Somewhere beyond the rainbow
Rainbow flags are hoisted, company logos are recolored, diversity statements are published and everything suddenly becomes more colourful. Because it's June and, like every year, it's all about Pride Month. A great reason to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ scene. LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Inter*/Queer. The aim of the community and of the month is to celebrate open dealings with one's own sexuality, self-acceptance and gender identity and to stand up and demonstrate for rights worldwide. The word "pride" stands for self-confidence in dealing with one's own identity and sexual orientation. Great thing, but is a month and a rainbow enough to actually achieve 100% inclusion in society?
CAUTION: A RAINBOW MAY NOT BE ENOUGH
Pride Month starts on May 17th. Because this day marks the IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) and is supplemented by the subsequent Pride Month in June, on which traditional events, information campaigns, demonstrations and much more take place. The IDAHOBIT itself has its origins in 2004. At that time, the day was launched as an international celebration and information day to strengthen the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. May 17 was chosen as the annual date because the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the list of diseases on May 17, 1992. Uh, wait a minute... That's right: 1992! Shockingly, it's only been 30 years since homosexuality is no longer seen as a disease.
The day is now celebrated in over 130 countries around the world. But although a lot has changed in recent years, the fight for actual equality, as well as acting out and publicly identifying yourself as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, is far from over. And in a world where people are still being dehumanized because of their sexual identity and sexuality, it's not just up to those affected to address the issue.
1969: FROM GREENWICH TO THE STREETS
Christopher Street Day - also called Pride or Gay Pride depending on the country - was named after a street in Greenwich Village, New York City. Not without reason: this street was home to the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that was regularly raided by the police, patrons were written down and even arrested. In June 1969, New York police officers met resistance for the first time. Gays, lesbians and transsexuals gathered and stood up for their rights for days. At that time, several violent demonstrations took place between the gay community and the police. These represented an important turning point in the modern LGBTQIA+ movement, as they were the first demonstrations in which gay and transgender people demonstrated together for their rights on the streets. An impulse for many changes. Since then, the last Sunday in June has been celebrated as Gay Pride Day and gradually expanded to become Pride Month - in Germany for the first time in 1979 in Berlin.
Whether Pride, CSD or Gay Pride and whether June, July or December - it is important that those demonstrations are carried out in order to permanently shake off that feeling of shame that is often imposed by society. The aim of every protest should be to be able to express one's own sexual identity and sexuality with self-confidence and self-determination and to campaign for equal rights for everyone. Pride Month has always been considered the most important month to honor the LGBTQIA+ community and to raise awareness of acceptance and equality.
FROM PRIDE MONTH TO PRIDE MONTHS
In fact, there are so many more ways than just flying the flag 30 days a year or coloring your own company logo. Enlightening your own community with blog posts like this one, for example. Or follow-up talks and interviews with LGBTQIA+ people that provide insight into how companies and individuals can make a real difference. Or the use of LGBTQIA+ employees or diversity managers. And yes, rainbow socks are also a way, especially if the sales proceeds go to clubs that support the LGBTQIA+ community. But beware of the so-called “pinkwashing” – because not everything that says Pride on it also says Pride. Because unfortunately there are also companies that present themselves as such on the outside, but are anything but queer-friendly on the inside, for example in terms of internal structures and work processes. All of these are ways that can make a difference all year round. And just make many Pride Months out of one Pride Month.
Especially in times of a global pandemic, demonstrating together has become more difficult. But that doesn't matter, because off the street there are also wonderful books worth reading, films worth seeing and numerous public figures who you can easily follow from the comfort of your sofa and get involved as an activist. Here are a few examples to and from the house:
Activist: Riccardo Simonetti
Riccardo Simonetti is an entertainer, activist and the European Union's official LGBTQIA+ goodwill ambassador. On his channel, he gives the community more visibility and campaigns for the topic - all year round.
