Why Pride?

I am going to admit something I am ashamed of: I have never properly attended a Pride parade. There, I’ve said it. I am a 29 year old lesbian and I have never properly been to a Pride. I have been in London for Pride twice; both times I have missed the parade, wandered past stages and had a few drinks in Soho. For my local Pride, in Norwich, I have been in the city on the day but haven’t watched the parade or heard any speeches. I actually DJed a local gay club on Pride a few years back: what a night. So I am not a Pride novice but everything so far has been on the periphery. 2017 Norwich Pride will be different.

I recently put a question out on Twitter about what Pride means to individuals within the LGBT+ community and the responses were enlightening. Many people discussed how Pride events were about remembering our collective history and the struggles of the past. Others talked about it being about standing together in support of those LGBT+ people around the world that are not given the rights who are in Britain. Some mentioned that Pride is about visibility and raising awareness of the diversity within our society. The overwhelming majority of responses talked about Pride being a celebration. 

This discussion on Twitter led to me question why I hadn’t properly attended a Pride. The answer is embarrassingly simple: I hadn’t felt the need to. In the past I have, at times, felt embarrassed by my sexuality, as though it was something to hide; I didn’t feel like it was anything I wanted or needed to celebrate. How wrong I was.

In exactly a month today, Norwich, the city in which I live, holds its 9th annual Pride event that continues to go from strength to strength. Last year thousands of people lined the streets to celebrate the diversity of our ‘fine city’ with many local businesses and services supporting the event.  Those involved have work tirelessly to ensure the event continues to grow and that the celebration attracts a wide audience. The 2017 event is set to be bigger and better than the last.

This year I plan to pop my Pride cherry: I will be using my Twitter and instagram to report live from Norwich Pride, bringing the action to you as it happens. I will be looking around the different stalls, listening to inspiring speeches, watching the parade and sampling the Norwich nightlife. 

If any of your reading this live close enough to join us then please do; Norwich is a wonderful city with amazing architecture, a thriving university and a refreshingly liberal outlook. I feel immensely proud to live in a place that is so vibrant and that encourages such an open celebration of diversity. 

On the 29th July I, and the rest of Norwich, will be honouring LGBT+ history, raising awareness of those less fortunate than us, celebrating our differences and having a great deal of fun doing it: come and join us! 

It’s the little things . . .

Pay attention to detail next time you are in conversation with someone or listening to a presentation. Really listen. Do you ever hear the subtle, underlying messages that I heard today?

No teacher looks forward to a staff meeting; if you are in the profession you know the ones. Sat in a stuffy hall after a tiring day teaching, listening to things that you either already know or could have been put in an email. After one of the hottest days of the year this is the situation I found myself in today.  First on the agenda was an outside speaker talking about how to support young carers. 

In a sense, the topic of his presentation does not matter, it was the underlying gender stereotypes which caused irritation. I decided to carry out my own little test. As our guest spoke I began to notice him referring to ‘mum’ when giving examples of people who needed care. At the top of my notes pages I wrote ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. I kept a tally. In the 20 minute presentation our speaker referred to the person being cared for as ‘mum’ six times; not once did he refer to them as ‘dad’.

‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘It’s just a figure of speech’. ‘Don’t be so sensitive.’ ‘You’re such a feminist.’

Sensitive: no. Feminist: unapologetically yes. 

Why was it mum and not dad on every occasion? Is it that a woman’s role is to be the carer? Women are seen as the ones who do the cooking and cleaning, looking after their family. Maybe it’s because women have historically been submissive and need protecting. Could it be that it would be weak for a man to admit he needs help? Is a man less likely to need the support of others?

Whatever the reason, clearly no malice was intended. I am also fully aware that we all have some innate gender bias. However, if this is to change for future generations we need to challenge each other and think more carefully about the impact of, what we deem to be, insignificant comments. 

A global citizen 

Political events over the last year have brought into question the concept of being a global citizen; Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of Marine Le Pen in France.  Swaths of voters have chosen right wing, inward looking, isolationist policies at the very time that we should be looking outwards, reaching out and working together.

I, and many of my generation, have been left dismayed by political outcomes. As a teacher I have seen teenagers upset and angry that decisions about their future have been made by people that won’t be effected by the consequences. Whilst my passport says I am British, in many ways, I view myself as European: a global citizen. I don’t want to feel alienated from the rest of Europe due to my nationality and the decision by the 52% to leave the European Union. 

