June is traditionally Pride Month in the UK.
Many of us will be missing Pride festivals, which have been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Pride offered LGBTQ+ people an important opportunity to protest against continuing discrimination, as well as to celebrate what we have achieved.
A key figure at Pride is Peter Tatchell, who has been an LGBTQ+ and human rights activist for over 50 years and currently heads the Peter Tatchell Foundation. It feels that now more than ever the LGTBQ+ community and our allies need to stand together, not just to ensure LGTBQ rights+ progress but also to prevent the erosion of the rights we have already secured.
Over June, I will be interviewing four exceptional individuals, who have contributed to LGBTQ+ rights in the UK and beyond.
I start my Pride Interviews with Peter, who has long been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ rights agenda in the UK. An early member of the Gay Liberation Front, he went on to be a leading voice within OutRage and played a key role in shaping the legislation which protects LGBTQ+ people in the UK today.
He is renowned for supporting human rights globally, sometimes at great physical risk to himself, including two attempted citizen’s arrests of Robert Mugabe, as well as prominent campaigning in Russia in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
What do you think the impact of cancelling or postponing so many Pride events has been on the LGBTQ+ community?
Postponing Pride is a huge disappointment but it is sadly necessary, given the Covid-19 pandemic. Some Prides have been hit-hard financially, as they have lost deposits they had already paid for Pride event infrastructure before the virus hit.
Which LGBTQ+ rights issue currently concerns you the most in the UK?
There are two big issues: the government’s failure to honour its commitments to outlaw gay conversion therapy and to reform the Gender Recognition Act. It is scandalous that harmful quack therapies are still being allowed and that trans people are not accorded the dignity of self-defining their gender identity.
Do you think that the coronavirus could see LGBTQ+ rights rolled back in the UK?
Although I cannot see existing LGBTQ+ rights being repealed or restricted, the pandemic has resulted in all gay and bisexual men being irrationally and unscientifically barred from participation in blood plasma trials to combat Covid-19.
Has your workload increased during the pandemic?
My assistant, Pliny Soocoormanee, and all our volunteers have been furloughed, so my workload has increased significantly. Nevertheless, I have been able to continue to provide advice and support to LGBTQ+ victims of discrimination and hate crime, as well as to LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing persecution.
Which members of the LGBTQ+ community have, in your view, been hit hardest by lockdown?
A lot of young LGBTQ+ people are stuck at home with homophobic families, unable to escape the abuse and unable to get support from LGBTQ+ youth organisations. LGBTQ+ people suffering domestic abuse have also been trapped with their abuser, without respite.
As someone who has faced many challenges, but always fiercely campaigned for LGBTQ+ and human rights, what is your message to young LGBTQ+ people who may be feeling anxious or overwhelmed in the current crisis?
I feel for you and what you are going through. Please remember, it will get better. Dark clouds never last forever. They eventually pass and the sunshine returns. So it will be with Covid-19. It will end too. In years to come, you will look back on this period as just a temporary blip and a distant memory.
2020 has, so far, been a difficult year for many of us within the LGBTQ+ community. Let us take inspiration from Peter, for his bravery, for his determination and for his powerful defence of LGBTQ+ people and the disenfranchised. As we mark Pride this year, we should all be proud of our glorious LGBTQ+ identities and proud that we have campaigners like Peter in our midst.
Please consider supporting the Peter Tatchell Foundation.