- Pride Month 2021
- When is Pride Day 2021?
- The road to equality
- The picture around the world
- Acceptance within the home
- Hate crimes and ‘protected characteristics’
- Transgender politics
- Reasons to celebrate
- Ways to celebrate
- How can you be a good ally?
- Decades of difference: The journey of queer
- The ‘70s dancefloor revolutions
- The ‘80s gay vs. government
- The ‘00s new century/new future
- Today: a new world order
Pride Month 2021
June is Pride Month, with parades, festivals happening around the globe. It’s a great way to celebrate with LGBTQIA+ friends and family, while reflecting on the social history impacting the community. What are the origins of Pride, what are we celebrating, and what are the main issues still facing the community today.
This June, we’re focusing on five different areas – equality, acceptance within the home, intersectionality, transgender politics and reasons to celebrate.
When is Pride Day 2021?
While June is recognised as Pride Month, the actual Pride Day is celebrated on June 28th.
On this date is 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village NYC, resulting in six days of protests and riots.
This became a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement – and is where Stonewall, the LGBTQIA+ organisation in the UK, takes its name from.
The protestors were demanding places where LGBTQIA+ people could be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest. Bisexual activist Brenda Howard is known as ‘The Mother of Pride’ – she organised Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, with events in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The parades and festivals began in urban centres to improve the visibility, acceptance and legal protections for LGBTQIA+ people and have evolved over the past 50 years.
Pioneering transgender activists Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were key figures in the Stonewall Riots and worked tirelessly for LGBT rights all their lives.
They founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and opened a residential shelter for homeless LGBT youth — the very first in the US.
In 2019 Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York, announced plans for a monument in the city in their honour.
The road to equality
Legal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community have been hard-won. Here are some key dates:
- 1861: The Offences Against the Person Act is passed. Prior to this, acts of sodomy had been punishable by the death penalty. A 10-year prison sentence was the punishment even for private homosexual acts.
- 1967: The Sexual Offences act decriminalised private sexual activity between men over the age of 21 in England and Wales. Scotland followed in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982. Lesbianism was never recognised in English law, so strictly speaking has never been illegal
- 1994: The age of consent for gay and bi men is reduced to 18
- 2001: The age of consent for gay and bi men is set at 16; Northern Ireland follows seven years later in 2008
- 2005: Adoption by same-sex couples becomes legal in England and Wales; in Scotland it happens in 2009, and Northern Ireland in 2013
- 2009: Legislation grants lesbians equal birth rights in England and Wales, meaning both same-sex parents can be named on a child’s birth certificate
- 2013: Same-sex marriage was legalised in England, Wales and Scotland in 2013 and came into force in 2014
- 2015: LGBTQIA+ Americans win the right to marry nationwide
- 2020: Same-sex marriage finally becomes legal in Northern Ireland
LGBTQIA+ related anti-discrimination law regarding housing, private and public services vary by state in the US. The Equality Act currently proposed in the US Congress would outlaw discrimination sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide.
The picture around the world
Globally, it’s still illegal to be LGBTQIA+ in 69 countries – and even more shockingly, you could still be given the death penalty in 12. Sixty five percent of those living in UN countries can legally be in consensual same-sex relationships, but only 11 countries mention sexual orientation in their constitution’s non-discrimination clauses.
And what of those trying to escape oppressive regimes and claim asylum in the UK? Currently, individuals can apply for UK refugee status if they’re able to prove that they fear persecution in their home country due to race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. However, the ‘burden of proof’ required could result in many LGBTQIA+ applicants being refused.
Acceptance within the home
While conversion therapy has been widely condemned, it’s only illegal in four countries (Germany, Brazil, Ecuador and Malta). The UK government has pledged since 2018 to ban gay conversion practices, but it’s still legally taking place across the country. A commitment to ban it was set out in the most recent Queen’s Speech, together with the creation of a new support fund.
According to AKT, who support LGBTQIA+ UK people aged 16-25 facing or experiencing homelessness, nearly a quarter (24%) of homeless young people identify as LGBTQIA+, and 77% believe coming out to their parents was the main factor in their homelessness. In the US it’s even more extreme – 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQIA+.
