OPINION: The Pride season is not a party, but a fight for justice

by Harjot Singh | McCann Worldgroup
Tuesday, 9 June 2020 07:35 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many LGBT+ people are suffering disproportionately in the pandemic, so our fight this Pride season needs to be for them

Harjot Singh is the Chief Strategy Officer, UK & Europe, for McCann Worldgroup

Pride. A day, a feeling, a sense of being. There are so many facets to it. To me, Pride is personal and deeply individual.

There are so many ways we experience it, share it and live it. But it is also a deeply poignant time because at the heart of the celebration lies a community that has been socially marginalised, oppressed, exploited and discriminated against because of their shared identity.

Let’s forget about the pandemic for a minute.

Let’s challenge the ongoing discourse that suggests that LGBT+ rights and social acceptance have come far.

In the United States alone, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. and are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide.

In another national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. And 92% of these individuals said they had attempted suicide before the age of 25.

Attributing this to social media and cyber-bullying is an overly simplistic and ill-informed response.

Let’s also remember that, as a 45-year old, being gay was considered an illness when I was a teenager. The World Health Organization only removed homosexuality from their list of “diseases” 30 years ago.

And so let’s put progress in perspective. Next time you hear how far we have come, remember that 70 countries, or more than a third of the world, still criminalise homosexuality.

Can you think of another community that faces persecution at such global scale?

Now let’s bring in the pandemic and understand the degree to which it is amplifying the effect on our already vulnerable community.

History has taught us that in times of crisis, the marginalised suffer to a much greater extent than the general population.

These vulnerabilities are especially amplified for a community that is already struggling against inequality, discrimination and personal danger, in everything from accessing justice, to education, health, housing and employment. Let alone in other countries where they risk detainment, imprisonment, and prosecution.  

This Pride season, let’s not forget that Covid-19, if left unchecked, will be no different, as pointed out by Outright Action International in a recent report.

Most global frameworks that guide emergency responses use a narrow gender lens. This often overlooks specific barriers that LGBT+ people may face and ultimately excludes them from accessing support.

In many countries LGBT+ people already survive without job protections, while facing discrimination from family members. That means they are especially vulnerable to economic slowdowns and lockdowns. They also suffer from confidentiality breaches and prejudice from healthcare providers and may therefore be more reluctant to seek medical help.

And then there is the history of LGBT+ populations being blamed for crises, often by conservative religious leaders, leading to heightened stigma and violence.

Scapegoating of LGBT+ community began early during the COVID-19 pandemic in countries including Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Liberia, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, the United States, Israel, and Zimbabwe, according to Outright Action International's report.

Lastly, I want to remind you that progress in our global community relies on advocacy, community support and strategic litigation and lobbying. COVID-19 has witnessed a drop in donation levels and created financial uncertainty around the funding of key services for our communities.

So this Pride season, as we won’t be marching or partying, we may be less distracted by its superficial aspects.

Even though the fight for equality and inclusion can’t be relegated to a single day or month, Pride is the perfect time to raise the volume and draw attention to the importance of what we have accomplished and the urgency of what still needs to be done.

And when you next meet someone from our community, once this lockdown is over, ask how you can be an ally. We are always recruiting.

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