How British Diplomats Are Embracing Pride Month in the US

Hannah Young, acting consul general of the British Consulate General of New York, plays a role in leading the UK's Pride events in the US.
Twitter/Hannah Young

Bloody brilliant! June is Pride Month — and Great Britain is inviting us all out to celebrate.

For nearly a decade, the British Embassy has taken part in Pride celebrations happening across the US. Pride events are a seminal fixture in their calendar—and each year, they’ve continued to refine efforts in the UK while stepping up in the US.

Eight British consulate generals across the US publicize accessible Pride events within their domain. Last year, British Consulate Generals hosted an LGBTQ trade mission. This year, British Consulate Generals have raised a Pride Flag in Boston, a “Love is Love” event in Miami-Dade, and participated in CommUNITY Rainbow Run 4.9k — and more festivities are coming down the pike. Next year, a Global LGBTQ Conference will bring together the entire community.

The UK has the most out LGBTQ+ members of Parliament, more than any other nation in the world, and in conversation with the British Consulate General in New York, representatives reiterated a critical need to recognize diverse legislators and decision-makers and highlight contributive efforts. In addition, the UK, which co-chairs the Equal Rights Coalition with Argentina, is the first foreign government to co-facilitate local pride events across the United States, both officially and unofficially. Now in its ninth year, the British Embassy and the consulate continue to undertake creative local and national Pride activities.

The bolstering of the LGBTQ community in the UK is a far cry from centuries of persecution. According to the British Library, persecution of male homosexuality began centuries ago with the passing of “the Buggery Act” of 1533 by Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII. If convicted of sodomy, offenders were sentenced to their deaths. The Buggery Act’s death penalty was abolished in 1861 and replaced by the Offenses Against the Person Act, which threatened a minimum of 10 years imprisonment. The long-lasting impact of the anti-LGBTQ laws that the British imposed on other countries, however, continues to be felt to this day.

Over the next century, members of the LGBTQ community were continuously persecuted, but support groups, reformist literature, and decriminalization began to emerge. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed new developments for LGBTQ individuals, including the publication of diverse media and legislative changes. All the while, the AIDS crisis hampered the community. The UK government would introduce amendments that made changes to long-standing laws, and the Equality Act and Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act in 2010 and 2013, respectively, would be true game-changers for the community.

“We recognize that to promote diversity and tolerance but also fight for equal rights across the world, we need to demonstrate advocacy in our domestic leadership,” Hannah Young, acting consul general of the British Consulate General of New York, said during an interview with Gay City News. “For example, we’ve had civil partnerships for more than a decade; equal marriage became legal in Britain, Wales and Scotland in 2014 and Northern Ireland in January 2020. In addition, we have one of the strongest legislative frameworks to prevent discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment — specifically designed to protect trans people.”

“I very much encourage the team to talk about the intersectionality of diversity across a range of topics,” said Young, who is also the host of the podcast “Brits in the Big Apple.” “It’s important that we play an active role in these moments like Pride, but we need to have an undercurrent of [diversity and inclusion] across everything that we do. That’s very much a key thing for us at the British Consulate. We are always thinking about the audience and the themes that might demonstrate our values. We want to reach a wide audience, but we also want to craft the content to be narrow enough to target specific stakeholders.”

Young added, “We see this as a global effort, an all-year-round effort, but we have this amazing opportunity to focus on Pride and what Pride means both in the UK and the US during June.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently appointed special LGBT+ envoy Lord Nick Herbert to spearhead efforts to boost LGBTQ equality in the UK and abroad and to chair the LGBT+ conference next year.

“We see that as a lightning rod to bring the issue front and center on the world stage,” Young stated.

“The freedom to love who you want is a key British value and a vital component of any democracy,” Johnson said in a written statement last month. “The pandemic has, however, exacerbated the existing inequality LGBT+ people experience globally, with violence and discrimination being a daily reality for some. The UK government, with our international partners, believes this is the time to take collective, global action.”

The British Consulate has taken on the topic of [diversity and inclusion] and held events focusing on how to finance diverse entrepreneurs as well as panels on eliminating barriers for people of color in the theater sector.

“If we are having a panel discussion, we have rules so to make sure that we don’t have all from one group when we strive for real representation in all campaigns,” Young said.

Young said she is looking forward to NYC Pride events, including the Pride pop-ups slated for Pride Sunday on June 27.

“This is a moment for families and educating the next generation,” Young said. “My Daughter is seven and came home to talk about Pride because she learned about it at school. We are helping the next generation understand what tolerance and respect really means. I see our events, including the pop-up, as a really important family moment.”

Check out ongoing and upcoming Pride events with a British twist:

NYC Pride March Pop-Ups, June 26-27, 2021

As local businesses open up to indoor activities, NYC Pride will partner with companies to present NYC Pride March Pop-Ups — and the British Consulate will participate. The British Consulate will join the British-owned tavern Dog & Bone, located at 338 Third Avenue at 25th Street in the Flatiron District. They’ll be offering specialty cocktails, a very British food menu and exciting activities. All in New York City are invited to attend!

Diversity & Inclusion in Diplomacy, June 30, 2021

British Ambassador Karen Pierce is hosting a virtual event with Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the State Department’s first chief diversity & inclusion officer, on June 30. The ambassadors will discuss the efforts that the US State Department and the UK have made to support LGBTQ diplomats. The discussion will be moderated by Marti Flacks, director of the Human Rights Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Safe To Be Me: A Global Equality Conference, June 27-29, 2022

Next year the UK will host the Global LGBT conference named “Safe To Be Me.” The event will be held on the 50th anniversary of the London Pride Marches. It will draw together a coalition of countries to examine best practices around legislative reform, ending violence and discrimination and equal access to public services. “Government, parliamentarians, business, civil society and young voices will come together to talk about how to increase efforts to promote the rights of LGBT+ people around the world. We want it to be as inclusive as possible,” said Young.

“We always like good weather for our outdoor events, but Brits and the LGBT+ community are intrepid folks, so we are assured that all will have a good time, rain or shine,” Toby Usnik, head of communications for the British consulate, told Gay City News. “Add to that a great mix of guests—from UK diplomatic staff to members of the media, to local neighbors and businesses, and of course to all of our LGBTQ family attending Pride. We have great specialty cocktails and food and lots of great conversations to look forward to. Of course, underlying all of this is a set of shared values. The work [Her Majesty’s Government] does throughout the year for DEI is the bedrock of our ability to celebrate Pride this June and every year.”

For a more comprehensive list of US Network-wide events, visit this link.

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