PRIDE IS STILL A PROTEST
Diana Award Holder Maya is an LGBTQ+ activist in Northern Ireland. This Pride Month, she is sharing why Pride is just as important today as it ever has been and explaining how you can be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
12 June 2019
In June 2016, a public poll gave support for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland at 70%, so what’s the big deal? Well the big deal is that same sex marriage has still not been legalised here. Whether people consider themselves more British, Irish or a mixture of both, there is a growing chasm between what people living in Northern Ireland and their fellow citizens, either in Ireland or the rest of the UK, experience around LGBTQ rights.
In the Republic of Ireland gay marriage was legalised in 2015 after a referendum in which 62% expressed support for marriage equality, while in the UK same-sex marriage was legalised in 2014. Five years on from this, despite the clearly expressed view of people in Northern Ireland, we continue to be misrepresented to the world as backward and repressed by our outdated broken political system.
Maya is an LGBTQ+ activist speaking out in support of equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
I’ve had the argument put to me that since Northern Ireland has a majority support for gay marriage that the country clearly isn’t homophobic, so what’s the point of feminist and pride movements pushing for equality? To that I say, a country’s legislation should be reflective of the views of the residents of that country, and that moving LGBTQ rights into legislation solidifies them in mainstream society.
Pride Month is celebrated every June in recognition of the Stonewall riots 50 years ago. The Stonewall Riots were triggered when LGBTQ people took to the streets to demand an end to their persecution and was a milestone moment which saw Pride grow from a protest movement to a lobbying movement. Since then we have seen LGBTQ rights gain respect and become enshrined in law. Having gay rights protected in law is not the first step towards the destruction of civilisation, as some would believe, but rather it is one of the many necessary steps towards equality after years of oppression, violence, and loss of life in the queer community.
“The injustices suffered and liberties denied to LGBTQ+ throughout history are shocking and it is our duty to follow after generations of activists who have passed the baton on to us.”
The injustices suffered and liberties denied to the LGBTQ community throughout history are shocking and it is our duty to follow after generations of activists who have passed the baton on to us. We have a responsibility to those who are vulnerable in our society, to make the terrifying journey of coming out that little bit easier in the hope that people in the future won’t have to make that journey of fear. Today in some countries, just existing as an LGBTQ person carries the death penalty and the fear of being abducted and tortured to death. And closer to home, as most recently seen in London, for LGBTQ people the threat of being beaten black and blue on the bus home, simply for existing as themselves, is all too real.
Research tells us that the introduction of same sex marriage is linked to a significant reduction in the rate of attempted suicide among LGBTQ children and youths. The provision of equal rights is clearly a life and death matter, so being passively “supportive” of equal marriage is not enough. If we want to live in a fairer society and want our children to grow up safely, then we must be active in the change we want to see in the world.
Maya was awarded the Diana Award in June 2019.
In the words of David Tennant, ”it’s time to be positively rebellious and rebelliously positive”. Rather than get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge and insignificance of your voice, or concerned that your actions won’t have any impact, we need to be courageous, have discussions, sign petitions and take action. Your actions, even small actions, can reach farther than you’d ever expect. If the introduction of same sex marriage and education about LGBTQ people can inspire just one conversation, in one home, helping just one child feel safe, then it is absolutely worth it.