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Opinion & Analysis

Pride month, a time for joy and increased visibility

Photo by Johnny Bugeja. Last year’s Pride event.

By Christian Santos, Minister for Equality

Tomorrow, 1st June is the start of Pride Month, though Pride Day is officially on the 28th of June. This is the day we celebrate the anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots in New York which marked the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement 55 years ago. Last year was also a milestone anniversary locally celebrating the 30th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality in Gibraltar which happened under a GSLP Government. This didn’t happen overnight, it was the culmination of years hard work by campaigners locally, most especially by Charles Trico.

Pride Month is a time of both joy and increased visibility for the LGBTQ+ community. However, this heightened visibility often comes with a rise in negative opinions especially on social media. These opinions can be disheartening and damaging, reflecting the persistent prejudice and intolerance that still exist. Yet, it also underscores the importance of Pride Month itself—by standing together, we amplify our voices against hate and discrimination. The support and solidarity within the community and from allies during this time are vital in countering negativity, fostering a sense of belonging, and continuing the fight for equality and acceptance. The road to equality starts with non-judgement, acceptance and the strength to speak up against intolerance or abuse, more often than not hidden behind humour.

In the last 12 years, under the GSLP/LiberalGovernment, we have seen many positive changes in legislation affording members of the LGBTQ+ community equal rights in law. These include civil partnership, same sex marriage and a surrogacy act giving both individuals in a same sex couple equal legal status as parents. Socially there is still some work to be done. We boast of living in a tolerant community and though this is true, I would like to see ‘tolerance’ change to ‘acceptance’ and 'respect'. As Minister for Equality, I want to encourage a society which is diverse, truly inclusive and accepting of individuals’ identities.

There are people who still question the need to celebrate Pride. Celebrating gay pride is crucial for fostering inclusivity and acceptance within society. We need to be sympathetic to those countries around the world who do not enjoy the same rights as we do in Gibraltar. It honours the history and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community, highlighting the struggles and progress made toward equality. Gay pride events provide a platform for visibility, allowing individuals to express their identities openly and without fear. They promote awareness and education, challenging prejudice and discrimination. By celebrating gay pride, society affirms the dignity and rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, creating a more diverse, compassionate, and equitable world for everyone. We still need to campaign for the rights of the trans community and non-binary identifying people, members of the LGBTQ+ community whose journey to social acceptance is are still in a long way away.

I have spoken about my life and journey several times. Growing up gay has been a journey of self-discovery and resilience. Growing up feeling ‘different’, facing confusion and fear about my identity, worried about acceptance from family and friends, scared of never having a ‘normal’ life. A lot of us spend years trying to hide who we really are in order to fit in. Over time, I found strength in embracing who I am, finding support in allies and the LGBTQ+ community. Each step toward self-acceptance brought a profound sense of freedom and authenticity. It took me a long time to realise that the best thing that I could ever be was myself, that there was nothing wrong with me. I deserved to be loved, accepted and, more importantly, I deserved to be happy.

Despite the challenges, growing up gay has taught me the importance of love, empathy, and the courage to live my truth. It's a journey I'm proud of, one that shapes who I am today. I am proud to be who I am and I am proof that no matter what other people may tell you, you can still be who you want to be. Just over 30 years ago living my life as my true self was illegal. It would have been inconceivable for me to be married or to hold a seat in Parliament. See how far we have come!

So, when someone asks “Why Celebrate Gay Pride?”, I can answer very simply: it is because of ‘Pride’ that TODAY and every day of our lives, we can be ourselves.

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