Thursday 24 June 2021
June marks pride month as it was in June of 1969 that the Stonewall Uprising, otherwise known as the spark to the first Gay pride march in 1970, took place. It is a month wherein members of the LGBT+ community celebrate their identities and when others can work toward educating themselves on LGBT+ history and how best to become and champion allyship.
Behind the Acronym
The first four letters of LGBTQ+ stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender while the Q can mean questioning or queer. Questioning means that you are open to exploring an identity outside of heterosexuality while Queer is a term that has been reclaimed, although once and still today a demeaning slur to some, as an umbrella term for identifying as a member of the community. This is often used by those who are not wanting to align themselves to a specific category or label.
The Plus encompasses numerous other identities such as Intersex wherein the biology of the individual is not that which is considered standard for males or females. Asexuality is an orientation characterised by a lack of sexual attraction although this doesn’t exclude an attraction that is romantic. If you identify as Pansexual you are attracted to people regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
To say you are Non-binary means that you do not identify as male or female and often go by they/them pronouns. These persons can also identify as genderqueer or gender nonconforming. There is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity however so one may be a trans male and label themselves as bisexual.
Although sex is assigned at birth gender is socially constructed and decides the roles and behaviours which are deemed appropriate for the binary of male or female. However as western society progresses (which instances of gender neutrality existing throughout history and numerous cultures) we are seeing a shift in this narrative and a blur between the strict confines of the male and female binary.
The six stripe flag was first designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker and was the universal symbol for the LGBT+ community for more than 40 years. In 2018, the flag was redesigned by Daniel Quasar following the Black Lives Matter protests and the vitriol around trans individuals and titled ‘The Progress Flag’.
Black and brown stripes were added to the flag to represent the BAME members of the community as well as the colours of the Transgender flag (baby blue, pink and white). This pays homage to the transgender women of colour who were instrumental in the 1969 Stonewall uprising; Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Thompson.
The Stonewall Uprising
The Stonewall Rising took place on June 28th 1969 when the New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a club for gay, lesbian and transgender individuals in Greenwich Village.
Solicitation of same-sex relations was illegal at the time in New York and in most states and cities across the world and so members of the community would flock to gay bars wherein they felt respected and welcome.
The New York State Liquor Authority shut down establishments that were known to serve alcohol to LGBT+ as this gathering was deemed as “disorderly”. The police particularly targeted cross-dressing patrons as adorning the clothes of the opposite sex was deemed as a crime at the time.
The raiding of gay clubs was common in this period and yet on this night members of the community had decided that they had had enough and rebelled against the authorities.
This resistance essentially marked the beginning of a new era of revolution. Although the movement began prior to this event sparked individuals such as Brenda Howard, to plan the Christopher Street Liberation March a year after the riots; the first Gay Pride Parade, which stretched 51 blocks along 6th avenue and consisted of thousands of people. This inspired other cities such as Boston, Chicago and San Francisco to organise gay pride celebrations that same year and the movements in other countries were soon to follow.
History of Pride and Legislation in the UK
In wake of the Stonewall Rising, the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was founded in the UK in 1970 which worked to fight for the rights of the LGBT. However, in 1988 Section 28 of the Local Government under Margaret Thatcher banned local authorities from “promoting homosexuality” or “pretend family relationships” and made it illegal for councils to fund educational materials and projects perceived to “promote homosexuality.” Consequently, young individuals did not receive an education nor were able to openly discuss LGBT+ issues. This legislation was repealed in 2003 and an apology was issued by David Cameron in 2009.
2004 marked the year that same-sex couples could enter into a legally binding partnership under the Civil Partnership Act of 2004. Trans individuals were given full legal recognition of their gender the following year as a result of The Gender Recognition Act 2004. They were able to acquire a new birth certificate as a result although the options of one’s gender are limited to ‘male’ or ‘female’ binary and remain to be so to this day.
The Marriage Act 2013 marked the legalisation of same-sex marriage, with Scotland joining them in 2014 and Northern Ireland in January of 2020. In the workplace, the Equality Act of 2010 gave LGBT+ employees protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work. Trans persons were also supported by legislation, further establishing/reinforcing the Gender Recognition Act
Progress to come
Despite the progress in law and perception of those who identify as LGBTQ+, same-sex relations are still currently illegal in 70 countries. The laws which forbid this are often vague; cited as “against the order of nature” and are selectively enforced as although they do not explicitly mention same-sex couples it is rare that heterosexual couples are arrested under the same laws.
With regards to the punishment, the criminal sentences for consensual same-sex relations can range from fines to years or even life imprisonment. In some cases, it can result in the death penalty. The same can be said for those who are transgender or are deemed in their legislation to “dress like a woman/man” depending on the gender assigned at birth.
Additionally, despite the Supreme Court decision of 2003, laws that prohibit consensual same-sex conduct remain in operation In 11 states of the United States. This highlights that exclusionary measures and narratives continue to operate in many spheres today. Although pride is about celebrating diversity it is crucial that we remember the work that is to be done so LGBT+ individuals across the world can feel safe to be open and proud without penalty.
Research has shown that younger generations are more accepting of homosexuality in many countries. In South Korea for instance 79% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that homosexuality should be accepted while only 23% of 50 year old believed this. This is a positive indication of a more inclusive future wherein gender or sexual orientation needn’t be regarded as up for debate but accepted and respected.
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