Pride in London is normally a time of real celebration. Of the great city we live in. Of our great country – a place where people from all backgrounds live and work together in harmony.
And above all, of the great strides made by the LGBT community in fighting for true equality – not just here, but around the world too.
But this year, Pride in London is also a commemoration. Because we come together in the shadow of the absolutely appalling attack in Orlando 2 weeks ago. Young people cut down in their prime by senseless, cold-blooded violence. People enjoying a normal Saturday night out – murdered simply because of who they were – because of their sexuality.
This was a direct attack on the LGBT community. And it was an attack, once again, on our values and our way of life. So we stand with the people of Orlando, and we send our deepest condolences to the families and friends who are grieving today. As we remember those who were lost, we should also resolve to never allow this attack, this terror attack, to change who we are or how we go about our lives.
Our values – of openness, tolerance, equality and solidarity – that is what makes Britain so special. It is events like Pride that showcase that to the rest of the world. And the theme for this year’s Pride in London – #NoFilter – is entirely appropriate.
It celebrates the spirit of Pride by asking everyone to do something simple, yet courageous: live your life as you. Because that is what we’ve got to do – even in the face of such violence and terrorism, and even when there is still so much discrimination in our world.
We’ve made a lot of progress in tackling discrimination in Britain. The Same-Sex Couples Act, so that people in this country can celebrate their love for one another, regardless of their sexual orientation. One of the strongest legislative frameworks to tackle discrimination. And a zero-tolerance approach to homophobic bullying everywhere.
Now there is, of course, more that needs to be done. Especially on issues such as the availability of Pre Exposure Prophylaxis; mental health in the LGBT community; and on the vital task of working internationally to change laws and attitudes.
Next year, Pride will mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK – a landmark moment for LGBT equality.
But there are more laws that need to be passed; more support to be offered and above all, more attitudes to be changed.
Sadly, many people in the LGBT community feel the need to filter their behaviour, or hide who they are. But Pride says to Londoners, Britain and the world: be yourself. Live freely and openly.
Treat others with respect and tolerance, and expect that same treatment yourself. And in the wake of Orlando – as we come together in solidarity with one another today, what better message could there possibly be?
Let’s not change who we are.
Let’s not hide who we are.
Let’s live life with no filter.