Beyond the rainbow: What Pride Month means to me

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I’ve always been a fan of Eastenders. From its gripping storylines to its portrayal of strong, powerful matriarchs (RIP Ronnie Mitchell!) As a gay, mixed-race man, I’ve found inspiration in the show’s fearless approach to tackling important issues.

One of its most ground-breaking moments came in January 1989, when it aired the first mouth-to-mouth same-sex kiss in British soap. This bold move not only pushed the boundaries of mainstream media but also highlighted the importance of representation and visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Recently, one of Eastenders’ best writers, Daran Little, posted a thought-provoking tweet:

“The thing about Pride – and this hits me every year – is I’ve never felt part of it. I don’t have a group of gay friends who do fantastic things together. I don’t want to feel part of a community. I just happen to be gay, it’s not something I’m proud of. Am I alone?”

As Pride Month comes to an end, I thought I’d write a reply to Daran. His sentiment is understandable. After all, why should anyone have to feel proud of their sexuality? It’s an inherent part of who we are, not an achievement or accomplishment. However, I believe that Pride Month is about more than just individual pride; it’s about standing in solidarity with our queer community and recognising the ongoing struggle for equality and acceptance.

While progress has been made in many parts of the world, the harsh reality is that being LGBTQ+ is still criminalised in 64 countries, with some even imposing the death penalty. This stark reality underscores the importance of Pride Month and the need for continued activism and support.

It’s true that Pride parades and rainbow lanyards are not compulsory, and no one should feel obligated to participate in these events or display symbols of support. However, it’s worth considering that the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the queer community today were not simply handed to us. They were hard-fought victories, secured through decades of tireless activism, brave individuals standing up for their rights and the power of a united community.

Photo of a mural created and exhibited at London’s Queer Britain Museum

From the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which catalysed the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, to the countless protests, marches and campaigns that followed, the progress we’ve made is a testament to the strength and resilience of the queer community. It’s a reminder that when we stand together, we have the power to effect change and challenge the status quo.

For me, this year’s Pride has taken on an even bigger meaning as the world continues to struggle with wars, racism and other forms of injustice. I’ve experienced both homophobia and racism in my personal and professional life from people of different races and sexual orientations, highlighting the complexity of these issues. My English mum and Jamaican dad always taught me about self-love, and in their eyes, I am “the best of both worlds.” This foundation has equipped me to fight these battles, but I recognise that not everyone has the same support. Racism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination are not shared experiences in the same way for everyone – they manifest differently depending on individual circumstances.  It’s important to respect and understand these diverse experiences.

In my career, being my authentic self is non-negotiable. I came out in my early teens, and hiding this part of myself at work was never an option. When I joined Sullivan & Stanley, their inclusive culture and commitment to diversity and equality made me feel respected, safe and valued.

Pride, for me, is about unity. Whether you’re gay, straight, bi, black, white or brown, it’s about coming together in friendship, love and respect. Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come, but it’s also a time to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. So, while Daran Little’s sentiment is valid and relatable, I believe that Pride Month serves a greater purpose. It’s not about individual pride or belonging to a specific group of friends; it’s about recognising the collective struggle, honouring the sacrifices made by those who came before us, and committing to the ongoing fight for equality.

Whether you choose to attend Pride parades, wear rainbows, or simply stand in quiet solidarity, remember that it’s all about overcoming adversity and continuing to push for a better future. That, in itself, is something to be proud of.

Ricky Wallace
Written by Ricky Wallace
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