Plus, evidence from AKT’s services suggests that disabled, trans and people of colour identifying as LGBTQIA+ are disproportionately affected by discrimination from homelessness services across the nation.
With a continuing focus on Black lives and the systemic racial injustice facing the community, the engagement with Pride highlights the critical role that intersectionality plays in the fight for LGBTQIA+ equality and justice. ‘Intersectionality’ – a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, illustrates how social problems such as racism and sexism often overlap.
For example, in the US, Black youth are 83% more ly to experience homelessness than other races, and as AKT’s evidence shows, Black LGBTQIA+ people are more ly to be discriminated against when it comes to homelessness. It’s this kind of intersection that means UNICEF USA is encouraging everyone to unite their advocacy efforts under ‘an intersectional umbrella’ during Pride.
Whether it’s talking to white friends about how being Black impacts their experience in LGBTQIA+ spaces, or the nuances of queer experiences in Black spaces, people who hold multiple marginalised identities can feel overwhelmed. Looking for resources? Check out the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center.
Hate crimes and ‘protected characteristics’
At the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests last June, racially or religiously aggravated offences in England and Wales were a third higher than in June 2019; a poll in February 2020 found that ¾ of British people think hate speech is a problem. In September 2020, the Law Commission published proposals for reforming hate crime law in England and Wales (the laws differ in Scotland and Northern Ireland).
The CPS definition of hate crime is physical assault, verbal and online abuse and damage to property ‘which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone’ ‘protected characteristics’ such as race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. But some people feel that these characteristics aren’t offered equal protection – disabled and trans people receive less support than other groups, because there isn’t a specific offence of stirring up hatred against them.
Stop Hate UK argues that offences motivated by hate against any group should be punished by higher maximum sentences to ensure equal protection.
Since April 2005, it’s been possible for transgender people to change their legal gender in the UK. Transgender people must present evidence to a Gender Recognition Panel, which issues a Gender Recognition Certificate (they must have transitioned two years before a GRC is issued, but sex reassignment surgery need not have taken place).
In England, Wales and Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against transgender children in schools.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is developing guidance for schools on supporting transgender pupils, and all pupils in England should be taught about LGBTQIA+ relationships as part of the curriculum.
GIDS (the Gender Identity Development Service) has resources to help with supporting transgender children at school.
One of the most hotly debated topics in transgender politics is sport.
The controversy largely surrounds trans women competing in women’s sports; resistance generally focuses on the effects of physiological attributes such as height, weight, speed and strength, and whether sustained testosterone suppression can adequately reduce the natural advantages of male body characteristics within a given women’s sport. The International Olympic Committee’s guidelines require that trans women athletes declare their gender and not change it for four years, as well as demonstrate a specific testosterone level for at least a year before competition.
Reasons to celebrate
Positive change is happening and there are many reasons to celebrate. In a global Pew survey from 2019 on the acceptance of homosexuality, the percentage of US respondents rose to 72% (from 60% in 2013), with Sweden scoring highest, at 94%.
In surveys, many in the LGBTQIA+ community feel they have difficulties accessing healthcare services – especially gender identity clinics. In Greater Manchester, Pride in Practice is a programme aimed at strengthening primary care services’ relationships with LGBTQIA+ patients.
Since January 1st 2021, UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom explicitly included gender reassignment, alongside race, disability, religion, sex and sexual orientation, in its hate speech legal policies.
Sport, particularly football, has been plagued by homophobia, but last year the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced plans to amend the Football (Offences) Act 1991 to explicitly ban homophobic chanting at football matches.
And questions on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation were included on the UK national census for the first time this year. Stonewall supported the move, saying that, ‘gathering data on LGBTQIA+ communities in the UK is a vital step towards building a society where LGBTQIA+ people are truly accepted, everywhere and by everyone.’
