With the success of the NHS vaccination programme, this will hopefully be one of the last blogs where I’m forced to bemoan how the virus is preventing another celebration of solidarity.
Once again Pride will largely take place online this year, though our LGBT+ activists are making tentative plans to join in with some physical protests and parties in August – fingers crossed!
But in the meantime even if we can’t be together in person, Pride month gives all LGBT+ people the opportunity to celebrate who we are and reflect on the fights we have won. We also need to remember that there are many fights we’ve yet to win before LGBT+ people in the UK and across the world can be open about who they love without any recriminations.
LGBT+ people have had a harder time of it than most during the pandemic. LGBT+ communities already experienced increased risk of mental health problems and suicide, as well as being more likely to face insecure housing and employment.
The pandemic and lockdown deepened these divides and the government failed to take any meaningful action to address the particular problems LGBT+ people face.
Already stretched mental health support was even harder to access while transgender people had an even harder time accessing the health services they need to transition.
Aside from the problems accessing the ‘official’ services the lockdown also caused real struggles for many LGBT+ people living at home with unsupportive families. For many, it’s hard enough coming out or being themselves at home.
When you take away informal support networks like friends or LGBT+ friendly spaces and have had to live a lie to avoid homophobic or transphobic abuse then you can begin to imagine the mental torture some people have gone through.
But this is why we have Pride and this is why we we’ll return to celebrate our pride once the pandemic is over. It’s not about big businesses draping themselves in the rainbow flag to attract some new customers, it’s about protest, solidarity and loudly, proudly declaring our right to be here.
Democracy in action
It looked for all the world like 2021 National Delegate Conference, UNISON’s annual parliament deciding how we run the union, was set to be another casualty of the pandemic.
But luckily our members will be able to gather virtually next week to make some key democratic decisions about our future.
While most of the proceedings will only be open to registered delegates, one of the positives about a virtual conference means anyone can come along to the fringe meetings.
I’ll be taking part in a Race for Equality panel discussion on Tuesday, it would be great to see you there.