by Anne Woods, Participation Officer
For the last three years I’ve volunteered in various ways at the Pride event in London. I was born in London and spent a large part of my life there and so it’s a good opportunity to head back and get involved. After a stint as a senior steward in Soho, managing a team of people to look after the public, I fancied being closer to the parade – a colourful, joyous march through the streets of London: a celebration of the freedom to be whoever you want to be. So in 2015, in the first year of the programme, I volunteered to be an official flag bearer, carrying the Cuban flag along with flagbearers representing countries from around the world at the head of the parade.
Anne, far right, watching Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley at Pride in London
This year, I was proud to carry the flag of Afghanistan, again heading up the parade behind the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the event directors. The flag bearers create a visual message of support to LGBTQ+ communities around the world. Although in the UK we now have equal marriage and legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in many countries relationships with same-sex partners are illegal and ‘punishable’ by imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Even in this country homophobia and resulting discrimination is still having an impact on the emotional well-being of LGBTQ+ people. Various research by Stonewall has shown that LGB people suffer more mental health problems than the general population. This is not as a result of their sexual orientation but due to bullying, harassment at work, rejection by family and poor attitudes of healthcare professionals. Levels of depression and suicidal thoughts are much higher amongst young people who have been bullied about their sexual orientation than those who haven’t. Three in ten bisexual women and two in ten lesbians have had an eating disorder compared to 1 in 20 (0.5 in ten) of the general population.
That’s why Pride events are so important – as a vibrant display of our commitment to equality and human rights, a demonstration of support to those who might not currently enjoy those rights, an encouragement to be ourselves and to be open and tolerant to people who are different to us. All these things can help to create a more accepting society where people do not feel that they have to hide who they are or feel ashamed about being different. The Pride campaign this year is #nofilter which is all about living our lives without having to censor or hide who we are.
As part of the Comic Relief funded Stand Up! for emotional health and well-being project, we will be working with Iris Prize in the Community, the outreach programme of the international LGBT+ film festival based in Cardiff. An important aim of the Comic Relief grant is to tackle stigma and discrimination, especially for marginalised groups of people in society. In our case, this is people who are in a minority due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, who might be disproportionately suffering emotional distress for the reasons highlighted in the Stonewall research. We will have an opportunity to explore issues affecting well-being and to create our own short film, written, directed and performed by the group. We will then host a mini LGBT+ film festival. This is an exciting opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate diversity right here in Powys.
If you would like to find out more or get involved in this part of our project, further details can be found on the Powys Mental Health website, or you can contact me by ringing 01597 822191 or emailing email@example.com
The next Stand Up! for emotional health & wellbeing meeting takes place in Welshpool on Monday 26 September, 2 - 4pm, at Ponthafren Welshpool Outreach.