Heroes of the future?
The past is, of course, a different country - they do ‘do things differently there.’ But we have to respect the lessons of history, to learn from the experiences of the generations that have gone before us, to draw on their power as we move forward.
It is however important that we don’t let our memories and our past experiences limit us from shaping the future for ourselves, but more importantly for the younger generations of queer people that follow us.
In recent years it’s been marriage equality that has been the battleground for LGBTQ people in many western countries. But what of tomorrow? What issues and challenges will confront our community and demand action and change?
Here’s five hot topics that might catch our attention.
There are still a surprising number of countries around the world where identifying as LGBTQ could be punishable by imprisonment or death.
If you’re a queer person and you live in places such as Chechnya, Egypt, Syria, Tanzania, or numerous other countries, every day you’re living with the reality that you could be arrested and imprisoned just for being who you are.
Not only is this bad news for the LGBTQ people who live in these countries, but it also limits the ability of queer people to work and travel internationally. It’s hard to get excited about that lucrative transfer to Dubai if your sex life could land you in prison. Even seemingly-modern Singapore still maintains laws that criminalise sex between men - prosecutions are rare, but why tolerate the hypocrisy?
We need to continue to push for legal change around the world to protect the human rights of all LGBTQ people.
The combined forces of PrEP and U=U have been a total game-changer in the fight against HIV. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis - it’s medication that you take that prevents you from acquiring the virus. U=U stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable - if you’re taking medication and your viral load is undetectable, then that means that you can’t transmit the virus to anyone else.
We need to ensure that PrEP is being made available to at risk people around the world, and that we are continuing to support the vital work being done by community organisations who deliver sex education campaigns and who support people who are living with HIV.
LGBTQ people are likely to suffer from a range of psychiatric problems - including depression, anxiety, panic, substance abuse, and suicide.
The research isn’t saying that being queer makes you mentally ill, but we are seeing that LGBTQ people have a unique set of challenges and a stressful social environment that is contributing to higher rates of mental health problems.
We need to push health services around the world to invest in mental health services for LGBTQ people. We also need to support - financially and with volunteer time - those community organisations who support queer people who are dealing with mental health issues.
One of the most powerful ways to emotionally connect with people is through sport. Elite sportspeople are role models for the world, and participation in sport builds confidence as well as important social and professional networks.
There’s some fantastic work being done at the grassroots level around the world to encourage queer people to participate in sport - there’s now an international network of LGBTQ sports clubs that are effectively engaging with their local communities.
We need to push national and international governing bodies of sports to help nurture this grassroots activity, but we also need to push ourselves to continue to expand the network of LGBTQ sports clubs into communities and countries where we continue to see low levels of participation.
The days are over when being queer was a weakness, it’s no longer an insult to call something or someone ‘gay’.
One of the flip-sides into the recent research regarding mental health issues in LGBTQ people is that there are indications that being queer is a strength - that queer people are forced to develop coping mechanisms and psychological flexibility that gives us greater resilience in stressful situations.
LGBTQ people will always be a minority population group, but we punch well above our weight in terms of share-of-voice and contribution to the community and society in which we live.
We need to work with schools and community organisations to empower young LGBTQ people to understand their potential and their power. We need to help develop our heroes of the future.