'Why do we still need gay pride?' - here's why, says pride organiser

One of the organisers of a pride event in Sussex has explained why we still need gay pride events in the UK.

Picture: Eddie Mitchell

Now that gay people have marriage equality in our country, commonly-heard expressions are 'why don't we have straight pride?' or 'why do we need gay pride?'.

But at the recent launch of Worthing Pride at The Libertine bar in Portland Road, Worthing, co-organiser Josie Kelly explained that they are still a key event for promoting tolerance and making LGBT people feel part of society. Click here to read more about the line-up for the event on July 14.

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In a powerful speech, borrowed from an open letter she read by a member of the LGBT community, Josie said: "People ask why we even need gay pride. Do they have a point? After all, aren't LGBT people fully assimilated into society now, with the same rights as everyone else?

Picture: Eddie Mitchell

"They can get married, adopt children and even enjoy pride greetings from both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in Parliament.

"But these changes, whilst undoubtedly positive, mask a different reality. It's a reality of many same-sex couples who are frightened of holding hands in the public because in large parts of the country they are at risk of verbal and physical attack - and this is in the UK.

"And even if that doesn't happen, they will probably get accused of doing it to make a political statement or rubbing it in people's faces. After all, they couldn't possibly be holding hands just because they love each other?

"It is also the reality of many teenagers who are perceived as gay, whether it is true or not, and therefore subject to abuse and bullying by their peers.

Worthing Pride organiser Josie Kelly, second from right

"It is the reality of many members of faith communities. Whilst there are wonderful and accepting communities, of which LGBT people are full and active members, there are many where they are made to feel shameful for feelings they didn't choose or under pressure to take part in conversion therapies that could be extremely damaging for their mental health.

"Many trans men or women attempt suicide or self harm due to the despair they feel. And even for those living the dream: getting married and living in an area where LGBT people are usually safe, they may have parents who refuse to come to their wedding or family members who won't talk to them.

"Of course a few pride marches and events won't resolve all of these issues or bring equality overnight, but where anyone straight or LGBT takes part in pride, they send a message that LGBT people clearly, perhaps desperately, need to hear: you don't need to feel shame for who you love.

"Tell the LGBT community of Worthing that we won't stare or pass judgement. Why not take part in your Worthing Pride and send a message to all LGBT people of every age, race, religion that they can be proud of who they are."