The film ‘Are you proud?’ (Dir. Ashley Joiner, 2018) charts aspects of British LGBTQ+ activist history. In a Q&A session the director said that he wanted to make sure that people understood that the film was made from his perspective and that others may have covered different topics such as the campaign for equal marriage, the right to adoption and so forth.
The film has interviews with the founding members of the Gay Liberation Front and Stonewall, as well as organisers of Queer Picnic, UK Black Pride and Brighton’s Trans Pride.
What I liked about the film is how it revealed institutional indifference and irresponsibility towards the LGBTQ+ community. For example, the healthcare system refusing to take a stance on Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, the educational establishment lacking in muster to overturn Section 28, local councils shrinking back from challenging homophobia in their establishments and the wider public lacking compassion especially given that 99% of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, brutalised in former British colonies, are sent back to face death, imprisonment and torture. Virtually all the countries which still legislate against homosexuality and gender variance were under British rule at some point and had anti-gay legislation imposed by colonialists. These laws lasted for hundreds of years. Hundreds.
Even now, people who should know better, for example those who run healthcare institutions are reticent about supporting LGBTQ+ rights for staff and patients. Even something as simple as having LGBTQ+ signifiers (lanyards, pin badges, posters) in NHS hospitals to reduce anxiety about potential discrimination is something we have to fight for, to ask for, while officials ‘um’ and ‘ah’ about not being able to do anything or that they are ‘afraid’ about using the ‘wrong terminology’ without bothering to step up to educate themselves and others. In many hospitals it has taken individuals to take a stance to highlight the need for wider support for people of minority sexual orientations and gender identities. Over and over again. What message does that convey to LGBTQ+ people who need to access healthcare? What does that say to LGBTQ+ staff who work for healthcare institutions? What does that mean for the health of younger LGBTQ+ people?
The film does bring some of these issues to light and also shows that there are different ways to be an LGBTQ+ activist with a particular concern about global facing work – something that the diaspora from countries such as Latin America, Asia and Africa have been calling for since the 1950s. The film also demonstrated why diversity of action is crucial in terms of class, race, gender, disability and refugee status. It really is sad that the learning, compassion and dedication of so many LGBTQ+ activists are so readily dismissed by the majority of mainstream media and institutions, and the rights that have been won are so fragile and may be subject to removal at the whim of a bigoted leader.