Pride Month 2021: What does Pride mean to you?
With Pride Month 2021 coming to an end today, we asked some members of the Healx family to share their thoughts on what Pride means to them. This is what Sean, a software engineer on our team, had to say:
Growing up a queer man in the UK in the ‘90s wasn’t easy. It was certainly easier than it had been in the decades before, but as a child I remember being bombarded with information from all sides about how it was unnatural and wrong to be ‘different’.
Matthew Shepard was murdered because of his sexuality in the USA in 1998 when I was ten years old; the age of consent wasn’t equalised until 2000; Section 28 – prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ and effectively making it illegal to educate young people about homosexuality – was in force in England & Wales until 2003; the HIV/AIDS pandemic was still fresh in the collective consciousness as a death sentence – especially to young gay men; civil partnerships for same-sex couples didn’t exist until 2004; and the Internet was still young and information wasn’t easy to come by, accurate or otherwise.
It was incredibly isolating to grow up and be scared of your own identity, scared that your parents might disown you if they found out (they didn’t), scared that you might be killed or die of a disease because of who you love. My sexuality felt like something I had to keep secret, in case it was found out and ruined my life in a myriad of ways.
Eventually I found my way to a number of support groups for LGBT youth, both in-person and online, and it was with one of them that I attended my first Pride march in London at 16 years old. It was a huge eye-opener for me to learn and see that there were people just like me, with the same hopes and fears for the future. People who’d lived full and happy lives being themselves. People who openly talked about their partners, whatever their gender. Pride was a bright, garish celebration of love and life, and acceptance of self.
Pride, to me, is the light in the darkness. Hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box. Pride gave me hope for a life where I could be myself, where I could love whomever I fell in love with without fear.
When I went to university, the first society I joined was the LGBT society, and I attended many of their social events, helping with a showcase of art and drama talent in my first year. I co-ran the society in my second year, and learned more and more about the many identities that make up the LGBTQIA+ rainbow. We ran campaigns, organised fundraisers, and made ourselves known.
Since leaving university I’ve attended many Pride marches, both as a volunteer for charities and as a participant in the parades. I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with speaking openly in workplaces about my partner, attended same-sex weddings, and have friends from all across the gender and sexuality spectrums. I am no longer afraid of people knowing who I am, no longer worried that it will hurt my chances at a job. It got better. The world got better.
But even now, we’re not there yet. Equality for all is a long way off and sometimes it’s easy to forget that Pride began as a riot, fighting back against an unjust system that criminalised people for who they were and who they loved. Pride now (in the UK at least) is a celebration of how far we’ve come, but also a reminder of how far we have yet to go. There are still many countries where it is unsafe to be openly LGBTQIA+. In the UK, for example, recorded hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ people continue to increase year-on-year. I still don’t feel safe walking down the street hand-in-hand with my partner.
It can be sobering and scary to look at the statistics, to hear the stories of those who have been injured or killed because of their identity. The world gets better, a little bit at a time, but sometimes far too slowly. It can be frustrating to feel like we’re taking two steps forward and one step backwards all the time. Sometimes it feels like we’re still struggling through darkness, trying to find the way out.
Pride, to me, is the light in that darkness. Hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box. Pride gave me hope for a life where I could be myself, where I could love whomever I fell in love with without fear. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a world where everyone is understood and included regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
Pride takes us there, one rainbow step at a time.