June marks Pride Month, a chance to celebrate LGBTQIA people around the world as well as to fight for the rights of these communities. In Pride Month, LGBTQIA people should feel confident to live their best out and proud lives. But how can we be out and proud when we’re forced to stay in?
Right now, queer organisations are frantically organising, turning to new modes of communication and saying loudly that Pride (at least as a concept) is not cancelled; even though most of our marches and events will not take place this summer.
For someone like me, who works for LGBTQIA organisations and is blessed to be happily locked down with a loving partner and our puppy, living an out and proud life is pretty much a year-round event. The same can’t be said however, for the swathes of LGBTQIA young people who, due to lockdown, have been cut-off from their usual support networks. Many are forced to stay at home with parents and siblings who don’t affirm their identities or worse, are homophobic, transphobic and abusive.
As queer people it is said that we have our real family and our chosen family. For many, this notion starts at a young age and LGBTQIA youth clubs are often a real lifeline. During lockdown, the severing of real-life community support poses a danger to many LGBTQIA people. It is well documented that we face greater risk from mental health challenges than the average population, with 52% of LGBT people stating they’d suffer from depression over the course of a single year. A 2018 report found that 31% of LGB people had suicidal thoughts in the previous year. This figure leaps to 46% for transgender people (Stonewall, 2018).
If we then look more closely at young people, we’re presented with an even starker picture. A startling 27% of transgender young people have attempted suicide, with 89% having thought about it (Youth Chances, 2014).
Yet here we are, halfway through Pride Month 2020 and we’ve already seen a swathe of high-profile celebrities attacking trans identities. Meanwhile, the government is planning to shelve much-needed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (2004), in spite of evidence collected during a lengthy consultation process that said most people were in support of updates. These attacks on the identities and rights of our trans siblings is making Pride Month more than a little bittersweet.
So, let me say this now and say it only once: trans lives are not up for debate.
Trans people have existed in all cultures since ancient times. We are only debating the “trans issue” now because society is shifting to a broader understanding of gender. This is causing great prejudice amongst some, whilst others feel liberated and most, simply take it in their stride. It is troubling however, that the prejudiced minority group is shouting the loudest.
As supporters of PAPYRUS, if we are working for the prevention of suicide in young people, then transgender young people – some of the most at risk – need our compassion and understanding, not our judgement. Let’s support trans youth to feel pride in every day.
For an eloquent rebuttal of JK Rowling’s recent outburst, please read this open letter from the charity Mermaids UK.
For PAPYRUS resources on LGBTQIA+ and sexual orientation and gender, please click here.
If you’re a young person experiencing thoughts of suicide, or you’re concerned for a young person who might be, HOPELINEUK is here for you.
Call: 0800 068 41 41
Text: 07860 039 967