Ways to celebrate
You can show your support by going to parades or rallies, parties or demonstrations, putting your pronouns on social media and donating to charities. Many events have been rescheduled due to the pandemic and some will be online-only – here’s our pick of the current planned events:
- Belfast Gay Pride: July 31st
- Blackpool Pride: June 4th
- Brighton Pride: August 6th
- Brighton Trans Pride: July 16th
- Edinburgh Pride: June 12th
- Manchester Pride: August 27th
- Pride in London: September 11th
- UK Pride: July 23rd
Keep an eye on the calendar on GayPrideShop for up-to-date information.
Or explore the International Gay Pride Calendar at IGLTA.com for info on everything from Pride Toronto to the 24th Sao Paulo LGBTQIA+ Pride Parade, Tel Aviv Pride, Tri-State Black Pride in Memphis, and Pride events in European cities including Rome, Frankfurt and Stockholm.
How can you be a good ally?
‘If you agree in equality and fair treatment in society to people who identify as LGBTQIA+ then you already are an ally,’ according to Stonewall guidance. But it’s important to remember Pride is a protest as much as a party, and they advise there are five key things you can do:
- Familiarise yourself with the language
- Educate yourself on the history of LGBTQIA+ activism
- Discover the challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community
- Get involved and show your support
- Stand up for what you believe in
Find out more about Stonewall’s Come Out For LGBTQIA+ campaign
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Decades of difference: The journey of queer
John Myatt, member of PRS for Music’s LGBTQ+ Diversity Stream, explores how music has charted expression through pop hits and hooks throughout the past 50 years.
If you want to chart the LGBTQ+ experience over the past 50 years, look no further than the charts themselves. Yesteryear’s Top of the Pops, today’s top streaming counts, the banned songs and the evergreen hits.
Why? Because music is more than universal, it’s tribal. Uniting groups, lifting communities, drawing members of the dancefloor together. Add some lyrics and it’s a mirror. Reflecting politics, social shifts, household battles, love affairs and words on the street.
The ‘70s dancefloor revolutions
Buoyed by the Stonewall riots of ’69, it’s possible to believe that the ‘70s began with positivity and confidence. But society’s tides don’t turn overnight.
Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a clear nod to The Wizard of Oz, and the recent death of Judy Garland, whose rudely interrupted wake at the Stonewall Inn was the trigger for those riots. But these were the days when Elton, despite his uber-camp costumes, was still the public straight man.
Queen hit the charts in ’74 with Killer Queen, followed by a roll-call of hit singles from equally successful albums. But much Elton, their glam was a form of theatre. In a world where homosexuality was still seen as a counter-cultural threat, Queen were less gay, more gay-adjacent.
Bowie as Ziggy Stardust gave similar gay-seeming show with his stratospheric Starman. But once done with Ziggy, his hit songs weren’t necessarily the voice of a minority at war with the majority. Could a transgressive rock star – in the guise of Thin White Duke – really represent a persecuted community while flirting with fascism?
'And sit back and watch as they close down our clubsArrest us for meeting and raid all our pubs'
Glad To Be Gay — Tom Robinson
Then came disco. First, Carl Bean’s I Was Born This Way in ‘75. Followed closely by gender-fluid Sylvester, belting out ‘You make me feel mighty real’ and the Village People, playing with sub-cultural stereotypes in YMCA.
Did it matter that some were sitting down in protest on the dancefloor during Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, after rumours of the singer’s homophobia? Did it matter that disco was inadvertently sexualising a community that had been fighting the ‘pervert’ label since modern life began?
Course, it wasn’t all sex and groove-thing shaking. In 1978, Tom Robinson released his Pride march song Glad To Be Gay, calling out media hypocrisy and police bullying. Despite its Radio 1 charts ban, this song was proof of pride becoming ever-more visible. And organised.
Then, on the 27 November 1978, Harvey Milk, the leading figure in the fight for gay rights, was assassinated. His death galvanised a movement. As riots hit San Francisco, there were no hit songs to harness the rage.
But there was something in the broken-hearted disco duet, No More Tears, that defined a feeling.
As Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer sang out 'enough is enough', no doubt placard makers were painting those very words as they prepared to march against everyday malevolence.
The ‘80s gay vs. government
If the ‘70s were a struggle – to find space, love, acceptance – the ‘80s were a knife fight.
