City of London: Celebrating Diversity with Pride 2024

This week, I was honoured to represent the City of London Corporation at its annual Pride event at the Guildhall.

There is something magical about the history and grandeur of the Guildhall. It has a unique ability to draw together individuals from vastly different backgrounds and somehow encourage them to work together to champion good causes. This event was a prime example of that!

Since I was elected to represent the Ward of Bishopsgate 7 years ago, we have raised a flag at the Guildhall for a few hours to remind those in the LGBTQ+ community that this City of London is a safe space, that it promotes creativity and recognises the beauty of people being able to bring their whole selves wherever they go and that we will continue to advocate internationally for people to be treated equally, regardless of their identity or sexuality. Each year since, we have been encouraged to open events up to a wider audience and I was delighted that this year the The City Belonging Project and Link have partnered to not only expand participation, but also to do things slightly differently. I haven’t been to many events at the Guildhall where DJs have played rather than orchestras, neither have I seen drag queen’s performing, but what fun it was!

We also had speeches from the political and civic leadership in the City of London, including the Vice Chair of Policy and Resources Keith Bottomley, the representative of the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Tim Hailes and the Co-Chair of the Corporation’s Diversity and Inclusion Network, Joanna Abeyie. They affirmed that the world’s oldest continuous local democracy remains an ally – and that the City Corporation will always have the LGBTQ+ community’s back.

I’ve been asked lots of times why organisations like the City of London still have these events. The best way I have learnt how to describe this is asking people to imagine that before you walk into any room, you have to think about what character you’re going to have to become. Wondering how much of your authentic self you are going to have to suppress or lie about to to get through whatever time you spend in that room. For many it’s a way of surviving living in shame, but for others, their lives literally depend on it. That could be at home, at school, with friends, at work or just being out in public spaces.

Then we consider the impact that has on society. In 2018, more than half of all LGBTQ+ people said they’d experience serious depression in the last year with 1 in 8 aged 18-24 attempting to commit suicide. 46% of trans people have thought about taking their own life in the last year. 1 in 6 LGBTQ+ people said they drank alcohol every day. 1 in 8 LGBTQ+ people aged 18-24 take drugs at least monthly. 1 in 4 experienced discriminatory remarks from healthcare staff which may be why 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people don’t disclose their sexual orientation. 1 in 7 LGBTQ+ people avoid treatment all together for fear of discrimination.

It is absolutely correct that the LGBTQ+ community has come a long way, but they’ve also paid a heavy price. They have had to fight hard to achieve rights that those outside of this community take for granted. So for me, Pride remains about equality – being an ally to those who need a voice just to be considered equal. Helping those who feel vulnerable find support and unlocking the enormous economic potential that the LGBTQ+ community brings our great City!

To all participating in London Pride this weekend, I wish you a safe and enjoyable day.

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