02 Jun 2021
Pride Month is a time of both celebration of how far the LGBTQ+ community has come, and also a challenge to the establishment on how far we must still go to achieve genuine equality and parity.
Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I lived through the dark days of the HIV crisis and Section 28 (S28).* Being a young gay person at school through the period of S28 meant that, rightly or wrongly, schools did nothing to combat homophobia in fear of falling foul of S28. There were also no positive role models for young gay people at a time in their life when they were coming to terms with their sexuality.
The HIV crisis then brought about the horror of death at every turn. The 'establishment' did nothing at the start to try to educate the general population - thinking of it as a 'gay disease' that would not affect everyone. This fuelled homophobia at the time.
At this time in my life, I saw Pride as a ‘demonstration against injustice and inequality’, where attending Pride marches was about making people stand up and take notice that being gay was nothing to be ashamed of and that we deserved justice and equality. I would now describe myself as an activist, back then, along with my friends and community - fighting against this injustice, inequality, and homophobia.
Over the years, I have seen Pride evolve into more of a celebration than a demonstration, as we have moved closer to equality. But, as a community, we should never forget what so many people have had to pay to get us to where we are. From those who died from HIV/Aids, through to the significantly higher percentage of young gay people who take their own lives because of discrimination, we must also continue to fight for equality. Sadly, we have still a way to go.
For instance, it won’t be until some time in the summer of 2021 that I will be allowed to give blood for the first time in my adult life (I will be 49 this year). As someone who has had the same partner for over 30 years, I cannot believe that.
We should though, celebrate the positives that the Pride movement has brought us as a community. For me, a positive is that my now husband and I were able to have a civil partnership in 2006 after I proposed on New Year’s Eve 2005 - just 25 days after civil partnerships came into force. We subsequently applied to be married in 2014 when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into force.
Even before this, the Adoption and Children’s Act 2002 meant that, for the first time, a gay couple could jointly adopt, thus we started our journey through the adoption process. After completing our training and being approved as adopters, we were eventually match with our two boys, five and three-year-old brothers, Lewis and Jake - now 18 and 16.
It is my belief that none of these - some of the most important moments in my life - would have been possible without the Pride Movement, and it is why I still firmly put Pride Month as the most important month of the year. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant a contribution I can give to make life easier for those of the LGBTQ+ community who come after me, I feel I have done some good.
I may be comfortable in expressing my sexuality, but that does not mean everyone is, and for those who still have a way to go in their ‘coming out’ journey, Pride Month will continue to have significant importance to the LGBTQ+ Community.
*a British law that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities.
Eastlight Homes are proud sponsors of the CIH event on 1 July Championing equality, diversity and inclusion – a special event showcasing previously unheard voices from across the housing sector
Andrew Allocca is the development manager for Eastlight Homes.