Never Afraid to Challenge: Why Pride is the Essence of Community Powered Civic Action

Saturday (16th June) marked Edinburgh’s celebration of Pride.

Thousands of LGBTQ+ people and their allies marched from Holyrood, up the Royal Mile, over George IV Bridge and out on to Bristo Square dressed to impress, wearing glitter and smiles. Although Pride has become synonymous with glitter and rainbows, there is a deeper meaning to why people march and where Pride started. In the sea of rainbow flags and happy faces, people held up signs that read: ‘Trans Rights now’, ‘Support Trans Women of Colour’ and calls to have rights recognised and respected for all people no matter their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Pride started as a deeply political act of civil unrest against the systematic oppression of LGBT people. It has continued through to the present day, not only as a celebration of how far things have come, but also as a reminder that more work needs to be done for LGBTQI+ people to feel fully included in their communities and have their rights respected.

Tackling Inequality

EVOC has been campaigning for social justice and tackling inequality for 150 years, and although these efforts have been centred on issues like sanitation, housing conditions and health and social care – the ethos behind these campaigns is the same. That we must work together to make our environments and our communities a better place, for everyone.

Halfway up the Royal Mile, speeches were heard. They too focused on Pride as a celebration, but also on Pride as political, as an opportunity to take the time to be reminded of how far there is to go.

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, delivered his speech and commented that “Scotland was one of the worst places to be LGBT, but is now one of the best. Homosexuality (between men) was only decriminalised in Scotland in 1980, and the first Pride march was held in 1995.

After the crowd cheered, he reminded listeners of the gains still to be made for marginalised groups and joined the crowd in chants of ‘Trans Rights Now’, promising to work to push through legislation that would protect the rights of transgender people in the Scottish Parliament.

Intergenerational Learning

As well as political figures, the Third Sector was also represented which of course has been at the centre of fighting for equality in the city for generations.

Tim Puntis of LGBT Age, a project that supports older LGBT people, gave an impassioned speech, outlining the issues of invisibility that this group face, whether that’s isolation or having to hide who they are to access essential care services.

He urged the younger generation to thank their elders in the community for their hard work and relentless pushes for progress, tolerance and acceptance paving the road for gains that once seemed unimaginable. He spoke about a spirit of intergenerational learning, and carrying on the fight for equality.

EVOC’s 150th Anniversary year, will not only be about uncovering the heritage of social justice but also be about inspiring young people to take action and to challenge the status quo for the betterment of their communities. We will do this through an exciting programme of events and activities that will include people from all sections of society and exploring how we can learn from the history of our city’s third sector.

From civil disobedience, to protest, to celebration Pride embodies the essence of fighting for social justice through civic action, and this year’s event in Edinburgh was prudent to look to the past to inform what still needs to be achieved.

To keep updated on what we are doing during our 150th Anniversary year, follow us on Twitter @evoc_edinburgh, and use the #EVOC150 hashtag

The EVOC 150 project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with thanks to players of the National Lottery.

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