The Stonewall riots in 1969 were a pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history, leading to the first Pride events the following year in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. London followed with its first Pride event two years later in 1972, and then the first Mardi Gras took place in Sydney in 1978.
Pride in those early days had a very obvious purpose. It was the coming together of gay people in a very visible way, with security in numbers. For one day every year, gay people could be out and proud in their home-town streets. They could be themselves. And they could hold their same-sex partner’s hand and not fear abuse. That’s why Pride was needed and celebrated.
Fast forward 50 years and the world has (mostly) changed. Being gay is much easier today than it has ever been, but there are still many parts of the world where it is illegal and even punishable by the death penalty. (Check out this interactive map.) The main thing you'll notice is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Europe, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand are not criminalised. But does that mean, they have true equality and face no discrimination?
As a gay woman in the UK, I can say things have massively changed in my lifetime. I no longer have abusive comments shouted at me on the streets as I did when I first came out. I had a civil partnership ceremony with my partner 13 years ago, which we converted to a marriage four years ago, so in a legal sense, we are equal now.
But I have to come out time and time again. It's obviously a lot easier than when I did it the first time and most people don't bat an eye. But society is still very heterosexual in its outlook and that comes with its own set of assumptions based on how you look or act. So if you don't look “gay”, then people assume you will have an opposite sex partner, which can lead to awkward conversations and you having to come out again and again.
On a lighter note, my boss at one of my first jobs, on hearing I was gay, exclaimed, “She’s not gay, she’s French” as if the two were mutually exclusive. (And besides, I’m not even French!)
I have to consider my safety and personal well-being when choosing holiday destinations. There are large parts of the world where I don't want to travel because being me is illegal and I could face the death penalty.
Even closer to home, we have seen an increase in attacks on gay people. Last summer, two women were attacked on a London bus by several men who felt they could demand that the women kiss for their benefit. This was not only a homophobic attack, but a blazing display of male entitlement.
So is Pride needed today or is it just an excuse for a party? I would argue Pride is still very much needed, even in places where we have a lot more equality. For one thing, although things have got a lot easier for gay men and lesbian women, bisexual people still are perceived negatively and transgender people still face huge prejudices, even from within the LGBTQ+ community. And being “queer” is often completely misunderstood, as is anyone who chooses not to be constrained by gender labels.
Pride is a chance for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community to come together as they have for the last 50 years – to be visible, be out and proud, and feel included for at least one day. It is there to make it easier for a younger generation of LGBTQ+ people, who may be bullied or feel pressured to be straight, to come to terms with who they are, know they can be themselves, and not feel marginalised. Even if it’s just temporary, it gives hope. Equally important, Pride is for our allies, for us to all stand together, united. Pride should very much continue to be celebrated.
I went to my first Pride event in years last year – spurred on by the LGBTQ+ initiative at ForgeRock. It felt great, marching with my wife and coworkers at Bristol Pride. This was not something my younger self could ever have imagined!
I wholeheartedly support the ForgeRock LGBTQ+ initiative. It is a great way to make everyone feel more included and has created a safe space for LGBTQ+ people. Undoubtedly, it has helped the company recruit a more diverse workforce. I chose a company with an active drive for inclusivity over any other company when looking for work. I know there are a lot of allies within ForgeRock – and that is really cool. Unfortunately, there are people who don't think it's needed, and they are the very reason why these types of initiatives (and Pride in general) remains important. Having said that, I am confident that we will continue to make progress in educating ForgeRockers.
2020 would have been the year to celebrate 50 years since those very first Pride events but unfortunately, many have been cancelled or postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, we must continue to celebrate Pride virtually, and we must strive to become more inclusive and more equal. There have been great strides made in LGBTQ+ rights in 50 years, but we must not become complacent, as there's still a long way to go.
Click here to learn more about Inclusion and Diversity at ForgeRock.