As a somewhat introverted and asocial author/academic, I find big social occasions (like Pride parades) a bit wearing (to say the least), but I can celebrate and fight in other, albeit quieter ways.
To this end, I've written this post to answer some of the questions I've been asked, mostly by those outside of the LGBT+ community (apologies if it comes across as 'splaining). This is my understanding. It's only one perspective, and I welcome respectful discussion.
I've also included a list of the LGBT+ characters in my stories, as this is another way in which I try to contribute to visibility and acceptance - as both an ally and member of the community.
What is Pride?
Wikipedia's definition is quite good (I don't usually quote from there):
Gay pride or LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people [sic] to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.
What is Pride month?
Pride month is a month-long (and longer, internationally) celebration of LGBT+ identities.
The reason it's in June is to commemorate the Stonewall Riots (June 28, 1969). On the night in question, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Christopher Street, NYC (what these days we might call a 'gay bar'). This was a frequent occurrence and part of the ongoing persecution and legal prosecution of LGBT+ people at that time. On this occasion, the persecuted fought back. It is a watershed moment in LGBT+ rights and led to further organised protests and campaigning for rights.
In the UK, most Pride celebrations and parades are held in July/August. The first Pride parade in London was in 1972, on the 1st of July - the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
This page lists the UK Pride dates for 2017: https://pinkuk.com/events/gay-pride-2017
What's with the (expanding) acronym?
(or 'why not put ALL of the letters in there?' See also 'why not straight pride?' and 'why labels are important')
The history of the start of those letters is debatable, and I've seen the 'original' incarnation both as GLB and LGB. When I was at university, the society was called the LGB Society, and it changed to the LGBT Society in the three years I was studying. That was 1995-8, and during that time, the term 'queer' was being hotly debated in academic circles. I won't go into that here.
The current variations of the acronym (those that appear most often) are:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans + anyone else who isn't heterosexual and/or cisgender (i.e. their gender identity matches that assigned at birth or corrected soon after)
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer/Questioning
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Asexual
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual/Poly
Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual/Ally and Gay/Genderqueer
Now, I don't venture far on the internet. I use it as a research and marketing tool. Mostly, I stay within the confines of Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, the Open University and my blog and websites. This means I miss most of the trolling, in-fighting and ridiculous, ignorant statements made by those who have absolutely no right to pass comment (OK, freedom of speech is theirs for the taking, but exercising it responsibly - or at least after they've engaged their brain - would seem the way to go).
For all of that, yesterday I came across two separate 'debates' about:
1. Whether the 'A' is for ally OR asexual;
2. What the point was of 'all those flags'.
I'll come back to both issues in due course.
The main point here is that most of these terms were first used in a derogatory way and were reclaimed by non-heterosexual/non-cisgender people, because reclaiming the word also reclaims the power infused into that word and highlights the inequality, discrimination, exclusion and persecution to which those who are tarnished with that label are subjected. This is also the case with the use of 'disabled', 'black' and 'people of colour', as well as some more culturally specific terms.
Even within similar societies, there are cultural differences in the way these labels are applied. For instance 'homo' has been reclaimed (and subverted so that it becomes a positive label for those who use it) by many in the USA, but it is still considered profoundly insulting and homophobic by many gay men in the UK.
In almost all cases, the labels were NOT applied BY the people who wear them; they were stuck on by those who hold the balance of power - the political majority - as a way of marking someone as different, other, an aberration.
What do I mean by the political majority?
This is the group that has the most power - not necessarily the most members. Regardless of the percentage of the global population that is -
not from Europe
- the global political majority is white, heterosexual, monogamous (and sexual), European (or of European descent) and male. This is the legacy of colonialism, slavery, imperialism and patriarchy.
That should give you the answer to 'why don't we have straight pride?'
It's the same (non)point people make when they retort 'all lives matter' when they see/hear 'black lives matter'. Our world is constructed by and for the political majority, who, 'naturally' (I contend not), make it the best possible place for themselves, almost always at the expense of others.
Seriously, if men didn't have to shit, I'd wager there'd be no toilets; only urinals.
So yes, of course all lives matter, and we should all be proud of who we are, but not at the expense of others. We don't matter more than anyone else, and we should use any privilege we do hold very wisely indeed. For instance, I'm white and European. More than that, I'm a UK citizen, which is the most privileged nationality in the world. My ancestors are responsible for slavery, genocide, rape and the desecration of so many cultures it beggars belief. They shaped the world we live in today:
The self-hatred of being black, and thus counting by definition as the weaker and the poorer, is great. Some are reluctant to identify themselves as blacks - they refer to their nation rather than to their real roots. Or they try to approach European beauty ideals. Smooth hair, pale skin; such things show the cultural damage the Europeans have left behind.White Europeans have caused irreparable damage to this world (culturally, ecologically), and with our privilege comes a responsibility to fix what we can.
(Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama, cultural scientist,
translated from https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5416099&s=imani+tafari-ama/)
Why not put all the letters in there?
