In Atlanta on a recent Sunday, I marched to the tunes of the Spice Girls underneath a rainbow-colored Union Jack representing the British Consulate General in Atlanta. As our “Love is GREAT” t-shirt-wearing-clan turned down Peachtree Street, I hopped onto the side of a Mini Cooper convertible.
Waving to the crowd in a fashion that surely the Queen would approve, I was overwhelmed by cheers as the British Invasion debuted at Atlanta Pride. As an out-and-proud American working for the British Government and a Yankee in the South, I wanted to say “thanks y’all” for making me feel so welcome at my first Pride experience.
Let us shake off the image of the stiff-upper lip Brit and embrace the United Kingdom (U.K.) as one of most progressive nations in the world in terms of LGBT equality. England and Wales celebrated their first same-sex weddings earlier this year and Scotland will recognize equal marriage later this year. As a result, the International Gay and Lesbian Association’s (ILGA) annual Rainbow Map ranked the U.K. as first in LGBT rights in Europe.
We’ve come a long way in a little over two decades. My own organization, the Foreign Office, banned gay people from working there until 1991; there is still work to be done. Today, it empowers me to know that my employer not only supports its LGBT-friendly staff but allows them a vehicle to show their pride by participating in events like Pride parades across the nation.
LGBT culture is more present in mainstream media than ever before. We must remember that we march in Pride to show the world there is no shame in being out and it is ok to be comfortable with who you are, no matter sexual identity. We also march in memory of those who could not, the generations left in the closet and without a voice. Again, it is not whether you are gay or straight, transexual, or bisexual; LGBT rights are human rights. And until equal rights are granted to all citizens, there will still be a necessity for Pride.
In Atlanta, I was filled with emotion when the parade route came across a group of anti-gay protestors. We knew they would be there. It was not the anti-gay slander that evoked so much feeling in me, but rather the Pride crowd blocking protestors from Peachtree Street. Pride celebrates diversity through unity; gay and straight, Brits and Americans, all marching towards a common goal. This is not about gay rights, but human right
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John Christakis is the business development associate, UK trade & investment, for the British Consulate-General Miami.