Be Proud all Year Long

It’s great to see so many people and business joining in Pride Month in some capacity or another, but of course the cynical/observant amongst us will find it hard to ignore that it’s a time of the year used to drive sales and/or change and improve perceptions of brands. So many companies/businesses have come up with ranges, collections, products and campaigns to tie in with Pride month, and while I don’t wish to suggest they’re all doing it merely to make money, or show their company in a positive and inclusive light, there is no doubt that it’s effective. The business savvy undoubtedly see it as something they want to be seen taking part in.

Talking of brands taking part…..I instantly absolutely loved the items Primark have created in celebration, for aesthetic reasons -let’s face it they’re absolutely adorable, worn in a timely fashion or not – and because I thought it was great to see a brand that reaches such a vast, but also impressionable customer base, loudly showing support. I hoped that the collections, and the labels attached to the pieces, might encourage important questions and discussions between offspring and parents or a set of friends who may be shopping together. I was so pleased to discover that Primark are one the brands quite rightly doing more than just utilising the recognisable kaleidoscopic for stylish effect, donating 20% to https://www.stonewall.org.uk  

Nick Lambert, buyer
“Throughout the course of the project, it’s been absolutely vital to us that we join up good intentions with a meaningful way of giving back to the community, and that’s where Stonewall came in. I’m so pleased 20% of the sales of all full priced, Stonewall marked products will be donated to Stonewall, so they can continue their incredible work, in the UK and internationally.”

When I bought the cutesy rainbow striped jumper and socks home, and did my usual try-on in front of my greasy finger-stained wardrobe mirror I started to think about shooting them for the blog. I thought the shots would enable me to have a themed visual to post for today, where I could acknowledge the event, and in turn show my support. But the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I felt about it. While positive, it felt lazy. Sure some money had gone from my purchase towards a great and appropriate cause, but after posting the instagram, what was I going to do then?

Sure, we’ve always used fashion, and the items we adorn ourselves with as visual signposts, for as long as I can remember at least. People wear things to show an allegiance to a cause or scene, to be an easily recognisable part of a tribe, or to be walking billboard for messages or slogans of protest. It’s effective because they’re quick and easy to digest, and we hope it will tell people what we’re about, what we love, and even what we believe in.

But we also know just how easy it is to slip something on, but not have the information or education to back it up. Those things we buy because they simply ‘look cool’ or because we enjoy the graphic design – sometimes we wear things because we’re just so desperate to fit in with, or be part or something. While I’m not personally someone that gets particularly irate about this example, many find it aggravating to see people in band tees bought from high-street chains, particularly when the wearer doesn’t even know a song by the band they’re showcasing on their chests (close to their hearts). I know one guy that makes a point of grilling nonchalant wearers with a steely eye, demanding them to recite lyrics or the track listings to an album, all to prove they’re worthy of wearing it and being part of the club – I have far better things to do with my time, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.

So I decided if I am going to decorate myself with rainbow colours this year I want to really take time to think about how I’m gong to follow this through in other ways, and do some weightier things in terms of my support for the LGBTQ community. Sure it’s fun to dress up in bright coloured coloured clothes, and it’s ruddy nice to have an excuse to step away from beiges and muted tones for a weekend, and dress out of my comfort zone. Many of the Pride shindigs going on today are gong to be absolute hoot too, and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to be a part of them either. But what can we do for the rest of the year? What can we do that is long term and sustainable, that could make a real difference to the lives of the LGBTQ community? After all actions speak louder than clothes.

Like me, I hope that my audience would be doing things each day to encourage and strive for equality in general. Our attitude and those natural small things we are doing daily, that to most of us are so natural they’re barely noticeable, but that could cause those we come into contact with, who may have warped or outdated views, to stop and have a rethink. My parents for example, wouldn’t ever want to be thought of as prejudice, but there is the odd comment I’ll hear when we’re watching a film or tv show together featuring a gay actor/character or gay storyline. They’ll say an ‘off the cuff’ comment or joke, one that I wouldn’t ever think, let alone say, or think is okay to say. Of course they’d say they’re ‘just joking’ and I need to ‘lighten up’, but instead of just accepting it or letting them off the hook because ‘ it’s just their generation’, I choose these moments as a good time to challenge them.
I understand not everyone has a relationship with their parents that would make this easy or possible, but knowing that I do, I should really make a point to explain the many reasons why they shouldn’t say these things. Why it could be hurtful or damaging. Perhaps explain that they are stereotyping. Sometimes it’s merely telling them that a term that was once deemed okay to use is now considered derogatory, similarly I might inform them how the community have taken ownership of a particular term and giving it a new and positive meaning. With gender fluidity featuring in the press a lot more in recent years my parents have had to get to grips with a lot more than their 70 plus years find’s easy to understand. But with regular chats, and encouraging them to watch certain shows, I have definitely seen shifts in their understanding and attitude. They are now really grasping that these are not choices people make and starting to understand the deep emotional impacts it can have.

It’s how I view my approach to vegan activism in many ways. The art of activism they almost don’t realise is taking place. I just try and talk to in as calm a way as possible, try and help them understand the emotional impacts, and how prejudice can cruelly and unfairly effect people’s everyday lives and happiness. I also try and make them alert to many issues they’re clueless about, because they’re not on social media and don’t have a conveyer belt of information to draw from like we are fortunate (and sometime unfortunate) to have access to. As I’ve said just now, I’ve always found it extremely helpful to use film and documentaries to educate, so it doesn’t feel like a lecture (or a telling off) and they can learn while feeling entertainment. Also having one of one, intimate conversations are very helpful in general, where people feel comfortable asking the questions they often worry will make them sound silly, or fear might offend without intention. The sort of questions they are too intimidated or scared to ask in group scenarios in case it comes off in a way that makes them seem judgemental or uneducated.

