In many countries you can be punished by the state, persecuted and even killed just for being LGBT or celebrating LGBT identities. Trans people do not have access to life changing healthcare and are discriminated against under law.
In Northern Ireland, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry as they do in Wales, Scotland and England. On our streets, LGBT people still face abuse and hate crime, and in our schools too many children are bullied for being, or suspected of being, gay. So for all our progress, we remain unequal.
It's great that more and more people are celebrating Pride every year. Friends and colleagues, whether LGBT or not – will join in the marches and attend Pride events. While the tone is celebratory, we need to remember that today's freedom to be ourselves at Pride has been hard fought for.
Pride is a chance to change some of that. It's a chance to give hope.
Finding out that I was a gay man in a very close Welsh community at the beginning of the 1980s wasn't a very pleasant experience. There were no gay role models, no discussion, no awareness, no support, only a sense of being isolated. Pride is one way of showing those discovering their identity that they are not alone, and offer some hope to the family, parents, neighbours and friends who are seeking comfort, or seeking the right words to say, or just an opportunity to raise the subject.
Last May, I was elected as one of the first openly gay Assembly Members for the Welsh Assembly (the National Assembly for Wales, Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru). For most of my working life, prior to being elected, I worked for international businesses as a lawyer, working on projects in the US, Europe, Australia, the far east, as well as the UK. I was fortunate to have employers who got that allowing staff to be themselves at work ultimately helped the business.
That's why I am so proud of the fact that many law firms in Wales fly the flag for inclusion in the workplace. With their LGBT staff networks and partnerships with organisations like Stonewall Cymru and Pride Cymru, they have found the space for LGBT staff to be themselves. Just as important, they've encouraged non-LGBT staff to have their own sense of pride in being a good ally.
We are all learning every day about the full diversity of the LGBT movement and about those allies we didn't realise we had. So I'd encourage you to use this Pride celebration to speak to your colleagues and your friends and learn something new about their experiences. Then come and be yourself with us at Pride Cymru. I'll see you there.
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