Why Pride Is Still So Important In 2019, According To 7 Members Of The UK's LGBTQ Community
Pride means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some, it's a time to take to the streets, put on far too much glitter, and come together in celebration. For others, it represents a period of reflection; a period when we acknowledge how far the LGBTQIA+ community has come thanks to the tireless work of those who fought for our rights. However, as we celebrate the progress we've made, we must also pause and think about how far we have to go. I spoke to seven Pride attendees and activists to discuss why Pride is still as relevant and important as ever, and to discover what this time of year means to them.
In the UK, marriage between same sex couples has been legalised, adoption has been opened up to queer families, and the government are making moves to ensure that sex education in schools is more LGBTQIA+ inclusive. These are three massive strides towards fully realised LGBTQIA+ equality in this country, which is certainly something to be celebrated. However, with this in mind, it's easy to get swept up in the festivities of Pride month and forget about the meaning behind it. Below we hear from seven people who want us to remember the importance of Pride's message, not just for the LGBTQIA+ community in the UK, but for people all over the world — especially those who still face severe prejudice for simply being themselves.
1. Munroe Bergdorf, Activist & Speaker
"I think Pride will always be important because queer people are still heavily marginalised whether thats with regards to stigma, or bias, or access to services," says Munroe Bergdorf. "In some countries it is still illegal to be gay."
Munroe Bergdorf has been announced as the keynote speaker at the prestigious London Pride Gala Dinner in 2019. Using her social media and public platform to raise awareness about trans issues, Bergdorf is a massive role model for so many people in the LGBTQ community.
The funds raised by the London Pride Gala Dinner are fundamental in ensuring that London Pride can continue to be accessible to all. Speaking about her involvement in the event, Bergdorf says: “It’s a massive honour, I can’t really believe that is is happening. It feels good especially because the gay rights movement which moved into the queer resistance was started by a black trans woman, Marsha P Johnson. I hope I can channel some of her strength because I am a little bit nervous.”
Sharing her feelings on Pride, Bergdorf tells me: “Have fun, be safe, and have an open mind. Pride is for everybody. It is called Gay Pride a lot but it is Queer Pride, and we have got so much to be proud of. We should celebrate our wins because we have had some really triumphant wins recently. But it's also really important to take stock of the fact that we can celebrate Pride and in a lot of countries you can't as you will be arrested and in some countries face the death penalty. So, I think you should recognise your privilege while having fun and celebrating each other.”
2. Teddy Edwardes, Events Organiser
While the notion of safe spaces is often scoffed at, there's still a serious need for places where members of the LGBTQIA+ community can go and feel represented, safe, and celebrated all year round. That's where Teddy Edwardes comes in.
Edwardes organises LICK, a womxn-only club night in London. "It’s important for Womxn to have spaces where they feel comfortable and safe to be themselves," Edwardes tells me. "Gay bars in London are not as inclusive as they should be unfortunately so private events really are looking to be the future for Womxn especially.”
Recognising that people need a space to feel free to be who they are, Edwardes sees Pride as an opportunity to recognise how fortunate the community in the UK is and how much work still need to be done.
"Pride will always be relevant but I still think the relevance needs to grow," Edwardes says. "It’s easy to forget when living in the UK that there are still death penalty charges for being gay. A lot of the world is still very anti us even sometimes in the UK, so Pride isn’t really for us it’s for the people that can’t openly be who they want or have a voice. It’s extremely important that we get more representation for trans, non binary people, and queer people of colour."
But with thousands of events going on for Pride across the UK, how would an events organiser choose to spend 2019? Well, it sounds like Edwardes already has her Pride sorted. "I’ve booked one of the biggest and most iconic clubs in London for a 2,000-plus capacity party," she says. "You’ll have to find out more nearer the time."
3. Black Pride UK
Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American descent. Putting on events across Pride month, Black Pride celebrates diverse sexualities, gender identities, cultures, gender expressions, and backgrounds. A representative from the organisation says: “The communities we represent have a specific experience that presents its hurdles, but also its immense joys. UK Black Pride continues to be an important celebration of our lives, our melanin, and our cultures.”
Celebration and inclusivity is at the core of the events put on by Black Pride. "The vast and varied lived experiences of the communities we represent are often not presented in their fullness and diversity, and there is a general dearth of representative platforms that speak to the complexity and nuance of our experiences," the organisation explains. "Particularly within the LGBTQ rights movements, the concerns and needs of LGBTQ people of colour have largely been ignored."
While Pride is a celebration of the whole community, it would be ridiculous to think that everyone has the same lived experience of being queer, especially when it comes to being a person of colour. Black Pride keeps this idea at the centre of their work, ensuring that young LGBTQ people of colour can find people they relate to.
"LGBTQ people of colour have been hugely influential at a grassroots level since the genesis of our movement, but our influence and impact goes back much further," the Black Pride representative explains. "Representation helps ensure that the voices that have changed the world are amplified. Young LGBTQ people of colour need to know that they are loved, valued, and fought for, that their lives matter."
