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Pride Month: it comes back to community

pride togetherness
By Ben Monteith
27 June 2024

One of the surprising things about this election campaign is that it has been, relatively, devoid of culture war nastiness. 

Yes, there have been moments. But, broadly speaking, the culture wars – and in particular on trans rights – have not been in the headlines as much as we might have expected them to be in what had the potential to be one of the most unpleasant elections in recent history. 

This is more of a reprieve than anything else. Whoever wins on 4th July, following a campaign waged primarily in LGBT Pride Month, there doesn’t look likely to be a great leap forward for LGBT+ rights.  

It’s been just under 12 years since I moved to London, meaning I’ve lived here for approximately 40% of my life. Moving into a student hall in Camden from my childhood home in a sleepy Northern Irish village was a culture shock for reasons beyond the lights of the city, the sounds of 24/7 traffic, and my newfound independence. 

It was a culture shock because I felt, for the first time, like a majority of people around me either shared my values or, just as welcome, couldn’t care less about how the other people around them lived their lives and were only concerned with getting from A to B with as few slow-walking tourists in the way as possible.  

In those 12 years, and the 12 years before, Northern Ireland has changed. While it may not be obvious on 4th July when the attention is on the mainland UK, the political, cultural and moral plates are shifting under the surface in NI which will see a redrawing of the map (perhaps literally before too long). 

But, growing up, it was a place that felt deeply conservative. The dogma from which it’s currently breaking free was attributed to – yet almost always disconnected from – religion. Those with the greatest faith declined to hate. Those with the greatest hate pretended it was done on behalf of their respective faith. 

It wasn’t an environment in which I felt comfortable. And so, maybe with an ironically holier-than-thou attitude, I left. 

Over the past few years, particularly amid the sometimes toxic ‘debate’ on trans rights, I’ve felt some of that same discomfort. I’ve felt that, increasingly, the world around me more closely resembles that which I had left than I’d realised. 

And, then, inspiration. I was reminded of Tonic, the UK’s first LGBT+ retirement community, by a beautiful essay in the FT Weekend. Why does Tonic exist? I won’t rehash the points included in the FT’s piece, but it essentially comes down to the need for community – particularly for a group that can be all too easily isolated. 

It’s a reminder that people are trying and succeeding in making a difference. Sometimes that’s a relatively small thing, such as a community of 19 apartments in London, and sometimes it’s on a much bigger scale. Either way, it’s progress, and however small can make a big difference to at least one person. 

There’s no easy – and potentially right – answer to a lot of the questions and debates that are still part of the conversation. But the one thing that Pride Month has to remind us is that society has come a very long way. Maybe not far enough, and maybe it can feel like it’s not moving fast enough to resolve some of the knottier questions.  

But progress is progress. And, at the end of the day, most people are more concerned about avoid slow-walking tourists than they are who you are or what you love.