Hello everyone and Happy LGBTQIA+ Pride Month!
Here at Open Theatre, we recognise the importance of sexuality and gender and we celebrate the impact that it has upon our creative practice. We believe in doing difference differently and not only do we hail gender and sexuality as something to be celebrated but we recognise that these identities are integral parts of our performers and staff and in some cases, they directly influence the type of work being made. As always I will begin by giving a brief overview of the history of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month and then I will explain how we are celebrating and raising awareness here at Open Theatre.
History of LGBT Pride Month
Pride Month began to honour the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The riots began 52 years ago in order to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) Americans. In June of 1969, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City staged a rebellion to resist the police harassment and persecution to which LGBTQIA+ Americans were commonly subjected. This rebellion marks the beginning of a movement to stamp out discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQIA+ Americans. Since then Pride has been held across the world and we must never forget that although the protest that runs through Birmingham city centre is loud and colourful and that there is a big party afterwards, Pride will always be a protest and a demand for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Why don’t we have straight pride? Why do Gay people get their own party and we don’t? This is a common question often asked and I once asked it myself before I understood truly what oppression meant. The reason is this. Straight people are in the majority. Straight people do not have their rights taken away from them on a routine basis. Gay people were only allowed to marry legally in the UK in 2013 and conversion therapy is still being debated by the government rather than being banned. Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that aims to change a person’s sexual or gender identity.
On a personal level, I was beaten in school for being bisexual and this was a mere sixteen years ago. That is not really that long in the grand scheme of things. We must protect our right to protest and our right to use our voices to demand equal treatment and fair rights for all individuals no matter their creed or cloth.
How we are celebrating/ how you can mark the month
Open Theatre work closely with lots of partners and to prepare for LGBTQIA+ Awareness month we teamed up with Jess Hakin from Spectre to discuss the impacts of trauma upon the body. Jess runs an anti-racism group that meets weekly and they discuss racism and how this impacts them as creatives and performers. At the group’s meeting on May 18th 2021 Esme Brown, a care professional, talked to the group about trauma as trauma is an issue that impacts both minority groups and LGBTQIA+ groups in different ways.
A definition of trauma (Siegel, 2010) is ‘an experience we have which overwhelms our ability to cope.’ Trauma isn’t always caused by one traumatic event, although it can be. It is often caused by prolonged experiences such as stress, feeling unsafe or having our routines disrupted. It is, therefore, important to protect ourselves and keep our bodies as regulated and stress-free as possible in order to break the chain of stress.
What you can do
In response to this talk, we have decided to support each other and try to keep ourselves regulated. We have been giving each other hints and tips on how to have a good week. Some ideas include; yoga, mental decluttering and being with friends. We want a safe environment to encourage healthy discussion and debate. We want to support each other in the best possible way regardless of the differences that exist between us. This year the Birmingham Pride parade is being held slightly later in the year to keep in line with the government’s roadmap for Covid 19, however, the parade will be happening in September and endorsing the theme ‘stronger together’ to stand in solidarity with and support the trans community for more information on Birmingham Pride please visit their website: www.birminghamrpide.com
-Written by Madeleine Levy