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Through our Lens: What is Pride? - RJ Smith

Pride Flag portrait

When people mention “Gay Pride” or “Pride Season,” what are the first things that pop into your head?

To most, Pride means a festival, or a parade of floats followed by a huge street party in Canal Street bombarded by scantily clad men and Drag Queens! Drag Queens EVERYWHERE!

To me, Pride is a celebration of life, and a reminder that where there are Pride celebrations, the people there are free to be who they want to be. A haven for those who, for even a day, can release their true self and let their light shine bright.

However, this is not how it started. I am going to give you a history on how it all began…

The actual reason why we have Gay Pride events, is to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which started in the early hours of June 28 1969; after yet another raid by the police at the Stonewall Inn club in New York’s Greenwich Village. The raids were very frequent, sometimes as often as twice a week. During the raids, anyone who was wearing less than three items of clothing that matched their biological sex, would be arrested.

The difference however, on June 28, was that the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, had had enough, and the Stonewall Riots (as they are now known) erupted. This event triggered a week of protests and rioting by people from the LGBTQ+ community, who were fed up of being harassed by the authorities.

News of the riots spread around the world, and this inspired others to join protests and rights groups to fight for equality. A month after the riots, the first openly gay march took place in New York, demanding equality. After the Stonewall protests happened, the first Pride festival officially took place in the UK in 1972.

LGBT History Month logo

Around 2,000 people turned out for the event back then. But now, more than a million celebrate the event every year in London alone. The charity Stonewall was founded in the UK in 1989, named after the bar which sparked the famous riots. It works to fight inequality and homophobia, and campaigned to overturn the Section 28 law, which prevented teachers from talking about gay relationships at school in the UK.

Pride is a time for remembrance, not only about how we, as members of the LGBTQ+ rainbow spectrum got to where we are now, but also to remember those who are still suffering, those who are scared to live as their true self because of fear, not only fear of rejection, but in some places, fear of their own life. It is a time to remember those who have lost their light, either by suicide due to non-acceptance, or by the hands of those who do not understand. It is also a time where people who feel like they do not belong can go to. A place that they can be themselves.

My personal message to anyone who feels like they may be “different,” or feel that there is something “wrong” with them…you are not letting your bright light shine until you let others see you as you, not as the person you are pretending to be. Do not be afraid to be different, do not let anyone dim your light. You are loved, you will find your tribe, just as I did, and believe that there will be a better tomorrow.
Serco pride parade with giant ball and flag

Colleagues and our business thrive because of our inclusive approach to our talented and diverse workforce. We are constantly looking to improve our ways of working in order to make Serco an even better place to work for everybody.

Return to the main LGBT+ History Month page.