By Poppy Ellis Logan – @poppyellislogan
Associate Lecturer in Mental Health and My Care Academy Practice Lead
This week marks the start of Pride 2020, the month-long LGBT+ festival that commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and promotes LGBT+ inclusion and equality. Each year, London ‘comes out’ in celebration of sexual diversity, and across BEH and C&I you may already be waving your own rainbow flag in recognition of the event. But is there a way in which we can use Pride to inform our own practice? And how can we celebrate Pride in the midst of COVID-19 and varying levels of ‘lockdown’?
At the heart of Pride is a message that every individual has a right to participation and equal treatment; in contrast to the marginalisation and exclusion still faced by many LGBT+ individuals around the world and indeed in our own society. In line with the motto of ‘nothing about us without us’, Pride is led by, and showcases, LGBT+ individuals. This year, Pride parades will not be possible – and trying to celebrate Pride from lockdown may feel impossible to those usually able to join the parades.
The barriers posed by the Coronavirus on traditional Pride celebrations are not new for everybody. For many years, the traditional Pride parade has not been accessible to everybody, and many communities are underrepresented each year as a result. To address this issue, a range of intersectional groups appeared for the first time at Pride last year to visibly represent their communities who are otherwise underrepresented. Local newspaper The Shropshire Star reported that Stonewall reached out to groups including UK Black Pride, transgender charity Mermaids, LGBT+ Muslim charity Imaan and ParaPride (an LGBT+ disability organisation) specifically for this purpose [full article available here].
Despite these initiatives to further diversify the Pride celebration, it has been a yearly inevitability that many of our LGBT+ patients cannot participate in the annual event. Usually, this is for logistical reasons; patients confined to wards or secure units face a physical barrier in attending. Many people may not feel safe or ready for others to know that they identify as LGBT+ themselves, due to the widespread stigma, prejudice and discrimination that still prevails in many communities. Individuals with caring obligations, physical health limitations, or difficulties mixing with other people have all had this struggle. The idea of large crowds of people, getting drunk in the afternoon, disco music, bright colours, lights, flags and more have historically be a huge barrier for individuals who struggle with sensory disorders, substance or alcohol abuse, social anxiety, and so on.
This year, Pride will take place in a world that none of us have seen before. This is the year in which our patients are not alone in facing barriers to be a part of Pride. So perhaps, this year, our patients can show the world how we might celebrate Pride from confinement.
Communication and respect are always central in any example of great mental health practice. Pride gives us an opportunity to show our respect for patients of all (and no) sexualities and genders, whether they have identified themselves to you as LGBT+ or not. So over the course of the next month, why not celebrate Pride by seeing how you can give your patients a voice. Empower your patients to show the world how Pride can be celebrated in a new, inclusive and accessible way. Celebrate innovation and showcase the activities that can be done from the ward or from home that your patients may already be doing.
Below are some ideas for ways you might do this. Have a go at some of these or come up with a new activity of your own!