June is LGBT+ Pride Month. It is a time to look back on the history of the LGBT+ rights movement, its achievements and the huge progress that we have made.
It is also a time to reflect on the injustice and inequality that still exists in society, both here in the UK and around the world and to redouble our efforts to eradicate those inequalities.
Pride Month 2020 is like no other. It takes place with the backdrop of the COVID-19 lockdown and the ongoing protests for racial equality.
Most of the major Pride mass gatherings around the globe have been cancelled, including the annual parade due to take place in London on 27th June. However, many events have sprung up online and there are links to some of these at the bottom of this page.
Given this, it’s is a good time to reflect and talk about two issues that we in the LGBT+ community need to address, namely racism and trans rights.
LGBT+ history and race
The modern global LGBT+ pride movement started as a protest and riot in response to police harassment and brutality towards LGBT+ people in New York City, centred around a police raid that took place on the Stonewall Inn on 28th June 1969. It is for that reason that June is Pride Month.
The patrons of the Stonewall Inn at the time were among the most marginalised people in the LGBT+ community, including trans people, drag queens, sex workers, butch lesbians, and effeminate young men. Many of them were Black and Latinx people and many were poor and/or homeless. There is a false modern perception among many LGBT+ people that young middle-class, white gay men have led the LGBT+ movement from the start and many depictions of the movement from that time in the media have been accused of “whitewashing”.
Marsha P. Johnson & Silvia Rivera (Image: Netflix)
While the quality of life and political status of white lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the US and here in the UK has improved vastly since those days (and we still have some way to go to achieve equality), things for Black & other ethnic minority people and for trans and non-binary people (and others) have not improved to the same degree.
Intersectionality is a term to describe people who are members of more than one minority group at the same time. It was first coined to speak about the experience of Black women subjected to the compounding effects of marginalisation due to both racism and sexism. Intersectionality is a big issue for many people in the LGBT+ community and it is often not discussed. For example, someone might be Black and trans; Asian and lesbian; disabled and gay. People who are members of multiple minorities can face multiple forms of discrimination. A Black Caribbean gay man in the UK might face ostracisation from his ethnic community and experience racism within the LGBT+ community, sometimes known as “double discrimination”.
According to a 2018 report from Stonewall, 51% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT+ people have experienced discrimination or poor treatment from others in their local LGBT+ community because of their ethnicity. This number rises to 61% of black LGBT+ people.
Here are some examples of the experiences of people from ethnic minorities within the LGBT+ community:
Trans people face discrimination and stigma in many different ways. Many are subject to physical attack and abuse. According to a Stonewall study in 2018, 12% of trans people were physically attacked by a colleague or customer in the previous year.
As well as facing discrimination in the provision of goods & services, healthcare, housing and employment, trans people can sometimes experience marginalisation from the rest of the LGBT+ community. Trans-exclusionary "LGB" organisations are appearing and spreading hate & fear and attempting to sow division within our LGBT+ community. We must stand firm and resist this attempt to divide us. It undermines the progress we have made together. Trans people have been among the leaders of the modern LGBT+ rights movement from its beginnings. We must ensure that the movement continues to fight for its most marginalised members.
Now - perhaps more than ever - trans people face attacks on their rights from people on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. The recent consultation on the Gender Recognition Act descended into dangerous farce. The media circulated wildly inaccurate and misinformed newspaper articles. These fanned the flames of vitriol against the trans community - any goodwill around the consultation was all but undone.
The government is using all of this as cover to shelve proposed reforms that would make life easier for trans people. Indeed, some of the government’s recent rhetoric would suggest that they are considering making life harder through ill-conceived legislation on single-sex spaces. We cannot let them get away with it. Read Lib Dem Women’s statement in support of trans rights
With all the talk of single-sex spaces, it’s important to remember that, for example, half (48%) of trans people don’t feel comfortable using public toilets at all through fear of discrimination or harassment.
As well as affecting physical wellbeing, all of this takes its toll on people’s mental health.
48% of trans people in Britain have attempted suicide at least once. 84% have thought about it. 55% have been diagnosed with depression at some point
2012 Trans Mental Health Survey
When it comes to intersectionality, trans people from ethnic minorities are more likely than others to face discrimination on the basis of their race and gender, and often their religion as well and have some of the worst outcomes in terms of health, job opportunities and overall wellbeing.
Where do we go from here?
Learn more about the history of Pride and the ongoing fight for equality and justice using the links below.
To find out more how you can be an effective ally, whether you are LGBT+ or not, Pride in London, the organisers of the pride festival have produced a guide on how to show your allyship.
See you (online) at a Pride event!
Eugene Lynch (he/him) is a cisgender gay man and is Diversity Officer for Camden Liberal Democrats
Pride Events 2020:
Join the London Lib Dems on Saturday 27th for Pride Inside
The Roundhouse here in Camden has a list of events taking place for Pride
Love Camden also has a list of Pride events
British Museum: ‘Desire, Love & Identity’
British Library: LGBTQ histories
Articles & Further Reading:
The Stonewall Riots: How it all started
Stonewall: UK Trans Report
Inclusivity: Supporting BAME Trans people
UK Government: National LGBT Survey
Liberal Democrats support for LGBT+ community:
Lib Dem LGBT+ official party policy
LGBT+ Lib Dems sign cross-party letter in support of trans rights
History of Lib Dem support for LGBT+ community
YouTube video: One man’s experience of intersectionality
Films & TV shows:
Disclosure: Netflix documentary on Hollywood's impact on trans people
The Death & Life of Marsha P. Johnson: Netflix documentary about one of the pioneers of Stonewall
Pose: Award-winning drama series (available on BBC iPlayer) about the ballroom culture of the 1980s-1990s, highlighting the stories of marginalised people of colour in the LGBT+ community and the support systems they created during the height of the AIDS crisis
Prejudice & Pride: The People's History of LGBTQ Britain (BBC iPlayer documentary)
Deep in Vogue: Film about the ballroom scene in the north west of England, shown at the BFI Flare Festival and now on BBC iPlayer. See a trailer here: