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WHY I’M CELEBRATING PRIDE THIS YEAR…
I read an interesting report recently by Stonewall and by way of introduction, it said, “Research tells us that in 2022, the United Kingdom is a country that is proud to be inclusive; one where its people are increasingly embracing their LGBTQI+ neighbours, colleagues, family and friends. However, with intolerant, minority viewpoints being presented as fact in our media and in our politics, it’s never been more important to show up to protect our rights.”
And it made me think. If we’re genuinely interested in making it a level playing field for all and giving everyone a fair chance to be accepted, respected and celebrated for being themselves, then ‘help protect’, we must.
In 2022, it will be 50 years since Pride first marched against police push-back, and it’s so it’s key to mark it for so many reasons, but it’s also important to do this all year round. Not just waving coloured flags but making a real effort to speak up, and to be inclusive and supportive human beings, 24/7. Part of that means voting with our money for the kind of world we want to live in, and supporting the businesses and artists that tend to be disproportionately represented.
Some of what I’ve learnt
Around one in fourteen people (7%) identify as being LGBTQI+ in Britain — for anyone who doesn’t know (I didn’t and being dyslexic doesn’t help!), this stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, non-binary, queer or questioning, and that’s not an exhaustive list. It also applies to genders and sexualities that are defined in other ways too or are even yet to be defined. When I spoke to Jack Guinness (founder of The Queer Bible, writer, model and presenter) on my podcast, he really opened up about the language we should be using in our society today when talking about members of the LGBTQI+ community. Jack said that so many of us worry about getting this wrong but really it’s just a matter of asking people what they identify as and educating ourselves, which takes the panic away. That and also not just using the words we’ve grown up with without ever questioning them.
Three in ten people (31%) are close to someone who identifies as being LGBTQI+. However, it turns out that just over half of Britons (55%) have no personal relation to this richly eclectic and colourful community at all¹. That’s surely why communication, actively reaching out and making an effort to understand people is crucial.
For the most part we’ve come a long way — certainly compared to half a decade ago anyway. YouGov’s recent research shared that some 85% of Britons now say that they would be supportive if their family member came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual, while 71% would feel the same if the person said they were transgender or non-binary, which is incredibly positive².
Yet recent Home Office statistics show hate crimes against people based on sexual orientation in the UK and Wales have doubled in the four years from 2016/17 to 2020/21. Doubled! Furthermore, in 2016/17, there were 8,569 of these crimes recorded by police but in 2021, this figure was 17,135. For hate crimes against transgender people, the number has risen from 1,195 to 2,630 in the same period³. Need I go on?
Who could possibly think that’s acceptable? Shouldn’t we all be worried for our kids and their futures? If we don’t try and address this now, who will and when? Talking about it one day a year at the annual Pride event isn’t going to make the difference we all need to see — especially when not everybody really understands what it stands for or really means.
And what about the small business community? It’s hard enough getting exposure as an independent retailer and competing with the marketing budgets and reach of big name brands. But if you’re LGBTQI+, you’re often less likely to get showcased, funded or shared which makes carving out a living for yourself incredibly difficult.
What can we do to show support?
We can all make a conscious decision to try and redress the balance by shopping with LGBTQI+ owned businesses year round, seeking out ways to support makers, leaving positive reviews and sharing and promoting their businesses to friends and family. If there are ways we can donate to LGBTQI+ charities (our time, money, services, voices or even just a little love), then let’s do it. I’m also looking at myself to see what more I can do, personally.
Meanwhile, I’d like to encourage everyone to take a look at the brilliant small businesses below (or you can find plenty more in The Great LGBTQ Business Directory set up by Kate and Sharon, the founders of Lesbemums, an LGBTQI+ family, travel and lifestyle blog about life as a two-mum family). If you don’t need to shop now, remember them for the next time you do, as there are some really wonderful shops, services and products available.
Category is books
This is a fiercely independent queer bookshop in the southside of Glasgow, founded by self-confessed ‘wusband and wusband team’, Charlotte and Fionn (‘Fin’) Duffy-Scott. They wanted to create a space for the LGBTQI+ community to learn about, be inspired by and share in their love of queer books, art, history, activism, writing and storytelling — and it’s an absolute treasure trove. Or if you’re based in London, try…
Gay’s the Word
The UK’s oldest LGBTQI+ bookshop. It was set up in 1979 by a group of gay socialists as a community space where all profits were funnelled back into the business. This ethos continues today with shelf-fulls of brilliant books and a space that’s used for all kinds of community events. Oh and as a reminder, you don’t need to identify as being LGBTQI+ to read the incredible literature from this beautifully curated shop!
Launched in June 2022, Queer Circle provides a new home for LGBTQI+ arts, culture and social action in the Design District of North Greenwich. It’s set to be a thriving hub, providing a holistic environment which celebrates queer identity, champions arts and culture, and supports the wellbeing of the community.
Scottish chocolatiers Quirky Chocolate are now making their exceptionally good chocolate in collaboration with Queer Britain — the UK’s first museum dedicated to marking and celebrating the rich and complex history of all things LGBTQI+ in Britain. They have just secured a permanent physical home in Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, and 100% of the profits from the museum shop go back into helping to fund it.
As they say themselves, “It’s nice to be beautiful, but it’s more beautiful to be nice.” This is a loud and proud LGBTQIA+ owned business, with a spectacular range of cruelty-free beauty products. All their vegan skincare uses natural ingredients, and they aim to use only eco-friendly natural packaging by 2023, and be completely carbon neutral by 2025.
The Queer Coffee Co
This magical brand combines two of the creator’s passions – furthering LGBTQI+ equality and sharing good coffee — and you can’t say fairer than that! Oh except that every purchase of one of their products supports the community with 20% of profits donated.
The Queer Brewing Project
I love to shine a light on people disrupting their industries in some way and founder Lily Waite is doing just that. Set up in 2019 in response to a lack of representation within the world of beer, The Queer Brewing Project aims to, “Build that community and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights”. Lily has worked with breweries to shift the balance (now brewing 30 beers in five different countries no less), and has raised £25,000 for LGBTQI+ charities.
Gay Pride Shop
Founders Ian and Jason have been selling their brightly coloured festival ware for years and have grown into the “UK’s biggest LGBTQI+ retailer” though as they also say, “OK, there’s probably more on Amazon if you total all the sellers up, but isn’t it better to support independent businesses; the ones that pay their fair share of tax in the UK, or don’t dodge their VAT payments by pretending to be a UK seller online, but ship in from the Far East? We give back to our community 52 weeks of the year. That’s why 15% of our profits will also be shared equally with these three amazing charities: The Albert Kennedy Trust, The George House Trust and Mermaids.” Isn’t that wonderful?
If you’re looking for other ways your shopping habits can help move the world forward, take a look at the social enterprises in my ‘Celebrating businesses that do good’ post. Remember, things will only change and improve if we get off our arses consistently to make it happen. Are you with me?