Celebrating Pride Month with Ellie Jones

To help us celebrate Pride Month, Ellie Jones, CEO, Liberate, speaks to us about her experiences.

Celebrating Pride Month with Ellie Jones

This year’s Pride month marks 50 years since the UK's first protest march for LGBTQ+ rights.

The march took place in 1972, calling for gay people to be treated the same as straight people. Only 700 people turned up. Many were too scared to march. They thought everyone would be arrested. That didn’t happen, but they were swamped by a very heavy, aggressive police presence.

People held hands and kissed in public - which was an arrestable offence in those days for gay people. Unlike nowadays, there was no festival or entertainment after the march.

Looking back over the 50 years, it is extraordinary the way Pride has grown from one march with less than a thousand people to dozens of nationwide events with millions of people attending.

Why do we still need Pride is a question I’m asked a lot:

  • It’s not always been easy to be an out LGBTQ+ person. I live in Guernsey, which was occupied by German forces during World War Two. During this occupation, people like me would have been rounded up and sent to a concentration camp and made to wear the infamous Pink Triangle.
  • When I first started school, people here in Guernsey could still have been arrested for being gay, as decriminalisation of homosexuality only happened in 1983!
  • There are still 70 countries where being LGBTQ+ is criminalised. In 11, you can be sentenced to death for consensual ‘same-sex activity’. One of these is Qatar, where the football world cup is being held this year. How many gay fans will feel safe travelling there?
  • America has laws where you can legally justify murdering people using the ‘gay and trans panic defence’. This essentially means that someone can use the excuse ‘I didn’t realise they were gay/trans, and when they told me, I freaked out, panicked and shot them’. Which in 2022 seems unbelievable.
  • The year I started secondary school coincided with the introduction of Section 28. Exactly a week after my 12th birthday, schools were instructed that they ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality’ or ‘teach of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretend family relationship’. Effectively this made it illegal to even discuss LGBTQ+ issues in schools. In practice, it stopped teachers from dealing with homophobic bullying and denied thousands of young gay men inclusive sex education at the height of the AIDS epidemic. This was only withdrawn in the early 2000’s.

This, along with other anti-LGBTQ+ laws, has left a legacy of secrecy and shame that still affects many people today. Pride is an opportunity to show people across the globe that we welcome and support people of all sexualities and gender identities, even if where they live, it might not be safe or legal to hold Pride events or even hold hands, never mind being able to be open and proud about who you are.

For some, Pride is the one day a year they can feel visible, supported and comfortable being themselves.

Ellie Jones, CEO, Liberate

Ellie will be speaking at our annual conference, Governance Guernsey, which will take place on Thursday 29 September at St Pierre Park hotel, Guernsey. Book your place today - https://www.cgi.org.uk/events/conferences/governance-guernsey

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