By Aaron, our Layout and Design Editor
Is LGBT Pride still necessary in 21st century Britain?
Aaron reports on a discussion meeting that was held recently at Dorset Humanists and explains his thoughts on this topical issue.
After our main talk last month at Dorset Humanists, we engaged in our regular 'circle discussion', a kind of 'Circle of Life' (maybe we should call it that) when we chew over a topic in the news. On this occasion, the chairman suggested LGBT Pride. We were asked 'Is Pride still necessary? Don't LGBT people now have everything they have campaigned for?' and 'Are supermarkets celebrating Pride with flags and rainbow-themed products taking things too far?'
The person who asked 'Is Pride still necessary?' is a very broad-minded straight man. I responded to his question by inviting him to hold hands with me in a suburban shopping centre and to see how we get on. He appeared to grasp my point instantly. It was a spur of the moment reply on my part because, in regular everyday life, my gayness doesn't negatively impact me at all. I live in an accepting town on the south coast of England where, for the most part, people can be themselves. But in saying this, I should add that I don't hold hands with anyone, because I am single. If I had a partner, and if we wanted to hold hands in public, we could only do so with extreme caution. I have held hands with friends on the odd occasion, for a bit of fun, but I was very conscious when doing so of how it looked to the general public and that it could invite an attack or hate comments at any moment. The diverse mix of people in our town centre would probably be more accepting than those in the more local parts of town. Is it safe to be openly gay, or is the fear of attack in our minds? One member of the group retold an experience he had last year whilst holding his partner's hand in Southampton, when hate comments were hurled along with a beer bottle. Having chatted with friends who have come from places such as the Welsh Valleys, Yorkshire, and even small towns in Dorset, the perception of being 'the only gay in the village' is still very much a thing, although it's getting better all the time. Being gay in these smaller communities is often deemed to be okay, but being obviously gay in the sense of holding hands, kissing, public affection and so on is still a lot to take in, it seems. As for Pride, is it still needed? I think it is. No matter how well the LGBT community has been welcomed in the UK and Western countries in general, I feel that it is our duty to stand as a beacon of hope for those other countries around the world where religion and/or culture are repressive, and where the human rights of LGBT people are violated.
On the question of supermarkets, and whether they are taking things too far with ubiquitous freedom flags and rainbow-themed products, there were mixed opinions. Some people in the circle thought it could backfire negatively on the LGBT community, but the overwhelming opinion seemed to be the fairly cynical one that this was just another marketing opportunity like Hallowe'en or Mothers' Day.
We also had a discussion about how old-style LGBT Pride with rainbow flags seems to have been replaced with the identity politics of LGBTQIA+ and the new 'freedom flag' which incorporates 'people of colour' stripes, trans stripes, and an intersex circle. Has the event become divisive and overly-politicised? Maybe it has, but Dorset Humanists is committed to being an inclusive and welcoming group for people however they identify, at the same time as defending humanist values of free speech and open dialogue about all of these controversial matters.
As humanists, we support everybody's right to be free and happy within themselves, to live happy, successful lives, free from persecution and hatred. Whilst many of us grapple with controversial issues, we can at least agree that the person in front of us, first and foremost, is a human being who requires from us the respect and understanding that that deserves.