Saturday 7th July 2018 was one of the most important days of my life. Marching in London Pride with my colleagues, whether they were LGBTQ+ or allies, reinforced my long standing belief that the British Heart Foundation is a place where we as queer people can feel safe and comfortable.
Many of us know finding comfort in yourself and your surroundings, and feeling safe, can be difficult to come by even now. If you’re an LGBTQ+ child, you’re more likely to find yourself homeless. This group makes up almost a quarter of all the homeless youth population. More than three quarters of these young people say their sexual orientation or gender identity was the reason for this. We’re also more likely to commit suicide as a young LGBTQ+ person.
More than twice as likely. If you’re transgender, it’s even higher still.
These aren’t just stats; this is the world we’re living in, that we’re all a part of.
Every queer person has a different story, but what’s undeniable is that we have very different experiences compared to the straight majority. It depends where you grow up, it depends on your family, it depends on your support network (if you even have one)…there are so many variables. While it might be easy living in the wealth of diversity in London to think that we are equal — we are not. It’s that simple. We do not have equal rights, and we have to fight for everything we have.
Considering I just marched for my workplace in London Pride — let’s start there. It only became illegal to discriminate against us in 2003. I’ve always known I was gay since I understood what gay was, so for most of high school I was facing the fact that I could be refused a job based on my sexuality. I also thought I’d never be able to get married or have children, because that’s what the law told me.
It seems archaic looking back now, but this was my experience growing up. To this day I wonder how the older generation of LGBTQ+ people coped — when their very existence was illegal and they had little or no rights at all. It wasn’t until 1967 that sex between two men, ‘in private’ only, was decriminalised in England and Wales. Scotland didn’t catch up until 1980, and Northern Ireland in 1982.
Not to be accused of harping on the past, let me bring your attention back to the present. Gay cure therapy. It’s legal in the UK. A ‘treatment’ to cure you of your LGBTQ+ status by various methods of torture, humiliation, degradation, psychological abuse and chemical castration. Perfectly legal — although recently our government is ‘working towards’ a ban, currently in Europe the only two countries that have made this illegal are Malta and Switzerland in 2016.
So now, as much as ever, it’s important to not just celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, but also to support us as allies in the fight to be treated equally. Whether you’re marching in a Pride event, donating to charities or raising a child that might just turn out to be a little ‘different’, every consideration you can give helps us.
I’m very proud to work for the British Heart Foundation, where we truly strive to beat heartbreak for everyone, no matter who you are.