I often find it difficult to reflect on the significance of a particular event or anniversary in its larger context. However, as we approach 50 years since the Stonewall Riots
, I find myself thinking about how far the LGBTQ+ community has come and where we are headed in the future.
Growing up in New York, I learned about how the movement which emerged from the events of 1969 brought awareness, tolerance and eventually acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States as well as influencing communities around the world.
It was people like Marsha P. Johnson
and Harvey Milk
who resolved to stand up against neglect and discrimination. They and their successors emerged from the closet, putting their family, social and professional lives at risk in order to bring attention to the issues facing the LGBT community and advocate for positive change. They are why we have made progress to date.
As with any social movement, risk and uncertainty are inherent to driving change. Humans are naturally risk averse and tend to go with the safest course of action. I've struggled with this myself, playing it safe, never taking chances and being the kind of person who would walk halfway down the street and turn back to make sure the stove was off - which it almost certainly would be. Love, however, is different.
I met my partner one summer in New York, where the was visiting on a holiday from Scotland. Almost immediately, I found myself wondering, “Should I uproot my life and move to the UK on the chance that this relationship will work?” I knew the future was uncertain but that the potential reward would be well worth it. And so, after a year of preparation, I made the move, and I can say it was the best decision I ever made, as I'm now living happily with my partner in my adoptive country, five years strong.
My ability to take this leap to the UK was made possible by those who put their own futures at risk to love who they loved and bring the community to where it is today. Living in the UK, I can go into the office and be myself at work because of those who came out in the decades before. I live in a place where my relationship is accepted and seen as legitimate because of difficult conversations had with families and friends by those in years past.
I am grateful for these things, and at the same time I am conscious of those who cannot say the same.
There are still so many places around the world where Pride can't be celebrated because of hostility to LGBTQ+ individuals. And even in some of the places where we have made progress, there is a sense that hard-won rights are being rolled back. Even closer to home, there is more work to be done to advance trans rights, fight HIV/AIDs stigma, and address suicide in the LGBTQ+ community. We must always strive to do better.
These past few years I've been caught up in getting to know a new country, new job, and make a new life in Glasgow. I realised that despite the distractions of a busy modern life, I need to give back to the community that has given me so much and challenge myself to continue advocating for positive change.
I've joined the strong and vibrant LGBTQ+ network within Capco and am coordinating our first-ever march in Edinburgh Pride on the 22nd of June. I've also become involved in Glasgow and Scottish community groups looking to bring more services and education to the LGBTQ+ community. I'm hoping that even in my small way I can make some sort of a difference and bring positive change while improving how I deal with these challenges.
Whether LGBTQ+ or an ally, we can all play our part, even in small ways. Address discrimination at work or in public to help create a safe space for others. Attend a Pride event this summer in your local community. Volunteer for one of the many LGBTQ+ groups and charities who are all doing amazing work.
Later this month I'm heading back to my other home to attend World Pride in New York. As I reflect on the spirit of Stonewall and all those Prides that came after, it's clear that our advocacy is not just to bring change to our workplaces and communities for people at present, but also for those who will come after. I look forward to seeing what further progress our generation can make in the next 50 years, so there's ever more reason to celebrate in generations to come.