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From the black and white placards of the first march in 1972, where 2,000 participants proudly pounded the city streets, to the magnificent multi-coloured celebrations of today, Pride in London has been a champion of inclusivity and equality.
A large part of its growth has been down to the continuous efforts to involve all members of the LGBT + community. Starting predominantly as a movement by and for gay men, it’s evolved to include lesbian, bisexual and transgender organisations, alongside other groups misunderstood by mainstream culture (asexuals, pansexuals and demisexuals to name a few). As a result of this, Pride in London 2017 promises to be the biggest and most diverse yet, with all kinds of people coming together to celebrate 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK.
To mark the occasion, we caught up with some high profile members of the community to get their views on Pride, talk about the progress made so far and that which has yet to come.
Also, don’t forget to check out our first Pride instalment.
Alison Camp: Pride in London’s very own Co-Chair and Board Director.
Roisin Wood: CEO of Kick it Out, an organisation working to end discrimination and encourage inclusivity in football.
Susan James: Wedding planner and blogger for Pink Wedding Days, a website dedicated to helping gay and lesbian couples plan their big day.
Kate Mitchell: Kate and her wife Sharon created LesBeMums to document their journey as a same-sex family, covering topics from pregnancy to LGBT culture and issues.
1) What does this 50 year milestone mean to you?
Alison Camp: “It’s a reminder of how far we have come, but also of how far there still is to go to achieve genuine equality across the UK and globally, irrespective of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and ability. A moment to recognise the efforts of activists before us, and to set our sights on the battles we still have to fight and win.”
Roisin Wood: “It has been 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom, and while this is a chance to celebrate the positive work that has been done to promote and encourage LGB&T inclusion in society and football, there is still a long way to go to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in feeling part of a diverse and inclusive environment.”
Susan James: “50 years is both a lifetime and no time at all. The anniversary reminds us of the advances in LGBT rights, but it’s also a chance to reflect on what’s still left to do. The 1967 Sexual Offences Bill gave the LGBT movement a foothold and from there campaigners were able to slowly start pushing back both the legislation and public opinion that sought to label homosexuals as criminals and deviants.
The law has been slow to change but it’s getting there. The age of consent for homosexual men was reduced in 1994 from 21 to 18. In 2000 the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces was dropped and then, more recently, in 2005 civil partnerships were introduced in England, Scotland and Wales. A decade later, this was followed by same-sex marriage. None of this would have been possible without the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and it’s important that we don’t forget that.
Today, the United Kingdom is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world, but it’s important not to be complacent. There’s still much to do in promoting and achieving equality for the LGBT community, but the 50th anniversary shows that it’s possible to make real changes even when it might feel like it’s impossible to do so and that is absolutely worth celebrating.”
Kate Mitchell: “This milestone means so much to us not only as a couple but as parents. Raising a son as a minority group is a scary thing – we don’t know how people are going to treat us or our son – but with laws changing every day and news reports showing positive progress for the LGBT community (George Montague more recently), not mention books, film, and TV being more inclusive, it gives us hope that our son won’t feel like a minority.”
2) What progress would you like to see in the next decade?
Alison Camp: “I want to see us move beyond equality in a legal sense, to seeing a shift in our society towards respect and appreciation at a deep human level – valuing people for who we are, pure and simple. I want to see an end to discrimination against LGBT + people in the institutions in our country, including faith institutions, I want to see inclusive sex and health education policies in action in our schools and equal marriage in Northern Ireland. I want to see hate crime down, young LGBT+ people unafraid to come out, LGBT+ families flourishing and an appreciation of the fact that gender isn’t – and has never been – binary.”
Roisin Wood: “Football is working hard to ensure that people who define themselves as LGB&T feel truly welcome to support their teams across the country.
There is still homophobia in the sport and this needs to be challenged. The hope in 10 years time is that anti-LGBT rhetoric is removed from the sport and that all participants are educated to the point where they understand the impact of homophobic behaviour.”
Susan James: “Over the next decade, we’d like to see the wedding industry become less hetero-normative and more inclusive of same-sex couples. Many venues and vendors still refer to ‘the bride and groom’ in their literature and on their websites. For examples, many venues will happily check-in a male couple to the ‘bridal suite.’ Wedding magazines and websites are still enamoured with the idea of weddings as being the domain of the woman and this can feel alienating to male couples or to female ones who reject traditional gender roles. It’s such a small change — to update our language, our expectations — but it’s one that’s vital to achieving complete equality.
In the past, we’ve spoken to same-sex couples and a number have said that they found that booking their venue and vendors was a little like having to come out all over again: correcting assumptions that if a woman makes enquiries that she does so on behalf of her husband and vice versa. It’s almost as if it’s still a surprise to some that gay people get married.
We’d also really like to see the Government in Northern Ireland finally legalise same-sex marriage. It’s heart-breaking to watch gay couples unable to marry because of small minded political obstruction. Across the UK as a whole, too, we’d like to see greater support, protection and visibility for the transgender community.”
Kate Mitchell: “Although there is some positive work happening globally already, I would like to see rainbow families being included in the media a lot more; whether it’s film and TV, or in children’s books – and not just as token characters. As if being a rainbow family didn’t matter, they just happened to be a part of the story.”
3) What sort of challenges do you encounter in your work?
Roisin Wood: “Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, since 1997 has looked to raise awareness of all forms of discrimination in football and helped encourage diversity and inclusion amongst all levels of the game. The organisation was recently recognised for its work with the LGB&T community after winning Best LGBT Charity at the LGBT Awards 2017.
The challenges the organisation face predominantly come down to the lack of education some people in football have around disadvantaged or marginalised groups. Our work sees us challenge homophobia through workshops and initiatives.
In March 2017, we partnered with the Home Office and True Vision to release a series of resources and a video which raised awareness of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination within football stadia. Another important aspect of the organisation’s work is to empower participants of football at all levels to report discrimination.
Whether this is fans, players or anyone else involved with football, Kick It Out urges people to report discrimination anonymously to the organisation in its role as a third-party reporting bureau.
Kick It Out has a FREE reporting app where people can report homophobia at any match across the country.”
COMPETITION NOW CLOSED
Which European country has never criminalised homosexuality?
A – Poland B – Italy C – Iceland D – Holland