Well, I have to say I quite like SAGA (sexuality and gender acceptance) as a shorter, all-encompassing acronym. I also like LGBT+, but then that treats anyone who's not lesbian, gay, bi or trans as an add-on, and it doesn't exclude me, so I have no right to an opinion. Ultimately, the people generally asking the question are part of the political majority - those who assigned all those labels in the first place. It's your own fault, so butt out.
Allied to this question is 'what's the point of all those flags?' The discussion I saw of this yesterday was initiated by a white, middle-class, cisgender gay man. Yep, the rainbow flag is just dandy if you're hitting most of those privileges.
It's sad to see the in-fighting within a community that came together because of shared experiences of (often violent) discrimination and persecution, but it's understandable, given the diversity. But it's also why the labels (and the flags) matter. Fighting for LGBT+ rights, if those rights are defined by white gay men, still excludes the majority of LGBT+ people.
The Making Of Us - yeah, yeah, I know I've been harping on about it for weeks, but it's out tomorrow, so it would be remiss of me to not include this when it's salient. ;)
"...if we want Pride to be truly inclusive, we all must become allies. Our gay members can’t understand how it feels to be lesbian, nor can our cisgender members appreciate what it’s like to be trans or non-binary. Our female members still fight patriarchal privilege, and the male members amongst us will never have to deal with that."
I'm not talking about the 'allies' mentioned earlier (i.e. whether the A in the acronym is for ally or asexual). Those allies are cisgender and heterosexual, and whilst they can do great work supporting their LGBT+ family, friends and community, "...allies have a choice. Now, I know some of you would say you don’t have a choice, but you do. If being an ally meant losing your friends, family, job...you could stop, walk away." (Yes, I'm quoting myself. Again. It's allowed.)
Incidentally, The Making Of Us has the lowest number of preorders of the entire Checking Him Out series, and I envisage that's a lot to do with the couple on the cover not looking 'queer enough' - an observation, not a complaint as such. Or not a complaint about not selling books; this is about erasure and part of 'why we need labels'. Many bisexual, non-binary and trans folks 'pass' as being part of the political majority because people make assumptions based on their appearance/relationship status, particularly if we're not 'out and
'Pride' is a celebration and commemoration of/for a massive group of diverse people unified by their fight for acceptance and equality - something that has been denied because of their gender and/or sexuality. Equality is not about ignoring or homogenising difference, even if that would make it a far easier battle to fight.
If you're an ally and you want to join the celebration, please be respectful of the safe space that LGBT+ people have fought so hard for. And if you're LGBT+, look after each other and have fun! I'll be raising my coffee cup to you.
10 Ways to Be an Ally and a Friend (from GLAAD):
1. Be a listener.
2. Be open-minded.
3. Be willing to talk.
4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.
5. Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.
9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at glaad.org.
LGBT+ characters in my books:
Note: some of these ARE DEFINITELY plot spoilers so proceed with caution.
'HBTC', 'CHO', 'GF' and 'SOT' are the series Hiding Behind The Couch, Checking Him Out, Gray Fisher and Seeds of Tyrone.
Poppy (Reunions/HBTC - secondary character)
Hay (To Be Sure/HBTC - secondary character)
Sarah (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Neema (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Lily (SOT - secondary character)
Jill (SOT - secondary character)
Molly (When Skies Have Fallen - secondary character)
Daphne (When Skies Have Fallen - secondary character)
Nic (Double Six)
Josh (HBTC - also asexual)
Ade (HBTC - also sub/poly)
Pete (HBTC - secondary character)
Gray (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF/HBTC)
Noah (Taking Him On/CHO)
Matty (Taking Him On/CHO)
Ben (The Making Of Us/CHO - also trans)
Arty (When Skies Have Fallen)
Jim (When Skies Have Fallen)
Flavier (Cherry Pop Valentine)
Sven (Cherry Pop Valentine)
Jorje (Sugar and Sawdust)
Alec (Sugar and Sawdust)
Charlie (HBTC - also poly)
Will (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF)
Jesse (The Making Of Us/CHO)
Chris (Champagne - also poly)
Kieran (Of The Bauble - also asexual)
Jack (And The Walls Came Tumbling Down)
Leah (Those Jeffries Boys/HBTC - secondary character)
Jazz (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character)
Ben (The Making Of Us/CHO - secondary character - also gay)
Leigh (queer - The Making Of Us/CHO - also intersex/NB)
Lee Johnson (questioning - HBTC)
Leigh (The Making Of Us/CHO - also queer/NB)
Josh (ace - HBTC - also gay/homoromantic)
Jason (aro - HBTC)
Xander (ace/aro - Ruminations/HBTC)
Aaron (ace/aro - The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF - also NB)
Kieran (ace - Of The Bauble - also biromantic)
Andy (pan - HBTC)
Charlie (poly - HBTC - also bi)
Shaunna (poly - HBTC)
Sean (poly - HBTC)
Sophie (poly - HBTC)
Ade (poly - HBTC - also gay/sub)
Chris (poly - Champagne - also bi)
Aaron (The WAG and The Scoundrel/GF - also ace/aro)
Leigh (The Making Of Us/CHO - also intersex/queer)
Jinn (Of The Bauble)
Thank for reading (if you got this far!)