27 June 2022

Ahead of the Pride in London parade on 2 July – marking 50 years since the first parade in the UK – members of the UK SLT Pride Network explore the history of pride and what it means today.

This year is the first time that both the RCSLT and the UK SLT Pride Network (formed early 2021) will attend a pride parade, and this joint appearance symbolises the start of a collaborative relationship in which we will work together to visibly support our profession and service users.

The involvement of organisations such as the RCSLT in parades like Pride in London shows the huge progress society has made over the past 50 years. But while Pride is a time for celebration, it’s also a time to reflect and explore areas that still require action, as well as remembering those who aren’t able to receive support or be their authentic self.

As countless companies turn their logos rainbow-coloured for the month of June, we wanted to delve into the history of Pride to pay respect to its origins and explain why it’s still so important today.

The origins of Pride

The first Pride in the UK took place in London in 1972 at a time in which LGBTQIA+ people could be prosecuted for homosexuality as it was seen as an illness. The UK protests were sparked by the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, which came as a culmination of police raids on LGBTQIA+ spaces.

At the forefront of the Stonewall riots and the fight against prejudice in New York were transgender women such as Martha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Trans and non-binary people and people of colour are a major part of the reason why pride exists, yet they are often most discriminated against within the community.

Pride in the modern era promotes acceptance as well as awareness. It can help some people to feel confident to embrace their true identity and join the community. People can feel empowered through expressing their authentic selves and in turn can empower others who may not be ‘out’ or may be exploring their own understanding of their identities. Increased visibility of gender diversity can raise awareness and acceptance both within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ space.

Progress beyond the parade

When public groups openly support issues such as Pride, it shows that societal stigma and fear are being broken down on the road to wider inclusion and celebration of a previously discriminated community. But despite progress, members of the LGBTQIA+ community face ongoing stigma on a daily basis.

We encourage organisations to centre Pride in their diversity work year-round, and not only while parading a colourful float. With recent political debate about the rights of trans and non-binary people, there should be a focus on protecting existing rights and working against discrimination. And as SLTs, increasing diversity in our profession will lead to better understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues, reduce fears around sexuality and gender identity, and improve mental health and wellbeing for those in the profession, as well as for our LGBTQIA+ service users.

Attending Pride for the first time as the UK SLT Pride Network is important for us to visibly represent a proportion of our profession. We encourage everyone to bring their whole selves to the profession and celebrate their identities, and aim to support members in our network nationwide to do so. We want to be the visible queer AHPs we wish we’d had as role models!

Pride should continue to celebrate and support the most marginalised members of the LGBTQIA+ community and those who fought for our freedom to be able to express our identities today.

Written by Kate Boot, Jessica Davies, Helen Robinson, Rick Vakharia (UK SLT Pride committee)

Follow the UK SLT Pride Network on Twitter and Instagram or sign up to the mailing list to join the network.

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