Five years ago, this month, I came out as gay.
A lot has changed in my life (and the world) since then, and as I’ve become more open about myself I’ve been fortunate enough to live, study and work in largely accepting and welcoming environments.
I reached that point as a white, cisgender male from a stable home. I could be quite sure that I wouldn’t be disowned by my friends or family. My privilege meant that after coming out I could generally pass as a straight man in our heteronormative society and accept all the advantages that come with that.
For most LGBT+ people today, being out is not such a positive process, or even possible. In the UK, where people tell us (often to our faces) that these problems are a thing of the past, hate crime against LGBT+ people has doubled in the past five years and openly LGBT+ people are regularly attacked in public. Despite education and acceptance for LGBT+ young people literally saving lives, it’s still a “debate” whether to teach kids that LGBT+ people exist or should be treated equally. LGBT+ young people in the UK are much more likely to be homeless or to attempt suicide. Globally it’s much worse, with over 70 countries criminalising LGBT+ relationships in some way, and 14 imposing the death penalty for homosexuality. Stories of attacks and murders, particularly targeting trans people and people of colour, are increasingly common. This is all exacerbated by the resurgence of alt-right and far-right politics across the world bringing renewed legitimacy to blatantly homophobic and transphobic views.
This is why pride matters. Not the “rainbow capitalism” that increasingly uses the pride flag devoid of any context as a quick way to score some PR points, but the fight for real acceptance and equality for all LGBT+ people. Things do get better, they are getting better, but there’s still so far to go, and with the climate that’s emerged in the past few years it’s so easy for us to lose the rights that those before us fought so hard for. It’s also why visibility of LGBT+ people who are able to be out is still so important.
So yeah. I’m queer. And that matters.
For all the people who can’t say that this month.