Disco was fading in June 1981, as the first reports of an immune-suppressing disease were filtering through from New York. This was the beginning of HIV and AIDS, the wildfire that would remove a whole generation of gay men. It burned through lovers, friends, family and chosen family. And it re-ignited right-wing moralising.
'I am what I amI don't want praiseI don't want pity'
I Am What I Am — Jerry Herman
Some will argue that the provocative persona of Boy George and the overtly sexual lyrics for global no. 1 Relax (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) helped to feed the political bonfires. A response to them: we were simply fighting fire with friendly fire.
This was a time when the dancefloors of Manchester were subject to police patrols under the orders of infamous ‘God cop’, Chief Constable James Anderton.
When the Conservative Party introduced the UK to Section 28, the law that prevented schools and councils from 'promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.
' When an AIDS prevention campaign fuelled a country-wide culture of fear. When the heterosexual age of consent was 16, yet 21 for gay men.
'You and me togetherFighting for our love'
Why? — Bronski Beat
For signs of a community under moral attack, listen no further than It’s A Sin (Pet Shop Boys), A Little Respect (Erasure), Smalltown Boy and Why? (Bronksi Beat).
Jerry Herman’s musical La Cage Aux Folles took a more conciliatory perspective when it hit Broadway in ‘83. From it came the anthem I Am What I Am, immortalised on vinyl by disco diva Gloria Gaynor. It was an elegant show of defiance, but no amount of make-up could hide the fact that this was a divisive decade of institutional bullying.
'For everything I want to doNo matter when or where or whoHas one thing in common toIt's a … it's a … it's a … it's a sin'
It’s A Sin — Pet Shop Boys
The ‘90s things can only better
In 1993, new band Suede released their first album. Fronted by androgynous Brett Anderson, their swooning rock singles – So Young, The Drowners, Animal Nitrate – captured a new-found gay-leaning confidence.
The album artwork depicted two women kissing and triggered outrage in some quarters, especially when it emerged that the image was a cut-down, removing the detail that one of the women was in a wheelchair.
Suede’s aesthetic might have been airbrushed but enough remained to make a statement: here was music, and music makers, that were progressively provocative.
As proof of this new indie audience, clubs sprang up across the scene – London’s Popstarz and Vauxhall Tavern, Manchester’s Poptastic – offering outlets for those who needed a musical diet beyond pop allies Kylie and Madonna.
'Tonight’s the nightThat I’m gonna feelThe way that I wanna be'
Free Gay & Happy — Coming Out Crew & Sabrina Johnston
Unofficial anthems included identity songs by performers that weren’t necessarily gay but definitely proud outsiders: Creep (Radiohead), Queer (Garbage), Cornflake Girl (Tori Amos), 50ft. Queenie (PJ Harvey). And we – the LGBTQ+ audience – were living for the songs that matched our life of being ‘other’. We were raising our arms and singing along to music that rocked the status quo.
We were also raising our arms to dance anthems, in clubs that were forging safe spaces for LGBTQ+ clubbers. Step forward Flesh at the Hacienda and Paradise Factory in Manchester, The Fridge and Trade in London.
Step forward mixed clubs that wanted everyone to party: Cream (Liverpool), Music Factory (Sheffield), Warehouse (Leeds). Here was a whole community of party-goers, liberated by the remixed sounds of Tony De Vit, Carl Cox and Sasha.
It didn’t matter who you loved, or who you wanted for intimate choreography, everybody could raise their hands to euphoric house.
By the time Labour won their landslide in the summer of ’97, the UK was transforming. Their victory was soundtracked by D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better. Not a gay anthem. But a clear-eyed, well-shared statement of hope.
'We kiss in his roomTo popular tunes'
The Drowners — Suede
The ‘00s new century/new future
The decade of much good news, for the UK at least. Following the ‘90s Equality Act, the new century welcomed an official end to Section 28 and the beginning of further legal equality with the 2004 Civil Partnership Act.
In Manchester, the indie vibe bloomed with the rise of club nights Homoelectric and Club Brenda. In the charts, George Michael was finally, officially, out. His single Outside in 2006, and its cheeky video, was a playful, cocky response to tabloid stories of his cruising for gay sex.
