Pride Month in a Plague Year – By Lucy Caldicott

It’s a strange Pride Month this year. Instead of coming together in festivals, marches and celebrations during June and on into the summer, over 500 Prides around the world have been cancelled or postponed. Lesbians, gay men, bi, and transgender people the world over are reeling from the impacts of Covid-19 just like everyone else. As June draws to a close I’ve been thinking about the fights for equality that Pride represents and the impact of Covid-19 on our communities.

People who are already disproportionately affected by homelessness, mental health issues, and employment discrimination will be facing tough times, and those with multiple intersecting identities are at even greater risk. NAZ, a BAME-led sexual health agency, reports on the differential impact of the lockdown experienced by the range of client groups it works with including HIV positive and LGBTQ people and refugees. 

Stonewall’s 2018 report into LGBTQ people’s health showed that we experience higher levels of mental illness than the general population, and often face barriers or discrimination when accessing wider healthcare. That’s even before the emergence of this devastating new virus. LGBTQ people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, and Transgender people report experiences that are significantly worse. Stonewall has drawn attention to the greater risk of marginalisation within crises

Pride Month and LGBTQ spaces are incredibly important for creating a sense of community and opportunity to gather safely. Many of us enjoy a moment to relax in a place where for once you don’t stand out. If you do stand out, then that’s because you’ve chosen to. 

Opening Doors London reports that a greater proportion of older LGBTQ people are single and living alone. Far less likely to have support from children or extended family, many experience loneliness and social isolation all the time. This period of lockdown must be particularly tough for them, as community centres and social activities are unavailable, and access to friends will have been limited. Many community groups have moved their support services online or via telephone, but the voluntary sector is struggling and it’s hard to see how things will return to how they were.

And, of course, “home” isn’t even safe for everyone. Many young people aren’t out to their families but may have had to return abruptly during lockdown, going back in, in more ways than one. According to the Albert Kennedy Trust, 24 per cent of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ. This is often because they’ve been rejected by their families. And one in ten of us report domestic abuse from a partner. This stat increases to one in five for transgender people.

In 2019 a survey found that LGBTQ employees in the UK take home on average £6,703 less per year compared to non-LGBTQ people. This is a pay gap of 16 per cent. This places LGBTQ people at increased financial risk during COVID-19 even before the true long-term economic impacts of the pandemic are felt. 

And what about the impact to LGBTQ spaces? We’re looking at an existential crisis for the hospitality industry as a whole. Will pubs and clubs as we knew them ever be able to re-open viably as businesses? We’ve already lost so many of our safe spaces. Some are now announcing plans to reopen and there have been thousands of virtual events during this time, but LGBTQ venues, many of which were already precarious before lockdown, would seem more vulnerable in a competitive post-Covid world.

We’re all anxious about what lies ahead but trying to focus on a world after Covid-19 where we work together to reduce inequalities and where opportunities to come together, whether that’s physically or virtually are there for us all. Post-Covid recovery plans should recognise the inequalities that this virus has exposed and amplified. 

The community spirit and fight for LGBTQ equality that Pride represents is as important in 2020 as it ever was. I wish everyone, wherever and however you are celebrating, a very Happy Pride.  

Edited by Sarah Hutchinson

Lucy Caldicott Lucy is a councillor for Stockwell ward in the London Borough of Lambeth and stood as PPC in Dudley South in the 2019 General Election.

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