Remembering the meaning of Pride

June is Pride month – a time where you’re likely to see rainbow flags across your socials, in the high streets and scattered across the supermarket shelves. It’s a time to celebrate everything LGBTQ+, and also a time to remember the struggles of the past.

As an out-and-proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, I must admit I love to see the rainbow plastered everywhere during pride month and pride celebrations. Yes, it sometimes feels tokenistic, and big brands are often accused of trading on the ‘pink pound’, but for the LGBTQ+ emblem to be so mainstream seemed like an impossibility just 20 years ago.

On a recent trip to London I was reminded of the pain and struggle my community has felt in the not-so-distant past. My wife and I visited a lively Soho pub on a sunny Saturday afternoon. As the crowds at the Admiral Duncan were enjoying the afternoon and being entertained by a fabulous drag queen, I raised my eyes to spot a memorial hanging from the ceiling.

It was hanging there because 25 years earlier, on Friday 30th April 1999, in that same pub, a bomb exploded. It killed three and injured 83 people. I remember the attack clearly – it was shocking and horrifying to think that people could be killed and injured for no other reason than loving and living outside of the ‘norm’. And as a young person grappling with their own identity I remember feeling confused and sad.

Being in that pub and seeing the memorial reminded me of just how hard it was 25 years ago. It reminded me of the feeling that it wasn’t OK to be myself in public, and that the only safe spaces were the two gay pubs that served the area I grew up in. It took me back to Pride marches where people with placards screamed at us that we were evil and needed healing. Thankfully, my personal experience is that things have (mostly) changed for the better – but I know that isn’t true for everyone.

In recognition of the struggles that LGBTQ+ people have faced, and continue to face, we at St Wilfrid’s Hospice are keen to embrace Pride month in a meaningful way. Yes, we’ll be putting a rainbow logo on our socials, and we’ll be making plans to take part in our local Pride festivities during the summer. But we also want those LGBTQ+ members of our local community to view us as a safe space. To feel respected, valued, and like they have a place here, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. We’re not perfect, we have work to do, but we are committed to making it a reality.

Recently we’ve been doing work to understand what our community thinks of us and what might be stopping them from coming to us. We are working with the National Centre for Diversity to develop, support and sustain a respectful, inclusive and fair organisation. As part of this we are conducting surveys and focus groups with our staff, volunteers, patients and community to help us better understand where we are and what we can do to make the hospice a better place for everyone. I would encourage anyone who is asked to take part to do so – we need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly so that we can make positive change.

During Pride month we will also be dedicating one of our Schwartz Rounds to the theme of Pride. Schwartz Rounds give our staff and volunteers the chance to come together and discuss openly the social and emotional issues they face in caring for patients and families. By giving a voice to the LGBTQ+ members of our teams we are hoping to open up some honest conversations and help everyone better understand our community.

Personally, this Pride month I will be reflecting on just how far we have come – and the work that still needs to be done. I am extremely proud and happy to work for an organisation where I can be myself without fear, and I am excited to see what the future brings for the hospice and the LGBTQ+ community.

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Trainee Doctor Gulz Dhanoya’s ‘day’ job is caring for patients at St Wilfrid’s Hospice, but during the evening, he can be found performing on stage.
Take a Starlight Stroll and remember a loved one
People who have lost a loved one are invited to remember them at our Starlight Stroll.
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A youngster who chose to have her birthday party at Rainbow Run raised £1,573 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice.
Meet Jilly, one of our Bereavement Support Volunteers
To celebrate Volunteers' Week, we’re shining a spotlight on some of our wonderful volunteers.
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