4. Chelcee Grimes, Singer Songwriter
A footballer for Fulham Ladies FC and singer songwriter collaborating with the likes of Jonas Blue, Chelcee Grimes will be centre stage at Manchester Pride. Her new single “Girls” has just been released and is a mix of seriously empowering lyrics and catchy beats. Grimes says: “I used to go to pride before I played. I’ve been going since I was younger and it’s always just such a happy place. Everyone’s in love and just being who they truly are.”
While this may not be her first Pride, Grimes still sees it as a massively important event. “I’ve seen people I went to school with who I haven’t seen for many years at Pride who say 'this is my first pride, I came out last week,' ... or I meet people who want to show support like 'my sons gay, so I’m here with him and his boyfriend' I love that," Grimes says. "It’s a place for people to really show their support."
Pride is a massive celebration but also a great time to recognise that you aren’t alone. It was one of the first times I saw people who I looked up to come out and say they were LGBTQIA+. Grimes recognises the importance of having role models and says: “There’s a feeling of belonging when you see someone like you. I have so many messages from young girls saying how they love music and sports but never knew they could do both and how seeing me has showed that it’s possible.”
5. Lady Kitt, Attendee and Performer
So much of the focus around Pride is on who is performing and what is going on. But the events wouldn’t be possible without the people who attend them. Hundreds of thousands of people descended upon the capital for London Pride in 2018 and more events are springing up in different cities and towns every year.
Lady Kitt is a performer and devoted Pride attendee. They say: “For me pride is not just about celebration, it's also about action, activism and protest ... I'm wildly excited!! It's particularly special to be performing on the new Curious Arts stage at Northern Pride as it's a family friendly performance venue including music, spoken word, and (our family's favourite!) drag story time. This means my children (aged four and seven) can come and watch. It'll be the first time they've seen me perform drag, as most of the venues I perform at are 18+. They have even offered/threatened to join me on stage.”
Speaking about the importance of Pride, and representation as a whole, Kitt says: "Being active and visible in the world creates conversations, understanding and support. Sadly, it also creates negative reactions. It can be exhausting, complex and, sometimes dangerous, but it's essential. Pride is only part of LGBTQ+ representation. There are large sections of the community and culture that are often under/unrepresented at Pride, for example families, older adults, bi/pan sexual people, disabled people, people of colour. Many wonderful individuals and organisations, are working hard to change this."
6. Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, Blogger & YouTuber
With a vintage aesthetic to die for and the cutest dogs in the world, it's impossible not to fall in love with Jessica Kellgren-Fozard. She uses her Youtube channel, blog, and social media to talk about disability, chronic illness, and LGBTQ+ awareness.
Speaking about Pride, she says: “Until we have true equality in all minds pride will always be relevant and perhaps even after that because the celebration of marginalised identities will always be vital to promote awareness and help teach young people to feel happy and comfortable in their own skin.”
Kellgren-Fozard has created a space online that celebrates LGBTQ+ culture and life. While she may not have set out to become one, Kellgren-Fozard is now a role model for LGBTQ+ teens as she is so unapologetically herself online. She says: “It will always be important to have spaces were LGBTQ+ people feel like they are not just tolerated, they are just not accepted they are celebrated. It's also vital that we do not forget Pride started as a protest and we should continue to use the platform to air our thoughts and feelings, particularly with regard to political legislation.”
Creating a massive community online to celebrate all things LGBTQ+ means that you can't help but watch Kellgren-Fozards videos and feel seen and celebrated. But how will she be spending Pride 2019? "I will be trying to celebrate as many prides as possible around the world with my community of lovely followers who are spread around the globe," she explains. "I will also be celebrating my local Brighton Pride with my wonderful wife and our chosen family."
7. Stonewall UK
Many recognise the first Pride parade as being the Stonewall uprising started by gay liberation activists in New York in 1969. Stonewall is still cited as one of the most important organisations in improving the lives of the LGBTQIA+ community and giving a platform to those who don't have one. Speaking about why Pride is important, Laura Russell, Director of Campaigns, Policy, and Research at Stonewall UK says: “‘Pride season is an important time for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people from all backgrounds to come together and celebrate the LGBT community, as well as the enormous progress we've made towards equality.”
Russell continues: “‘Pride is also a crucial opportunity to reflect on the history of the movement and look ahead to the future. This year, Stonewall is celebrating our 30th birthday and we’ll be attending over 30 Prides across Britain to mark this occasion. But 2019 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. It’s important we take the time to give thanks to the people who led that uprising and created the modern LGBT movement that we know now. Many of those people were part of groups who continue to exist at the margins of our community and in society, and for whom Pride isn’t yet a celebration but an act of defiance.”
Some people point to the progress made within the LGBTQIA+ community, especially in the UK, as a reason why Pride could be less relevant in 2019. In response, Russell says: “We have lots to be proud of, but the fight for equality is far from over and we cannot be complacent. That’s why it’s so important that we work together to build a world where all LGBT people are accepted without exception.”