Celebrate with Pride – but the fight for equality isn’t over yet

The following article was published in the Western Mail on Saturday 26th August 2017

Pride Cymru returns to the streets of Cardiff this weekend. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans (LGBT) people, and our allies will parade through the streets of the capital before gathering outside City Hall for two days of celebration. Pride is a lot of fun but it is also serious business. Because even today, life as an LGBT person isn’t always fun or easy for everyone.

In many countries around the world you can be punished by the state and persecuted just for being LGBT or celebrating LGBT identities. In some countries, people are executed for this. Just this week, the government in Uganda forced pride to be cancelled denouncing it as an “illegal attempt to promote homosexuality.”

Discrimination comes in many forms. In the US – one of closest international allies – Donald Trump is instituting an assault on the human rights of military personnel with a ban on trans people serving.

In Northern Ireland, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry as they do in Wales, Scotland and England.
On our streets, LGBT people can still face abuse and hate crime, and in our schools too many children are bullied for being, or suspected of being, gay. So for all our progress, we remain unequal.

Pride started as a protest because LGBT people were being denied our human rights. It is still the place to shout and demand a better, fairer world. But it’s also a chance to give hope.

There is cause to celebrate and be optimistic for change in Wales. In recent weeks, the Welsh Government has begun a three year all-Wales trial, making anti-HIV drug PrEP available to all who would benefit. The long campaign to end discrimination in safe blood donation took a step forward with the commitment to reducing the deferral period from twelve to three months for gay and bi men. There is still work to do to base donation criteria on individual risk factors, rather than crude categorisation.

The lack of health services for trans people across the country has been a serious concern. But the announcement by Health Secretary Vaughan Gething of a new Gender Identity Service for Wales is very welcome as it will mean trans health services closer to home, supported by a network of local GPs.

So we know that when we work together, we can get things done.

The wonderful diversity we see around us at Pride Cymru is a part of a modern Wales that we should all feel a part of, and proud of. Though we have a way to go, we have come so far. And the progress that LGBT people make every day, we make with our allies and friends.

When I realised I was gay, I didn’t have any gay role models, no discussion, no support. I had no allies. It isn’t always easy to be yourself, particularly when you are younger. We sometimes think that in a world with more LGBT people visible on TV and in the hyper-connected world of social media that no one can feel like this anymore. That is far from the truth.

You don’t have to be LGBT to be a good ally and a friend. Be someone who listens, be someone who’s there to talk – and be someone who speaks up. Helping someone else to be themselves is one of the best things any one of us can do.

So let’s take the chance to celebrate this weekend. Have fun. But for all the pageantry of pride, let’s not forget we still have some way to go on our journey, and ask yourself what you can do to play a part.

Jeremy Miles is the Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Neath and a patron of LGBT Labour Wales

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