This will not become a rant about the referendum; yes I voted to remain but I fully respect the democratic process and the subsequent outcome. Would I prefer if we were remaining? Yes. Was I saddened and shocked by the outcome of the referendum: undoubtedly. However, one year on, we must accept and reflect on what has happened, finding the best possible solution for our country and our relationships with our neighbours.

When the news of the early General Election was announced I was shocked. The reasoning given was that, by electing a Tory government, we were giving Mrs May a clear mandate to negotiate a deal with Brussels. Suddenly the woman who had vowed not to call a snap election went against her word and did just that. From then on the election campaign was, for the Conservatives, about two things; Mrs May and Brexit. Their campaign was centred around a person not the party. In the eyes of the Tories this election was all about who is going to lead Britain through Brexit.

As voters we had a choice between a ‘bloody difficult woman’ and a sincere, honest politician. I want Brexit to result in a good deal for Britain but I don’t want a hard Brexit. I don’t want negotiations to break down and further alienate our European counterparts. I don’t want immigration quotas put in place to divide rather than unite. Quite clearly last year more people voted for a change to our relationship with Europe but at what cost? We are entering into the unknown, a period of uncertainty. No deal is not better than a bad deal. No deal leaves us even further isolated and powerless.

As the result of the General Election has become increasingly evident our questioning of the Tory campaign has become valid. Mrs May asked for a mandate to negotiate our exit deal from Europe and failed. Mrs May wanted to solidify her party’s control on British politics and has failed. Calling the election was a clear misjudgement and the decision has backfired. Rather than political stability and certainty we have the complete opposite.

When waking up this morning my faith in people to make politically astute decisions has been restored. There has been a lurch to the left with voters being won over by of Labour’s socialist policies whilst becoming disinterested with a tired Conservative rhetoric. As many of you wake you will hear Corbyn state that British politics has changed forever: I could not agree more.

Many voters will be rejoicing at the thought of Britain becoming a more equal and outward looking society. When speaking after the tragic London terrorist attack Mrs May made the mistake of suggesting changes to human rights whilst flippently stating that potential terrorists would be ‘deported back to their own countries’. This was the last in a series of catastrophic misjudgements. 

We are global citizens who want peace and unity, not division. We want equality whilst also celebrating our differences and diversity. My previous post discussed how Britain found itself at a political and social crossroad. Whilst that is still the case the events of election night have made the path just a little clearer.  

A country at a crossroads 

Today our country stands at a crossroads: by placing a small cross in a box we are making a monumental decision about which path our country takes. With  less than one hour until polling stations close I feel an immense feeling of fear and anticipation.

In recent years British politics has moved towards the middle ground. People have complained that there has been very little choice between the main political parties. This election has changed that. The campaigns of Labour and the Conservatives have been polar opposites: Labour have focused on public services ‘for the many’ whilst the Conservatives have been fixated on Brexit and May’s ‘strong and stable’ leadership. In many ways I welcome this variation; we finally have a clear choice with parties sticking to their core values rather than squabbling for the centre ground of politics. 

Six weeks ago nobody would have thought that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign would have been such a success. As a Labour voter I have been pleasantly surprised by his professional and robust campaign that has sparked both curiosity and admiration. Slowly, but surely, Corbyn has proved his critics wrong with a Labour campaign that gathered pace as we headed towards polling day. Whilst the last six weeks have not been a completely smooth path for Labour it has been a far bumpier ride for Mrs May and her counterparts. People have started to become numb to her tired rhetoric and the broken record of Brexit: their campaign has felt miscalculated. 

Our vote today is about more than Brexit: it is about the direction of our country. Yes, the winner of this election will lead us through negotiations to leave the EU but they will also be responsible for our NHS, education system and care of our elderly. Whatever the outcome of this election we will have learnt a few things:

1. Mrs May underestimated Corbyn’s ability to create a campaign that would ignite a passion for a fairer Britain.

2. Our country is more than Brexit and any politician who has neglected important issues such as education has misjudged our country’s priorities.

3. Young people have been inspired to take an interest in politics and vote.

The path chosen by the British people, at this time, remains unclear but, over the coming hours we will learn the direction of the country for the next five years.