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As I write this, it is the first day of June and the beginning of Pride Month. This article will be published at the end of the month, but that does not dilute the topics significance. In addition, if this article had a full title, it would be Pride Month and Why Inclusiveness is Important.

So, let’s get to it.

2022 marks the UK’s 50th anniversary of the first official celebration of Pride Month. You may already know its origins, the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, where police raided the Stonewall Inn and those who escaped arrest decided that they wouldn’t keep their silence. A protest occurred about the actions of the police, violence commenced, and this raid led to a six-day protest throughout the community.

We have come a long way since 1969 in some respects. In June 2011, the night before Pride weekend, New York State voted to legalize same-sex marriage. In the UK, legislation was passed by Parliament in July 2013 and took effect on 13th March 2014. Then, on June 27th, 2015, just before the NYC Pride March, the U.S. Supreme Court made it legal for same-sex couples to marry across the country, making Pride celebrations extra joyful that year. Despite these successes, there is still discrimination, bullying and the need for equality. Reporting at the end of 2020, ILGA World (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) noted that 69 UN member States continue to criminalise consensual same-sex activity. It dropped by one compared to the previous year.

June is both a protest and a party for many. They celebrate the shift from the status quo and the uniqueness of every individual. Love is love, and everyone deserves the right to feel happy in their own skin.

Something is stirring in the air – a movement towards challenging requests for unnecessary labels. Millions across social media platforms have added their pronouns to their profiles, and 0.4% of the UK population identifies as neither male nor female. It is a small thing, one step forward in a long line yet to come. But it is a step forward.

Everyone wants to be included, and on the flip side of that, everyone has felt excluded at one point in their life. It is a human desire to feel a sense of belonging. In most cases, individuals conform to what are considered social norms so that they don’t feel out of the loop. It is easier to do that than to pride themselves on their differences. However, this usually leads to a lack of diversity, which dulls experiences and perspectives. Inclusion is making sure that marginalised members of society, those with disabilities, special needs or minority groups, for example, are not only told that they are included, but that they also feel like they are. It goes further than just the words; it is cemented with actions. It ensures that the individual feels appreciated, valued and involved.

The entertainment industry is slowly making steps to be more inclusive. See the deaf actors in A Quiet Place, and in Marvel’s The Eternals. Netflix’s LGBTQ+ show Heartstopper was met with acclaim as it follows a teen’s first gay relationship as he figures out his own orientation. It also features trans actress Yasmin Finney, who has just been cast in the latest season of Doctor Who. Speaking on inclusion, she said, “You do not understand: the amount of time I’ve spent searching for representation, clawing for it, and trying to find somebody I could look up to as an idol, somebody that is a reflection of me.” Speaking of Doctor Who, we have the first black Time Lord in Ncuti Gatwa, who starred in Sex Education.

Someone can gaze at the TV screen and see themselves reflected back on the characters they’re watching. Black children can remark that they are truly superheroes when they see characters like Black Panther and War Machine. Women know that they are valued when they see shows where the women aren’t just posing love interests.

Encouraging inclusivity has many benefits. Not just increasing our feelings of self-image and self-worth, but enriching our experiences. You can learn from other people’s knowledge and skills, boosting your own ideas and creativity. It also fosters empathy and understanding. In times when mental health issues are on the rise, including in children, we could all benefit from the feeling of being included.

Pride Month demonstrates that we can all break down the walls around us. Even if you don’t relate to the struggles the LGBTQ+ community faces, you can learn to step out from normal conventions. And those who choose to experiment and use things outside of their labelled gender (for example, makeup, dresses, toys etc) are not less just because they are.

To be a more inclusive individual, you can do the following.

Show support.

In the simplest way possible, create safe spaces to demonstrate your support. Pride memorabilia such as mugs, flags and trans pins can be used all year round. Support can also be shown through communication. If someone you know comes out to you, simply hug them and thank them for telling you. Be there for them in every part of their journey.

Educate yourself.

Hatred can be a learned trait. For example, if your family has a dedicated view, you are more likely to also follow that view. But you can tackle that, educate yourself and conquer any unconscious biases you may have.

And look, this is a learning curve too. Humanity isn’t perfect. But admit to your mistakes; if you say something hurtful, misgender someone or say the wrong pronoun, apologise and make an effort.

June may be Pride Month, but the lessons taught and celebrated this month are just as important all year round. It is a constant battle, a constant journey, that is always evolving. And no matter how you fall on the spectrum, whether you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, we all share the same planet. We can always learn from these lessons.

It is the simplest, and yet sometimes hardest, truth to face; you should be proud of yourself just for who you are. There is something brilliant in all of us, after all. Even if that brilliant thing is different from someone else’s.

Northern Pride Festival takes place 22-24th July 2022, at the Town Moor, Newcastle.

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