“The Black Lives Matter movement in the US and around the globe is an important reminder that Pride was and still is a protest to fight for our fundamental rights.”
June is Pride Month and it has been exciting to see how many LGBTQ+ people and their allies have found innovative ways to mark Pride this year.
This week I am interviewing Sanjay Sood-Smith. Sanjay is the Executive Director for Workplace and Community Programmes at Stonewall.
Sanjay was a Stonewall School Role Model, which involves going into schools to educate young people about coming out and LGBTQ+ issues. I have heard him speak passionately about eradicating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools.
He has campaigned prominently across a range of LGBTQ+ issues, with emphasis on BAME and trans communities. Sanjay has consistently used his platform to highlight LGBTQ+ issues.
What is your favourite Pride memory?
That’s easy! Manchester Pride 2010 – I was still living in Manchester after University and it is when I met my now husband for the first time! The whole feel of Manchester Pride is just electric because it wraps so many different things into one – it’s a fantastic celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and attracts such a diverse mix of people.
What do you think the impact of cancelling or postponing so many Pride events has been on the LGBTQ+ community?
This Pride has been an incredibly difficult one for the LGBTQ+ community. The Black Lives Matter movement in the US and around the globe is an important reminder that Pride was and still is a protest to fight for our fundamental rights. There can’t be true LGBTQ+ equality without equality for Black people, so we must all support the movement and become better allies for Black people. This Pride, while we can’t be together in person, we can still come together and help each other through the coronavirus crisis and what is undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone.
Which LGBTQ+ rights issue currently concerns you the most in the UK?
The Black Lives Matter movement has really highlighted the discrimination and oppression that is faced by Black people in this country and across the world. It’s so important to support this movement – amplify Black people’s voices and donate if you can to organisations who support Black LGBTQ+ people, and LGBTQ+ people of colour. Also, sadly the discrimination and abuse that trans people face on a daily basis still continues and has not let up over the pandemic. We need to maintain the momentum on campaigning for trans equality to ensure that we don’t lose ground on the progress that is being made. It takes a concerted effort from every single one of us to call out transphobia when we see it, understand and empathise with the challenges that the trans community face, and to take action.
Do you think that coronavirus and lockdown will have a lasting impact on the LGBTQ+ rights movement?
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted many communities hard, and deepened inequalities which already existed. We know that people of colour are more likely to be affected by the virus, and it is also forcing LGBTQ+ people into homes which may not be safe for them to be themselves. We need to come together to help our community through this time. But, the LGBTQ+ movement has faced multiple forms of adversity throughout history and has always found ways to push forward and overcome the challenges that are thrown our way. LGBTQ+ groups, campaigners and charities are finding new and resourceful ways to fight the good fight every single day and I know that our resolve is as strong as it ever was to make progress happen.
Do you have a hopeful message for 2021?
I think in amongst all the sadness and challenges in the world, people are starting to remember how important it is for us all to connect on a human level and we are re-evaluating our priorities and what is important. Let’s hold on to that, be kind to each other and use empathy to build a better and more equal world as we come out of this.
Sanjay’s responses resonated with me deeply. We must remember the sacrifice of generations of LGBTQ+ people before us, who helped to create the freedoms in the UK we currently have. As Sanjay emphasises though, we are far from achieving full equality and this is particularly the case for our BAME, trans and non-binary siblings.