International Pride Day: fighting for the right to love
LGBTQI Pride Month, and in particular Pride Parade, is a time for big parties, celebrations, love, support, and good atmosphere. However, it is important to remember the reasons behind Pride to understand why it is necessary to keep celebrating and fighting for the right to love in all forms.
Until the 1960s, same-sex consensual relationships were considered “psychopathic sex”: considered a crime in most States, LGBTQI people would be not only taken to prison or killed, but also castrated, hypnotized, electroshocked, and lobotomized.
Starting in the 1960s along with the Civil Rights Movement, the new feminist wave, the hippie and counterculture movements, as well as protests against the Vietnam War, claims for LGBTQI rights reached their peak in 1969 with the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, a series of riots against the New York Police Department as a response to an arbitrary raid in the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQI-friendly bar in Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. At the time, homosexuality was openly frowned upon in the United States: queer people were publicly arrested and humiliated, thrown out of universities, considered sick—in fact, homosexuality was first removed from the list of mental illnesses of the American Psychiatric Association in 1973.
In the days following the raid, demonstrations continued and expanded throughout the city. These protests would later be honored on the last weekend of June, thus giving rise to the Christopher Street Liberation Day and to the spread of pride parades not only in the U.S., but all over the world.
Since the Stonewall Uprising, the LGBTQI community has been recognized many rights that used to be denied to its members not so long ago. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, and it was followed by several European countries, namely Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Ireland, Finland, Malta, Germany, Austria (in chronological order). The only African country recognizing this right is South Africa, while Taiwan recently became the only Asian country to legalize it. In the American continent, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the United States, Colombia, Ecuador, and most Mexican states have legalized same-sex marriage. Australia and New Zealand add to the total of 28 countries that so far have legalized same-sex marriage.
However, this does not mean that there is nothing else to fight for: from the right to have a family to the right to live, LGTBQI rights are still non-existent in most parts of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, at least 72 jurisdictions criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity between men, while 44 jurisdictions also criminalize such conduct between women. At least five countries still implement the death penalty for anyone who has engaged in same-sex conduct, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, but technically 12 jurisdictions (all ruled by sharia law) impose at least the possibility of the capital punishment even if they have never applied it (e.g. Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Qatar, Mauritania).
Furthermore, although the visibility of transgender people is increasing in popular culture, this community still has to face different forms of discrimination, stigma and inequality. While 15 jurisdictions still criminalize their gender identity and/or expression, also the countries that publicly accept and support transgender people offer a very limited or non-existent legal protection and impose barriers to healthcare and bureaucratic barriers to the acquisition of identity documents. An example of the several stigma that this community has to deal with on a daily basis is the World Health Organization’s belated decision to no longer consider transgender people as mentally ill in May 2019.
Apart from legal issues limiting the rights of the whole LGBTQI community and despite the many improvements developed during the last decades, its members are still forced to deal with a society that is still strongly influenced by traditional values. The sexual stigma against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or any other sexual orientation and/or gender identity has particularly negative effects on the youth: many still experience strong rejection from their families, thus increasing the likeliness of committing suicide, suffering high levels of depression, being homeless, using illegal drugs, and having risky sex.
In all, Pride is something that we all, queer or not, should celebrate because each person’s right to a private life and sexual orientation or gender identity is something to be proud about. Yet we must not forget that Pride is also a revindication of our rights as human beings, and as such there is still a lot to be done both nationally and internationally to treat every person equally regardless of whom they decide to love.