Author: Mark Geisser
Book: The Pink Line
What else do we actually need Pride Month for? And haven't we already achieved enough for the LGBTQIA+ community worldwide? Well, puff cake. In his book The Pink Line, South African journalist Mark Gewisser not only describes the global struggles over sexual self-determination and gender identity, but also explores the conflicts and contradictions of contemporary identity politics. And shows: yes, we need Pride Month - and so much more!
Movie: 120 BPM
Directed by Robin Campillo
The political drama from France tells the story of AIDS activists in Paris in the 1990s. The film chronicles the blossoming relationship between HIV-positive mainstream activist Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and HIV-negative newcomer Nathan (Arnaud Valois) as they protest against pharmaceutical companies and the French healthcare system holding back vital medicines. And is as close to their attitude to life as fiction can be. French director Robin Campillo was himself a member of the activist group Act Up, which is the subject of his film. She is still committed to the rights of HIV-infected people today. Act Up stands for Aids Coalition to Unleash Power and was founded in New York in 1987. The organization soon formed offshoots worldwide. They drew attention to themselves with protest actions and argued with pharmaceutical companies and health associations about the publication of study results and drug approvals.
Organization: ENOUGH is ENOUGH
Born in 2013 from a global campaign against increasing anti-LGBTIQ* legislation and violence in Russia, the international organization ENOUGH is ENOUGH has been campaigning for the LGBTIQ+ community in an unprecedented way ever since. After a historic protest with thousands of participants, the organization is now one of Germany's largest human rights organizations with a focus on spreading awareness and education to achieve broader visibility for the community. They also work with high-profile social media campaigns to combat discrimination through organized demonstrations.
3 STEPS TO HELP #PROTESTTHISSHIT
After enlightenment is before activism – and vice versa. Education is important, but commitment is too. Here are three steps on how everyone can support the LGBTQIA+ scene and show their colors off the beaten path:
1. KNOW THE RIGHTS TO DO THE RIGHT THING
It is true that Germany is a lot more progressive than other countries when it comes to equal rights – but that doesn’t make us a paradise under the rainbow by a long shot. Anyone who wants to campaign for equality should therefore also find out about the legal background. For example, about the protective right for minorities: the Anti-Discrimination Act (or General Equal Treatment Act). Since 2006, the federal law has prohibited discrimination on the grounds of "ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity".
This applies not only to private individuals, but also to employers. Helpful information brochures and publications, for example, are available free of charge on the website of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, sorted by topic. So, let's go!
2. GAY JOKES? THAT JOKE IS ON YOU
Welcome to the year 2021. Because here it has long been clear that heterosexuality is not necessarily the norm. It doesn't matter whether it's at night partying, at a coffee party with parents or talking to colleagues at work: stupid sayings or swear words like "gay" should be vehemently contradicted. Because anyone who uses "gay" as a swear word is not funny but insulting (and at most unimaginative; editor's note). Instead, respectful language that respects the desires and self-image of the LGBTQIA+ community should be the norm. So the casual "gay marriage" simply becomes "marriage for all" or "gender reassignment" becomes "gender reassignment". And then there's the question with the pronoun. Because he/he or she/he just isn't enough to include everyone. And yes, that's not always easy. But nobody expects instant perfection. Because every small change is better than never making a start.
3. TAKE YOUR TIME FOR HATE
Sending AFD exclamation mark-soaked messages via Twitter is soooo 2018. At least that's the felt truth. And yet the internet is currently flooded with prejudice and hate messages against the LGBTQIA+ community. If you are confronted with this, you should definitely take your time: time to contradict. Because every comment is an activist effort - whether on the street or at home. It doesn't matter if it's June or any other month of the year.
Even if this article was created in consultation with contacts from the LGBTQIA+ community, it is of course only one way of looking at things. That's why it was our team from STOP THE WATER WHILE USING ME! a concern not only to write about the community, but also to talk to it. In our interview, we spoke to our former colleague and long-time companion Jana Bier about rainbow socks, activist role models and the CSD.