A blog by Dr Russell Hills, Professional Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System

When it came to write this piece on Pride, I must admit that I have found it hard to put “pen to paper” as the first thing that came to mind was that the need for Pride is there partly because we need to counter the idea of Shame. Many LGBTQ+ people have grown up in environments where their existence is deemed shameful. This then gets internalised and causes harm to the individuals that make up our rainbow community.

I am fortunate to have been able to attend Pride events around the world. In London, Brighton, Berlin, Paris, Sydney, Madrid and World Pride in New York in 2019. The latter coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, where a group of LGBTQ+ people (led by Black Trans women) reacted to oppression and brutality brought upon them by the city of New York, and which led to the world wide movement for LGBTQ+ rights very soon after. I reference this because, whilst Pride parades are glitzy and glamorous affairs, there lies underneath an ongoing political and moral struggle for acceptance and equal rights. Members of the community still suffer discrimination, hate crimes, poorer outcomes in areas such as mental health, and Black Trans women are still being murdered across the world at a terrifying rate. There are also countries in the world where LGBTQ+ people are still deemed to be illegal and live every day in fear of severe retribution, including death, living under the shadow of shame. In 50 years things have not changed as much as they should and could have.

But, importantly, we are moving forward as an organisation, as a system, and as a society. As providers of health and social care across the Integrated Care System, recognising the challenge means that we can address the inequalities that LGBTQ+ people face in accessing care and also in our workplaces. We have had the first meeting of Surrey Heartlands CCG LGBTQ+ group, and are intending to form an ICS LGBTQ+ Alliance. We have made clear commitment to support our staff and our population, and are Celebrating Pride month across the county.

You see, the way to counter shame is by Pride. Pride in ourselves, and Pride from our non-LGBTQ+ Allies who want to champion equal rights and diversity by standing with us. I am a Proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. I am also very Proud that the CCG and ICS are supporting and championing diversity.

So get out there and help us celebrate! There are events all over the place, and some Pride marches have moved into the autumn due to the pandemic, so there is plenty of opportunity to get involved. Find out some more about Queer History. Speak to colleagues and find out about their lives and lived experience. Think about our populations and their needs when helping to design or deliver services. Most of all, be proud of who you are.