It’s been a difficult Pride month.
For another year, Covid has seen our usual celebrations cancelled and our fantastic pride marches postponed, separating those of us in the LGBT+ community who are so desperate to be with each other. All this, at a time when Pride feels more important than ever.
Being a member of the LGBT+ community is without question a wonderful thing – most of the time. The culture, the friendships and the camaraderie are second to none. But recently, particularly for the past year, it’s become increasingly difficult – and not just because of Covid.
We’ve seen Stonewall, the UK’s flagship LGBT+ charity, face a concerted and well-funded attack on its very existence – a cause now seemingly backed by the UK Government and our “equalities” minister Liz Truss. Powerful figures across the world have sought to start, stir up and perpetuate culture wars, particularly aimed at trans people, that have caused real hurt to our community and given licence to bigots to spread hatred. Internationally the picture doesn’t look much better, with Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orbán introducing a law that bans “the depiction or promotion of homosexuality to those under 18” – Section 28 on steroids.
And we’re only halfway through the year.
Yet, you could be forgiven for thinking that LGBT+ rights are more entrenched now than they’ve ever been. Government departments, big business and those in power seem to have been waving our Pride flag more vigorously than ever before. Twitter is awash with rainbow-fied logos from organisations desperate to show their allyship – but does it really mean anything?
Just this week, we saw UEFA ban the Allianz Arena in Germany from lighting the stadium up in rainbow colours during the Hungary v Germany football match – an attempt show solidarity with the LGBT+ community under persecution in Hungary – as it was “too political”. Earlier in the month, UEFA were tweeting the Pride flag and talking about the need for LGBT+ inclusion in sport.
On top of that, companies across the world are adding Pride flags to their merchandise because they know it will sell – without a single penny going to LGBT+ causes but instead going straight to shareholders.
What does this tell us about Pride in 2021? It tells us that Pride has become a useful marketing tool for businesses, organisations, governments, and politicians around the globe. That’s it. A marketing tool.
In the places where it’s the hardest to be LGBT+, where it could cost you your life, these businesses stay silent. They do nothing. And let’s not pretend that changing a logo on a social media page is going to directly improve the lives of LGBT+ people anywhere, but in those places it would be a start. Perhaps even worse are people like Liz Truss, those with real power, who stand by the flag one moment and attempt to destroy Europe’s largest LGBT+ charity in the next.
If businesses, organisations, governments, and politicians alike want to wave our flag, they need to remember that we can see beyond empty platitudes, that allyship isn’t just tweeting pictures or telling the LGBT+ community it cares – what matters is action. What matters is solidarity. What matters is being a part of the fight, not profiting from it.
So, what can we all do as trade unionists to support the LGBT+ community, not just this Pride month but every single day of the year?
The answer is so simple – stand with us. There are a million ways to help, long after the Pride flags disappear for another year.
Check where you’re buying your Pride themed merchandise from and where the money is going. Stand up for your colleague at work who’s facing discrimination. Help us to ban conversion therapy by writing to your MP. Invite LGBT+ speakers to your branch meetings.
Now more than ever, we need you.