Pride matters to me. As a young gay man, I cherish the memories I made at my first Pride in Brighton, and while I won’t tell you what happened, let me just say I was there, it was great fun, and I was still there the next morning!
This year, Pride Month is a reminder of all the extraordinary progress we’ve made in the last 50 years, and the huge milestones we’ve achieved: Equal marriage, gay adoption, the equalisation on the age of consent, gay and bisexual men being able to donate blood, LGBTQ+ personnel serving in the armed forces. The list goes on.
The LGBTQ+ community has never been a homogenous community. We’ve always been different, and it is that celebration of individualism and our collective bonds that has defined the last 50 years. We are all different, but all equal.
Whilst we should rightly celebrate the achievements of the last 50 years, the overturning of Roe v. Wade in America illustrates that equality is not a one-way street.
What we’re now seeing in America and sadly in the UK, are deliberate attempts to take us backwards on LGBTQ+ rights.
There is a perception amongst some in the LGBTQ+ community that things can only ever get better. I speak from my own experience that many people in the community I most associate with have fallen into the trap of comfortable complacency.
As a gay kid growing up there weren’t many role models in the public eye. This is why visibility matters. I’m not sure how many people will actually see a £50 note but knowing Alan Turing is on it helps, in a small way, right a wrong and provides welcome #lgbt visibility. pic.twitter.com/cZVxXYS5vu
— Luke Pollard MP (@LukePollard) March 25, 2021
Often, cisgendered, affluent gay men, are complaining about the politics in Pride. This is a generation from whom the struggle exists only in the history books, and not in their daily lives.
Many of those who are comfortably complacent at the moment have not experienced rollback. But we don’t need to go far to see people who are experiencing it every day. Those that seek to row back on our rights are focusing on the group within the LGBTQ+ family that is most marginalised – our trans and non-binary friends.
The level of hate crime, the level of abuse, the marginalisation, the fact that the same headlines being used against the gay community in the ’80s are being used against trans people now. We can see that. It is there for us to see if we open our eyes.
Is our history not littered with examples where to conquer, people are divided? Where minor differences are exploited, and where people are pitched against one another when otherwise they would stand tall alongside each other.
We should be in no doubt that those people who want to take us back have a plan. It is a plan that will take many years to deliver but they do have a plan and a clear direction of travel. What we’re seeing in America is having attacked trans people, the proponents of that same argument are now coming for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body.
Although we have a different set up in the UK, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade has the same consequences on this side of the pond too. So totemic is the decision that it’s not just American women who will feel the consequences of this ruling.
Once they’ve come after a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, who’s next? It will be equal marriage. It will be the rights that LGBTQ+ citizens enjoy currently.
The fight for equality needs to be visible. Those in the public eye like me need to shake ourselves from any notion of comfortable complacency. We need to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ communities. We must not accept any othering or any marginalisation of any LGBTQ+ groups in our community.
For all the pitfalls and perils we currently face, equality should be a one-way street. But only if we have the courage, the visibility and determination to say: ‘No U-turns ahead’. Progressive rights are hard fought for and can be easily lost. Solidarity in fighting for other people’s rights, is a key part of protecting your own.
Justice Clarence Thomas has called for the Supreme Court to take aim at various other constitutional rights such as contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriagehttps://t.co/n4V17XNdFF
— GAY TIMES (@gaytimes) June 26, 2022
Each generation must make this fight their own. Each generation has their role models, their queer heroes, and those lost too soon. For today’s young people, the Heartstopper generation, being authentically you is not up for debate.
This generation of young people have born into a world where equality, authenticity, and solidarity are not rights to be won, but the inalienable possession of each and every person.
You don’t want to mess with the Heartstopper generation. After I spoke about Netflix’s Heartstopper in a parliamentary debate two weeks ago, I’ve been staggered by the warmth and generosity of a generation who don’t divide but lift each other up.
"That visibility has changed lives." 🏳️⚧️
— GAY TIMES (@gaytimes) June 13, 2022
Those people who are seeking to roll back equality, who are attacking our trans friends, and those stoking the culture wars, should be warned that the Heartstopper generation has political power as well.
Roe v. Wade illustrates that no one is equal until we are all equal. We need to find that same strength and courage to stand with one another in the LGBTQ+ community. We need to understand that we are different, but it’s those differences that make us great. And it is those differences that Britain as a force for good in the world must champion.
That means not being comfortably complacent, not accepting any rollback abroad and not accepting any rollback at home.
Luke Pollard is a member of the Labour and Co-operative parties currently serving as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.