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More than a month

It’s the start of Pride month, and I’ve got something to say.

The oppression of LGBTQIA+ rights by the UK government continues. Expect to see a hypocritical statement today from the PM pretending to celebrate Pride month.

The UK government won’t even ban conversion therapy after years of promises.

The discrimination and online abuse targeted at the LGBTQIA+ community continues.

Pink washing remains a very real feature. Expect to see companies utilising the Pride colours to sell products while not actually doing anything to support the LGBTQIA+ community.

The rolling back of trans rights in the US continues. Expect to see representatives of state hypocritically claiming the US is LGBTQIA+-friendly.

The ‘gender critical’ movement, although tiny, is vocal and appears to be led by someone who believes that women should carry guns in bathrooms.

The death penalty and prison sentences for LGBTQIA+ people still exist in places around the world for an identity that is not chosen.

There is even discrimination within the LGBTQIA+ community. How on earth can we expect respect if the community itself can’t respect its members??

It’s 20 years since Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales. Section 28 which ordered schools not to ‘promote the teaching … of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. However, I grew up in Kent in the south of England. Kent County Council (run then by Conservatives) decided to keep their own version of Section 28 for their schools. In 2004, Kent County Council chose to state that heterosexual marriage and family relationships were the only foundations for a civilised society. It was only until the Equality Act in 2010 that this was repealed.

The incredible Just Like Us have released a new report called Positive Futures today, 1st June 2023. The report demonstrates how crucial the support for young LGBT+ people is and how, if this support is not received, how devastating it can be in adulthood. The report had 3,695 respondents between the ages of 18 and 25 conducted between November 2022 and January 2023.

I’ve read through the report briefly, but here are some things I think should be noted:

  • the average age when people knew they were LGBTQIA+ is 14
  • 15% of those surveyed knew they were LGBTQIA+ before the age of 11
  • When schools had a supportive environment, LGBT+ respondents were four times more likely to say they were optimistic about their future all of the time
  • 88% of LGBT+ respondents and 61% of non-LGBT+ respondents say they would like to have been taught about LGBT+ topics at school
  • 65% of LGBT+ respondents have hurt themselves deliberately, compared to 31% of non-LGBT+ respondents
  • 74% of LGBT+ respondents have experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings compared to 43% of non-LGBT+ respondents
  • 60% of LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ respondents said they had no LGBT+ role models while they were growing up
  • more than 1 in 4 LGBT+ respondents said they felt unsupported at school, compared to 1 in 10 non-LGBT+ respondents
  • more than 1 in 3 LGBT+ respondents said they rarely or never felt good about themselves
  • 62% of out LGBT+ respondents experienced verbal abuse in the previous year

These are devastating figures.

We need to be stronger together.

We need our allies.

We need more than just pink washing.

We don’t need empty words.

To finish, I want to repeat my poem.

The queerest flower

Childish insults hurled round the 1980s playground, by misparented kids who didn’t know better, who learnt from elders who didn’t know better, should’ve known better, could’ve done better.

The pansy; full of light, yes, full of colour, yes. Thrown, and still thrown, by those who can’t formulate the words correctly to describe us and resort to hurling a stone alongside the name.

Oh lavender boy, still hiding in the flower pot, once a secret love token, now out in the open and not so sweet-smelling.

The dandy dandelion, although pleasant in appearance, is particularly shallow and unwieldy, yet may describe a person, so encompassed in appearance that it may seem a narcissistic passion.

Garlands of violet have long passed but still remain a symbolic gesture of secrecy, hidden yet still abundant, as water is to life.

Talking of symbols, the green carnation was a secret beholden unto those who knew its true meaning, yet we have no reason to hide.

For we are not broken, nor damaged, and continue to exist.

Yet none of these completely embody the essence of queerience, for the queerest flower is the purple saxifrage.

Saxifraga Oppositifolia… protected from dry, Arctic wind, resilient, yet present.

Prune us not, for we have no need of cutting,

We are perfection swathed in purple,

we thrive.

We thrive in the coldest of conditions, so bring on your cold shoulder, bring on the frost,

For we will survive, and thrive within the ice bath you enshroud us in.

In solidarity.

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