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Let’s celebrate pride!

June is pride month in several countries across the globe. During this month, the LGBTQIA2S+ community celebrates the many contributions made by its people to history, society and cultures worldwide. How did it all start? And where are we now?

As I’m walking down the streets of Toronto during pride month, I can’t help but see rainbow flags everywhere. Of course, there is The Village, a LGBTQIA2S+ neighbourhood, very colourful as always but elsewhere nobody can forget the fact that the community exists. These flags also make me think about how different Canada is in comparison to Europe. It feels like here nobody needs to hide who they are because they are accepted. And if that is the case in Canada, it might be in part due to its proximity to the United States, especially New York, where the first Pride parade took place in 1970.

Although, gay, lesbians, transgender and queer people have always existed, their rights weren’t recognized. And since the rest of the world wasn’t willing to accept them, they gathered together as a community in secret spaces where they could be truly themselves. This was how things were for a long time all over the globe. But these spaces were sometimes discovered and, in these cases, the community faced violence often leading to death. However, on June 28 1969 in the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan (NY, USA), the New York Police Department raided the place and, that evening, something different happened. The police was faced with a lot more resistance than usual.

The confrontations quickly escalated and sparked six days of protests and violent clashes between the police and the community in the entire neighbourhood. By the time the Stonewall Riots ended on July 2, the gay rights movement went from being a fringe issue largely ignored by politicians and the media to front-page news worldwide. A year later, the first pride parade took place to commemorate the uprising.

Since then, the movement has grown a lot and many cities and smaller towns around the world celebrate the community, even in countries where repression and violence against people from the community are commonplace. So how are the LGBTQIA2S+ rights doing?

As someone who grew up in Switzerland, I voted for same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, and IVF access in 2021. Even in a country considered as progressive, these rights have only been respected since last year. The latest European country to vote for same-sex marriage is Estonia and it will take effect in January 2024. Lately, Iceland voted to ban "conversion therapy", joining countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Germany, France, Malta and Cyprus, among others.

On the other hand, certain rights were taken away in 2023. For instance, in the United States, "more than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record" declared on June 6 Humans Rights Campaign, one of the leading advocacy groups in the US.

But I want to stay hopeful because I see that we are still making progress. For example, states like Texas, Tennessee and Florida – where a lot of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed – have been heavily criticized and have faced a lot of pushback nationally and internationally. The same happened in Uganda where one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ+ laws was signed this year. Countries around the world criticized Uganda and threatened to put in place sanctions against it. Nowadays, it is getting harder and harder for countries to dismiss LGBTQIA2S+ rights. And it is a good thing. It means that we, as a society, have evolved and can no longer tolerate any violation of humans’ rights.

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