Pride month, celebrated every year by LGBTQIA+ groups and activists, has been a different experience this year. All the vibrant parades, concerts and marches have shifted online due to the pandemic. The fight, however, dates back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots uprising, which took place in New York where community protests were held for several days. Today, there has been enormous progress, both at the global and local level, with governments and businesses standing up to fight for LGBTQIA rights. The younger generation, especially is much more accepting of people with different orientations. It’s this kind of shift in thinking that can bring a greater change when it comes to transforming people’s mindsets.
There are already some good signs though. In 2020, Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, US, signed the Virginia Values Act, enacting comprehensive protections for the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and access to credit. Northam also signed legislation that bans the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ (a medical practice that falsely professes to be able to change the sexual orientation of members of the LGBTQIA+ community) for minors and approved measures that increase protection for transgender students in public schools in Virginia.
“Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” Northam said. “This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effect on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide. No one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are—especially not a child. I am proud to sign this ban into law.”
More governments around the world are following suit. This month, Tamil Nadu became the first state to ban conversion therapy after the Madras High Court called for a ban on it and demanded legal action against those who practice it. The United Kingdom, too, pledged to ban conversion therapy in May this year, as was announced in the Queen’s speech, which claimed that these “abhorrent practices” can cause mental and physical harm. Earlier this month, Columbia in South Carolina, US, banned licensed therapists from offering conversion therapy to minors—this is in addition to 20 other states in the US, including Washington, DC.
The history of tolerance, however, goes back to some of the most progressive and inclusive societies like Denmark, which became the first nation in the world to recognise registered same-sex partnerships in 1989. In 2019, Taiwan, too, legalised gay marriage.
Then there is Philadelphia. Dubbed as one of the most LGBTQIA-friendly cities, it introduced the Philly Pride flag in 2017, adding two new stripes—brown and black—to the top of the popular six-coloured stripe rainbow flag. The Gayborhood district in Philadelphia is also a major hub for clubs, bars, lounges, bookstores, boutiques, restaurants and shops, which are open to inclusion and intersectionality. The city is also known to host Pride Parades, which typically see more than 25,000 participants. This year, it’s due to take place in September.
New Zealand, too, has a network of gay- and lesbian-friendly homestays. Toronto’s The Village, the cultural hub of the city located in Church-Wellesley, is home to galleries, theatres and many gay-friendly businesses.
The Pride flag itself has had many different variations, one of them being the ‘Progress Pride’ flag, which was redesigned in 2018 by Portland designer Daniel Quasar. The flag contains black and brown stripes on the left along with other colours.
Mental health problems, however, are a real danger for the community. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance use, etc, are common in LGBTQ+ youth as they deal with discrimination, homo/transphobia, isolation, exclusion and rejection. It can also have a negative impact on one’s self-worth and self-acceptance. Jahnavi Shah, occupational therapist, Mpower-The Centre, a holistic mental healthcare organisation in Mumbai, suggests ways to stay connected and reach out to those supportive of the journey. “Find a network of LGBTQ+ individuals who you can relate to. Channel your emotions and feelings through a creative outlet. Write, draw, paint, design, dance, perform, etc. Remember and appreciate the help, support, acceptance and loving words that you have received. This is easier said than done, but this intentional effort to shift the focus from the negative to the positive will help improve mood. Activities like journalling, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and listening to music also help.”