The Gossip, led by Beth Ditto, gave us Standing In The Way Of Control: a shock of rock for anyone pushing back by living life their way. Goldfrapp amped up their sound with similar rock-pop blasts Strict Machine, Train, Satin Chic and Ooh La La.
These were not specific calls-to-arms: they were sexy, musical statements, for audiences that recognised the continued need for a meaningful party.
'It's part not giving inAnd part trusting your friends'
Standing In The Way Of Control — The Gossip
In 2005, Anthony & The Johnsons won the Mercury Award with their album I Am A Bird Now.
When Anthony performed Hope There’s Someone at the live ceremony, the wowed shock of a music industry audience was palpable.
Here was a uniquely-voiced singer prepared to take popular music in unexpected, transcendent and beautifully dark directions. The politics here were personal: a whole new kind of ‘I am what I am’.
As the decade closed, it seemed that ‘queer’ was now officially owned by the LGBTQ+ community: a celebratory take-back of all its previous negativity. It was good to be different in this new century.
'Let's go outsideDancing on the d-train baby'
Outside — George Michael
2010 – 2019 equality at last
The good news continued. In 2010, the UK furthered the Equality Act with protections for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2014, gay marriage became legal. And Lady Gaga continued her life-affirming alliance with the epic Born This Way.
When the Olympic Games came to London in 2012, the sun was high and the UK’s mood, magnificent. It seemed that social barriers were dissolving and our country’s attitudes were ascending.
This was also the decade that Ru Paul’s Drag Race stormed popular culture, winning multiple awards while mainstreaming a whole new lexicon from the Drag Ballroom scene of '80s New York.
Pop songs from the show’s finales pushed drag idiom into popular parlance: Call Me Mother, Kitty Girl, Read U Wrote U. From one of the show’s most loved seasons – Season 6 – came Sissy That Walk.
Not only a gold carat belter, but a rousing re-appropriation of a previous slur.
In the charts and nation’s hearts, we got Tilted by Christine & The Queens. We were treated to LGBTQ+ performers, speaking directly to an LGBTQ+ audience, about LGBTQ+ love and LGBTQ+ life.
Listen to Fill My Little World (The Feeling), Queen (Perfume Genius), Michael (Franz Ferdinand), Run Boy Run (Woodkid), Make Me Feel (Janelle Monae), Tongue (MNEK), 1950 (King Princess)… the list goes on. Our LGBTQ+ experience was finally, thrillingly, commercial. And not only commercial, but commercial on our own terms.
'Ain't no TAin’t no shadeBut at the same timeBitches better get out the way'
Sissy That Walk — RuPaul
Today: a new world order
And so we arrive at our present destination. The decade that began with a global health crisis. Where we are divided and united by political upheaval. Where audience and artists a are facing a struggle beyond anything we’ve known.
As social media and cancel culture takes hold in a digital-led world, the LGBTQ+ conversation has grown ever-more fierce. Governments are once again failing a community. In the UK, a reluctant Equalities Minister Liz Truss is petitioned to ban LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy. While in Hungary and Russia, new laws are reversing LGBTQ+ freedoms.
'Bing, bang, bongSing, sang, songDing, dang, dong'
UK, hun? — United Kingdolls
Following the success of TV show It’s A Sin – and its heart-breaking portrayal of the '80s AIDS crisis – a re-release of the same-titled hit from the Pet Shop Boys was helmed by Years & Years and Sir Elton John. It’s a time to remember the race is not yet won.
Speaking of races, Ru Paul continues to pop in the best kind of way, with Eurovision-esque songs Bing Bang Bong and Lucky. They’re a move away from the serious, towards a more bubble gum view of owning identity .
New voices, thankfully, have not been lost in the noise of social shocks. To name a few: Sarah Proctor, Natalie Oaks, Rina Sawayama. You can hear them now, on our latest LGBTQ+ playlist.
And think: this decade has only just begun. Who knows how political the next eight years of songs will become. What voices will rise. And how music will continue to make its difference.