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Friday 26 June 2020

‘United, joyful and full to the brim with Pride’

In the week of Global Pride, FDA Assistant General Secretary Lucille Thirlby discusses her own experience of the marches and parades - and outlines why it’s so important to celebrate it.
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I have attended countless Prides over the years, many Global Prides but mainly UK and EU-based ones including London, Norwich, Amsterdam and Cologne. I attend these community events wearing a badge of pride. Proud of who I am and how I live my life.

Pride marches in the 80’s and 90’s were events that were central to my social calendar, ones to plan and still to this day reminisce about. In today’s climate I am less of a fan of the ‘parade’ Prides; call me old-fashioned but I am an activist and trade unionist at heart and do love a march. We are not there yet in the UK in getting the equality we demand and there are still struggles to be won and prejudice to overcome.

Last year I attended the Pride ‘parade’ with FDA LGBT members, talking about the interesting jobs they hold, their commitment to the delivery of excellent public services and why they are in a union. It might sound like a lot of shop talk, but it wasn’t without fun and a lot of laughing! 

Due to the global pandemic, Global Pride – on 27th June - is virtual this year and lots of innovative people are working through ways to celebrate. In lockdown across the world LGBT people have developed creative and virtual ways for socialising, support and activism. However, we also know there are LGBT people living in fear, unable to be their true selves and isolated due to their living position and coping with homophobia and transphobia.

The theme of Global Pride is Exist, Persist, Resist. Here’s my take on the interpretation of those words.

Exist: Globally LGBT people are killed, raped and oppressed due to their sexuality and gender identity. State-Sponsored Homophobia, an international lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex association (ILGA) world report and map, sets out in detail sexual orientation law and summarises the balance of ‘Exist’ for me:

“In more than 70 countries ‘sexual orientation’ has been explicitly enshrined in local regulations, national laws and constitutions to protect us from discrimination. Rainbow families are being recognized in an ever-increasing number of jurisdictions and a global tendency towards decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual acts has now been established.

“However, this is a time when being complacent about our achievements is one of the worst mistakes we can ever make. The polarizing trends that are taking place at a global scale mean that while more and more of us have seen our rights legally recognized, more LGBTI people are also in greater danger of being discriminated, attacked, persecuted and even murdered.”

Persist: I have been and continue to be in awe of the unshakeable persistence of the LGBT community. Being different can be a barrier to your education, employment, family relationships, housing, wellbeing and health. Being visible, as our own true selves, demanding the rights we deserve, working and listening to each other, we will break down those barriers. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are diverse and just as prone to racism and disability discrimination as the rest of society, we must persist in addressing injustice, seeking out and challenging prejudice within all our lives and communities.

Resist: A powerful word and whilst we have more legal rights in the UK, we need to resist intolerance, homophobia, transphobia, discrimination (in all its forms) and violence against LGBT people. We must also resist the temptation to think of ourselves as individuals suffering injustice. Our community has much more in common than the issues that divide us. We are, and always have been, stronger together.

Pride is the proof of that collective strength: thousands of visible LGBT people taking strides, loudly and visibly telling sometimes dismissive societies that we are united, joyful and full to the brim with Pride.

Finally, as I prepare my outfit and identify the right hat to wear while celebrating Global Pride this weekend, I indulge in a bit of lesbian flippancy – what are the challenges in my own lockdown version of Exist, Persist, Resist?

Exist: How can I been seen in public/Zoom/Google hangouts/MS Teams with my big hair that I’m desperate to get chopped?

Persist: How many times do I have to tell myself I can be bothered to exercise?

Resist: Is it really so bad to have another homemade baked treat that my friends and family keep producing?

Find out more about what’s happening at Global Pride


Lucille Thirlby is an Assistant General Secretary at the FDA
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