am optimistic about the UK’s future, there is no denying that the political focus has shifted. As a coalition government faces the hurdles posed by negotiating our departure from the EU, progress on important issues such as reform of the Gender Recognition Act and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is not happening as quickly as it might otherwise have done. With the DUP propping up the government, we must ensure that politics does not take precedence over rights. Regardless of whether you believe Brexit was a good or a bad thing, there are voices within all the UK’s political parties dragging us away from the centre ground. It is this centre ground which facilitated 20 years of progress for LGBTI people in the UK.

It is for this reason that I believe Pride festivals in the UK need to get more political. No pride festival would be complete without topless gay men marching to the beat of the drag queen’s tambourine, an abundance of glitter and drinks in your favourite LGBTI pub. As per usual, I will be getting out my fitted vests and topping up my tan for this year’s events. But 2018 requires more than that. The trans community is continually under attack in large segments of the press, hate crime is on the rise and globally the LGBTI community is coming under increased pressure.

Rather than having a politician or celebrity at the front of pride marches, young trans kids and their parents, Russian activists from Chechnya, or LGBTI refugees, who often face years of hardship before being allowed to stay in the UK, need to be given the prime spots. Many LGBTI refugees are held in any one of the nine UK detention centres and have to go through a demeaning and difficult process of proving their sexuality. Did you know that the UK is the only country within the EU to hold refugees indefinitely in detention? Can you imagine what it is like to be asked if you are really gay? How would you deal with sexual harassment and violence from other refugees in a confined environment? Those who are marginalised in our community really need our support. Let’s give them a greater platform at our Pride festivals.

Finally, I would also encourage all LGBTI people to get involved in local and national campaigns for LGBTI rights. Stonewall has been fighting for our community since 1989 and have lots of great information and resources on their website (stonewall.org.uk). Alternatively, they will be attending lots of this year’s Pride marches, so ask them what you can do to help. If we stand together we will affect change.

@philipcbaldwin

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