The first Pride was a protest march, to mark a year since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York. The riots were in response to harassment of the LGBT+ community by the New York Police Department. The protests and campaigns that resulted over a number of years led to progress around equality for LGBT+ people. 

So why is it important to remember that ‘Pride is still a Protest’? 

Rainbow flag against blue sky

Because although some progress has been made, it isn’t global. For example last year, the Ugandan Parliament voted to pass a far-reaching Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The 2023 Review of LGBT+ people in Europe stated that ‘anti-LGBTQ+ violence has reached a decade high’1. We’re also witnessing a huge increase in and acceleration of transphobia in the UK and the US. All this is adding to an environment of stress, anxiety and isolation for a lot of people in the LGBT+ community. It’s important not to lose sight of the urgent need for change. 

Well Proud? 

Stigma and prejudice are still a major problem for some LGBT+ people, which can have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. However, it’s important to note that being LGBTQ+ does not cause poor mental health – but dealing with ongoing discrimination is a major factor in eroding people’s sense of wellbeing. 

We may think that in the U.K., people feel able to be open and be themselves – unfortunately, research shows this isn’t always the case. Many LGBT+ people in Scotland and beyond still struggle with: 

  • Struggle to be ‘out’: Over half (52%) of LGBT people are ‘never’ or only ‘sometimes’ open with their family; even more don’t feel able to be themselves at work (60%); or when accessing services (71%)2 
  • 73% of the Health Needs Assessment3 respondents said they had felt isolated from family and friends; 38% said they felt this ‘all the time/often’. 

Feeling alone or not able to live your life fully as who you are, can have serious consequences: 

  • 88% of the Life in Scotland (2022) respondents reported experiencing one or more mental health conditions. 
  • 1 in 3 LGBT people have attempted suicide.

Why does it matter?

For all of us to live in freedom, with dignity, we need to speak up for people’s right to live as who they are. Helping others to have a voice can help create a better understanding of different experiences.

When we make things better for one group of people in our society, we make things better for everyone. Pride is still a protest so that together, we can strengthen the voices of the most marginalised and keep making progress together, for the benefit of us all and for future generations.

Thriving, not just surviving

Research shows that LGBT+ people do better when supported by people, and in settings, where their sexuality and gender are understood. In one of our recent therapy groups at LGBT Health and Wellbeing, a gay man in his 40s said coming to the group meant that ‘For the first time in my life, I felt part of the LGBT community’. 

Poor mental health and wellbeing aren’t an inevitability for the LGBT+ community. Through community, support, and tackling stigma, we can address this. This is why for more than 20 years, LGBT+ Health and Wellbeing have been empowering the LGBT+ community to thrive, not just survive, in the face of the added challenges of homophobia, transphobia and marginalisation.  

We offer a range of mental health services, including counselling, as well as resources and info, like our Manual for Me suicide prevention toolkit for LGBT+ people, co-produced with members of our community 

We also know that in order to thrive, people need joy and connection in their lives. This is why a really important part of what we offer is a varied programme of social events, including Rainbow Families; and community-led Community Groups, with something for everyone – from the Trans Choir to yoga; from Dance and Movement, to Queer Boardgames. 

Along with LGBT+ specific services like ours, we all need to work to make sure all mental health support is inclusive and safe. LGBT+ people, particularly young people, are feeling under-supported by mental health services,

making it more important than ever that those involved in mental health care and wellbeing support are actively working to understand and respond to the needs of LGBT+ people. 

Importantly, being supported by people who are accepting and affirming of who you are works for everyone, not just LGBT+ people. We all want to feel welcomed, accepted and understood wherever we go, especially if we need to interact with services. That’s why, for both Health in Mind and LGBT+ Health and Wellbeing Scotland, it’s so important to work together across sectors to make sure that safer spaces and inclusive support are available to everyone. 

To find out more about LGBT+ Health and Wellbeing’s services, and how we can help, check out lgbthealth.org.uk, or get in touch with me at michelle@lgbthealth.org.uk

You can also find more information on mental health support through Health in Mind’s resource page, or by checking out your local mental health portal.

Michelle Davitt, Edinburgh Service Manager

michelle@lgbthealth.org.uk

www.lgbthealth.org.uk