Diversity is such a buzz word at the moment isn’t it? Constantly “Where’s the diversity?!” cries at any campaign or marketing venture. I’ve made those cries myself.
Diversity: a range of different things
It’s something that I massively back, and it’s something that is a key motivator for me being here, in this little corner of the Internet. And it’s my first thought when asked to take part in anything – I say yes, not necessarily because I want an opportunity to get Leo’s name out there, but because within the mix of people doing the same – I want a gay person in there.
Diversity doesn’t invalidate or elevate one person over another. Its a range of different things. That means everyone should be viewed on an equal basis, each individual is valid in their own right – but we just need to see the range of different things. Whether thats sexuality, ethicnity, gender or otherwise.
The gay person I want to see portrayed doesn’t have to be me. Whoever it is, I just want to see a gay person represented in the conversation whether it’s around Baby Loss, or parenting or anything at all. And whilst we are on the subject, I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but there is actually a huge range of diversity between gay people. That means, we could consider having more than the token gay person included – and venture into multiple gay people!
I’m sure others just see it as a tick box exercise. Gay person? Tick. Disabled person? Tick. Woman? Tick. Get enough ticks, and you are diverse. Job done. Applause all around. This tick box task undermines the reasonings behind the need for being diverse, however. I have a fair amount of ‘privledge’ – I’m not naive to that. But I equally understand that it’s important to recognise yourself in something you are being asked to invest in – whether that’s financially, or emotionally. Does it speak to you? Does it include you? Most marketers would acknowledge that they need their marketing to be relatable to the customer. And on a marketing view point in an increasingly diverse world, that makes diversity crucial.
For me, however, the need for diversity isn’t just about seeing myself reflected in something. Its about the importance of acknowledging that edging away from the typical stereotype of people just goes to aid the visibility and understanding that most of all, people are different and that is okay. Whilst visibility is increasing, the societal responses to this is still lacking in giving us hope over frustration. Diving (stupidly) into comment threads lately tells me that whilst the world likes to think its accepting these days, it really, really isn’t. Being subjected to my own homophobic comment thread, let alone reading others (just see the responses to Tom Daley & Dustin Lance Black having a baby) just highlights that #PrideMatters and ‘equal rights doesn’t equal equality’ which is central to this year’s Pride in London theme.
Pride is, first and foremost, a protest. It’s a giant call for visibility, for acceptance, for rights, for awareness. It might dress up as a party, flamboyant in places and sprinkled in rainbow glitter – but at the core, it’s run far deeper. It’s 46 year history in London has seen key moments in UK history: decriminalisation of sex ‘in private’ between two men over the age of 21 in Scotland (1980) and then in Northern Ireland (1981); the introduction of Section 28 that sought to prevent the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local authorities and schools’, leading to the coming out of Sir Ian McKellen and the foundation of Stonewall (1988); declassification of same-sex attraction as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (1992); lowering of the age of consent between two men to 18 (1994); the first Trans Day of Remembrance (1999); the Bombing of the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Soho, killing three people (1999); Lesbians, gay men and bi people allowed to openly serve in the UK armed forces (2000); age of consent between men lowered to 16, equal to straight people (2001); Section 28 being repealed (2003); Civil Partnerships Act and the Gender Recognition Act giving trans people full legal recognition of their gender being passed (2004); discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation outlawed (2007); HFEA recognising same-sex parents as legal parents to children conceived through donated sperm, eggs or embryos (2008); ‘Incitement of Homophobic Hatred’ becoming a crime (2010); Department of Health lifting the ban on gay men donating blood with a 12 month celibacy clause (2011); Equal Marriage (2013); Alan Turing given a post-humously pardon (2013); Pulse, Orlando attacks that killed 49 people (2016); Government pardoning all gay and bi men who were convicted under previous sexual offence laws on the basis of being gay or bi (2017), amongst many other key moments in gay rights history.
Those who question why we still march, when we have so-called equality – should not be forgiven for their ignorance. There is still so much to do. In the UK, and beyond. A quick scan of the Pink News headlines will show you that there is regularly homophobic attacks, for starters. Then there’s homophobia dressed up as banter peppering the conversations around schools, workplaces, and pubs. I challenge you to start listening out for the word ‘gay’ being dropped into conversations, and come back to me. The latest Governments reports say that two-thirds of gay people won’t hold hands in public for fear of a backlash. I can relate to that, especially when I worked with children. Its a hard place to be. 40% of people had experienced hate incidents, and a quarter hid their sexuality from family. I could go on.
“46 years after the first march through London streets, the meaning of Pride has changed, and nearly 80% of LGBT+ people now consider it a celebration. However, 82% of the LGBT+ community also agree that Pride is ‘an important reminder that the fight for equality is not yet won’. This report and the campaign films highlight what we’re still fighting for, and hopefully remind people why Pride Matters.” – Pride in London
When you compare us to elsewhere, the UK can sit relatively proud of the equal rights it has created (we can’t be smug about it, though, Denmark were the first to legally recognise same-sex partnerships way back in 1988). We have a responsibility to aid the development across the globe. Since 1990, 40 countries have outlawed homophobic hate crimes and 24 countries now recognise same-sex marriage (as of Oct 2017). Yet,
- 72 countries criminalise same-sex relationships (and in 45 the law is applied to women as well as men)
- The death penalty is either ‘allowed’, or evidence of its existence occurs, in 8 countries
- In more than half the world, LGBT people may not be protected from discrimination by workplace law
- Most governments deny trans people the right to legally change their name and gender from those that were assigned to them at birth
This is actually really important. It isn’t just about coming up with a pride-tastic product, or pretending to wave the flag and tick the diversity boxes. Its about truly engaging with a huge proportion of the world, speaking to them, recognising them, and accepting them. The media world holds a lot of ability to change societal norms, challenge stereotypes and normalise what is actually already normal. By including people and families that push those stereotypes, by aiming for diversity and beyond, kids growing up today might just be kinder to their peers when their mates come out… or perhaps, kinder to themselves, when they come out.