I also feel there’s this assumption, one that I too probably subscribed rather naively to, that only heterosexuals need to work on themselves, their education and their activism, but an episode of Queer Eye Season 2 reminded me that this isn’t the case. French tucking fashion expert Tan explained emotionally to their first trans subject Skyler, who had just undergone top half surgery, that he was embarrassed that he wasn’t that immersed in the gay community. He went on to explain that he hadn’t met or conversed with a trans person before and how seeing the footage of him looking down at his chest for the first time post-op really brought home how important it is to get yourself to a point where you feel your in the right body for you. Just because you are part of the LGBTQ community it doesn’t mean you understand, relate to or have experiences similar to someone elses unique story.

As I write this article has actually been posted on my twitter feed – so read here for more from Tan –

https://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/interview-tan-france-queer-eye-gay-lgbt-pride-coming-out/364551

I have a friend, who this year has finally made it known to a select trusted few of us that she knows she was born in the wrong body, and is currently at the early of stages in terms of reaching out to professionals and seeking advice about what she can do to eventually be in the correct (female) body. I often feel ill-equipped to help and offer advice when she regularly reaches out to me for comfort and solace, worried that I’ll guide her in an incorrect or even dangerous way, or accidentally use a pronoun that will cause upset. While I try to encourage her to reach out to to charities, helplines, or people I know who have been through similar things, I have started to understand that she also just needs to know people in her life will stick around through it all, and that she just needs me/us to be gentle, to listen, and be patient. But perhaps most importantly we need to be respectful too. I think that’s something we can all do, particularly if we are unsure of anything and have questions we want to ask.

Like most of things I talk about in length on this blog, its not a one size fits all thing. People will feel very different about their journeys, and will experience different reactions from their loved ones. It’s so important we’re mindful of that too, and try to be sensitive to the intensity and overwhelming nature of the feelings they having, and the ferocious inner (outer) turmoil they’re potentially experiencing.

Gok Wan was on This Morning yesterday talking about some work he’s doing alongside The Gay Times, which I thought was very important to mention in today’s post for anyone that missed it.

The #globalpridemakeover encourages us to be aware of issues effecting the community all around the world. Some events that perhaps don’t get the media coverage they should over here, considering how atrocious they are. Last year in Chechyna LGBTQ people had their phones detained and their contacts used to trick their friends into concentration camps. A week ago at Instabul pride police fired rubber bullets into the crowd just because they wanted to march with pride. I won’t share more more as I really want you to watch the video below, but it’s truly shocking to hear what is still going onall over the world today. However far we’ve come, we have a long way to go, that much is clear.

I was equally saddened to read the stat that 2/3 couples are still afraid to hold their partners hands in public, my lovely and talented journalist friend Ben Tipple sadly admitting to being one of them last month via series of tweets. He started a thread via his Twitter referring to this, commenting on the fear that something might happen to them if they were to do this simple, almost mundane thing heterosexual people like myself take for granted. Worrying too, that people will see him as a ‘lesser person’. I guess because I wouldn’t think anything of seeing anyone holding hands, I hoped the majority of the public wouldn’t either, but that’s my naivety ringing out again. As Ben says ‘ It blows my mind that parents, colleagues, and communities still go out of their way to tell somebody that who they are is wrong or shameful. The damaging impact those people have is immeasurable.’

Something so pure, so natural, so everyday, something which symbolises interlinked lives or a loving connection. How heartbreaking that for many its an interaction that causes anxiety and a feeling or risk,  rather than a quietly comforting feeling that comes from enjoying the company of another in public. Even worse that it might be something you decide to deprive yourself of in an attempt to feel out of danger or judgement. And these words, the judgements, the bullying you experience in moments like this, and back in the school yard, stay with you forever. Ben shared that, ‘even with my eventual acceptance of myself, those emotional scars remain. They rear their head to remind me of a stolen adolescence and a confused early adulthood’. It’s just not fair.

I didn’t intend this to be an extensive article, but I just wanted us to think a bit less surface for a moment, and a bit less like this is something we just focus on for one day/month a year. Together I wanted us to come up with ways we can all consistently show our support, use our voices, our platforms, our daily kindness – all to make a positive difference to the LGBTQ community. So I would like us to share documentaries and films, essays or books, people on twitter, petitions we should sign, marches we should join, charities to volunteer or donate to etc. I want to ask people to feel free to tell me what I could be doing to be a genuine help, and not just appear to helping for the sake of an instagram post.

Here’s just a handful of things I’ve consumed, please share yours in the comments too….

Netflix/Amazon – Of course the sites deliver more mainstream, high profile offerings like Dallas Buyers Club, The Danish Girl, and Blue is the Warmest Colour and A single Man, but I’d thoroughly recommend you watch the documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson.

Twitter

https://twitter.com/MunroeBergdorf
https://twitter.com/PositiveLad

TV Show – Grace and Frankie

Theatre – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Book – Tranny – By Laura Jane Grace – https://www.waterstones.com/book/tranny/laura-jane-grace/9780316264372

I wish you all strength, unity, and love today, whatever you’re doing. And don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly encourage you to decorate yourself in all the beautiful colours of the rainbow today (and everyday), but lets make this a thing we continue post-pride too. Pride should not just be rainbow bright, it should be evergreen.

To those reading who might be struggling or who those know someone who might be (which is probably all of us) let me refer back to Ben’s simple but important words from Twitter.

You are OK to be you, and you have this.’

1 Comment

  1. Erin
    July 12, 2018 / 10:03 am

    I love this look I want it!

Leave a Reply