Why the world doesn't need a “Straight Pride”
June is the height of the LGBT+ Pride season, and 2019 is a big year: it marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Although the struggle for equality began long before then, the Uprising is recognised as a catalyst for the modern LGBT+ movement that brought much of the equality and rights many of us enjoy today.
This week, a group of men in Boston applied to the city government to hold a “Straight Pride” in August, arguing that straight people are an oppressed group. While it’s unclear as to the seriousness with which they take their position, it does bring up the interesting question of: does there need to be a “Straight Pride”?
2019 has already been a highly contested year for LGBT+ rights and equality. Same-sex couples in Taiwan came out in their hundreds in May to register their newly-legal equal unions; in Brazil, the High Court ruled that homophobic and transphobic discrimination to be criminal offences; new reports of gay men being tortured in Chechnya emerged; and significantly, Brunei changed its penal code to allow the stoning to death of people convicted of same-sex intimacy.
This shifting patchwork in terms of equality, protection, discrimination, persecution and violence is why Pride is so important. It is a way for queer people to show the world that we are here and we should not be treated differently for being who we are and loving who we love. However, in many places it is still a challenge even to hold a Pride event.
As an organisation that is based in the UK, Kaleidoscope Trust works to support our partners and friends on the front lines making positive change for LGBT+ people around the world.
Our The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) partner Collectif Arc-en-Ciel (CAEC) plans the Pride march in Mauritius every year. In 2018, it was cancelled due to the number of protesters that turned up. In a statement to Gay Star News, CAEC said: “It is shocking that a group of protesters were able to gather illegally and with apparent impunity, among them armed individuals, in order to deliberately obstruct a group of persons exercising their legal and legitimate freedom of expression.”
eSwatini’s (formerly Swaziland) first LGBT+ Pride was almost shut down by government last year. Organised by TCEN member The Rock of Hope, an LGBT+ non-profit based there, the event showcased the country’s queer community even though sodomy is illegal.
Then-Communications Officer Melusi Simelane was one of the key players in ensuring the Pride parade went ahead and was a success. Reflecting on the experience, he said: “We had to battle it out with the police last year. However, with great support from the local Human Rights Commission, and the American Embassy, we were able to persuade them to understand that everything we were doing was within our rights.”
On the idea of a “Straight Pride”, Melusi commented, “The concern is their reasoning. It is that very premise that pushes us to work even hard, because we clearly present a threat to them, by being rightful citizens, who enjoy the same liberties as them.
I would rather say to the LGBT+ community, this is a reminder that, though our existence has been paid for by blood and continued persecution, and indeed prosecution in other parts of the world, our journey to equality is still ahead.”
This is why “Straight Pride” is not needed. Cisgendered and straight people are not being attacked, refused housing, rejected by their families or denied an education or employment because of their gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or sex characteristics. For LGBT+ people around the globe, this is all too often the reality and, in the face of oppression and criminalisation, Pride gives a platform to queer people around the globe to express themselves freely and demand to be treated equally.
It should never be illegal to be you.