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Pride Month and Why we need to keep ‘coming out’.

It is unusual for me to write about LGBT issues, although I did write a similarly titled piece around a year ago. June is Pride month; many in the UK have adopted this celebration, and we have seen a month of rainbow-washed logos from brands big and small. On that subject, I agree with Mark Ritson, who mentioned in his piece for Marketing Week here that the impact of colour washing a brand’s logo has diminished somewhat. I am sure I am not the only person who believes some are just ‘jumping on the bandwagon. All the values that Pride represents should be inherent within a brand and should be demonstrated every day, not just every day in June. 

It’s controversial though; adding a rainbow wash to your logo can cause outrage. M&S upset customers by doing precisely that. Some customers felt the logo should be changed to acknowledge the Queen’s platinum jubilee, not Pride. Clearly, they felt that M&S were supporting the wrong sort of Queen! I found the comments here both amusing and concerning. I don’t dispute that our Queen is worthy of recognition and celebration for her dedication, but I also recognise that Pride is still absolutely necessary. 

Whenever Pride is mentioned, I hear stories of those outside the LGBT community questioning, “What about straight pride” and “Why do we still need it? They have equal rights now?”. The answer is that we still need it because we may have equal rights, but we do not have equality. It concerns me that there are still sixty-nine countries where it is illegal to be gay. That is sixty-nine countries where I have to hide my sexuality, modify my behaviour, or risk facing the consequences if I choose to visit them. Being criminalised though may seem preferable to being sentenced to death for being Gay, which is the case in more than ten countries, including Qatar, where the 2022 World Cup will be hosted later this year!

Now I, for one, am not a football fan, and some may assume that none of us gays like football, but I have gay friends who enjoy the game and are concerned about the lack of representation in the sport. Fifa clearly recognises the challenge and risk this represents for LGBT fans and has issued warnings to Qatar as some of the hotels are refusing to allow gay guests to stay. It doesn’t feel like inclusivity was high on the agenda when the criteria for hosting the world cup was decided.

If you think the death penalties are just old laws that would never be enforced today, then you should look at this article from February 2022. Even in western countries, there are those who believe gay people should be “lined up against a wall and shot in the back of the head“. Now that’s not the sort of thing you see in the tourist information. 

Does that help explain why Pride is necessary, not just in this country but worldwide? Tolerance and acceptance are growing, but there is still a very long way to go. I have not even touched on Trans issues. I am not qualified to speak on behalf of the Trans community, but I see the challenges they face, and it saddens me. Right now, I am seeing much furore about Roe vs Wade in the US. There is much talk about protecting the rights of women and the rights of an unborn child, both of which are important. Indeed the right for Trans people to live the life they choose is of equal importance, isn’t it?

Why is Pride celebrated in June though? Here in the UK, Pride events start around February and run through to September; many towns and cities in the UK will hold a Pride event; you can take a look and see if your city has one here: UK Pride Events 2022. One reason is that it stemmed from the commemoration of the Stonewall riots back in 1969. Sick of persecution Pride was originally a protest, I’d like to think now it is a celebration of how far we have come, but we should also be using it to highlight how far there is to go.

I believe it is essential for people of differing walks of life to share their experiences. To be visible, in part to try and re-frame perceptions or stereotypes and to stand up and be part of the community. I consider myself, amongst other things, a visible gay man who is a decent person, a successful business owner, and most importantly, a gay adoptive parent. I hope my being visible as a gay dad inspires others to become parents, too and to see that your sexuality should not affect your ability to become a parent. 

For clarity, although I usually write about Bellyflop, the professional video production company I run and a whole host of related topics such as video marketing and corporate video content, this article has none of that stuff; you may have noticed that already. You’ll have to wait until next time for something more on-brand.

For those that don’t know me that well, I am a gay man in my 40s, and I first came out over 20 years ago. I say first because, as the title implies, coming out is something gay men continue doing throughout their lives. Sexuality is not something most heterosexual people have to consider daily, but for the LGBT community, it is.

I highlighted some of these issues in 2012 after losing my first Husband to cancer. I recall sitting in a hospital waiting room with him, and the nurse came to call him for his appointment. The nurse challenged us as I stood with him to go with him. Looking at me, she said assertively, ‘and you are?” At that moment, my Husband had a choice, should he deny me and refer to me as a friend who had come with him? Or does he ‘out’ us in a busy waiting room by saying I am his Husband. He chose the latter, but that encounter has stayed with me.

Fast forward to the present day. I feel confident and comfortable in myself within my community, both at home and work, whether in my close circle of friends or a wider circle of business peers and acquaintances. People know I have a same-sex partner, and many will know I am an adoptive parent, but outside of this circle, most people do not.

At a recent event within a community where I am less well known, I was reminded again of how ‘coming out’ is a continuous process; I’ll explain.

Because of the taunting, bullying and prejudice the LGBT community have faced over the years, many have learned to mask their true identity. I do it less now than ever before because I try not to, but it can be difficult. Like most people, I want a peaceful life without stress and seeing someone’s reaction to you coming out can be awkward. When meeting someone for the first time and engaging in conversation, I would previously refer to my Husband using gender-neutral terms such as ‘my other half’, ‘my partner’, ‘they’ etc. whilst continuously scanning and assessing whether this person is ‘safe’ to come out to. Do they seem like someone who will judge me?

Of course, this is entirely hypocritical as all the while I am making my assessment of how this person may react, I am judging using clues around cultural, political or religious beliefs which may influence their reaction to my true identity. Instead, I now actively refer to my Husband and use the correct he/him pronouns. I still read the response to see whether the new acquaintance is accepting or uncomfortable, but now I realise their comfort is not my responsibility. I am simply being my true self.

This sort of ‘coming out’ or disclosure may not be the dramatic or flamboyant affair we see in the movies, but it is no less stressful. It is just another train of thought that must be managed and another fight or flight trigger that must be tamed. The only way to rid the LGBT community of this additional anxiety is for us to live in a world that accepts one another for who they are so people can present their authentic selves without fear of reprisals or discrimination. This is just one of the reasons why we need Pride because ‘coming out’ shouldn’t be a regular occurrence for anyone. If we just accepted people, no one would have to ‘come out’… ever. 

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