Average read time: 5 minutes

Why being an LGBTQ+ ally matters

Planning for Pride events is in full swing. Alison Tarpey-Black shares what it means to have support from allies.

What has made Pride events extra special over the years has been the support from LGBTQ+ allies.
What has made Pride events extra special over the years has been the support from LGBTQ+ allies.

I was a teenager when I first read Harvey Gillman's book, A Minority of One. At the time of writing it, Harvey was Outreach Secretary for Quaker Home Service (as it was then) and at the time of reading, I was a spiritually grumpy trainee journalist, confused by churches of all denominations who preached of God's love – but only for those who were heterosexual. For the rest of us who weren't, we were either vilified or ignored.

It was fine to do the flowers every week or serve the tea or shift tables and chairs – as long as you didn't mention you had a same sex partner. I once attended a church youth group where one of the leaders declared that AIDS was God's way of punishing gay men. Not surprising therefore that I struggled to accept my own sexual orientation and was deeply fearful of anyone else finding out.

So, discovering Harvey's book about being gay (and being Jewish) was like switching a light on. To be honest, I don't think I read it all (sorry Harvey!) – what appealed was the fact that it had been published by a faith community and written by someone who must have felt welcomed enough to bravely explore and reveal deeply personal experiences.

And so began my journey with Quakers – a journey which has taken me via political journalism and current affairs to working for Quakers in Britain and being part of a local Quaker community.

Finding a faith community

This is why outreach is so important. I was a lost soul and Harvey showed me that there was a welcoming faith community that really did try to live its values of equality and equity.

It's 36 years now since Harvey and the Quakers first published his book and since then societal attitudes have changed. I've been able to celebrate my civil partnership with Anne and we have two amazing children. I can be open about who I am and my parents have become more relaxed about having a gay daughter – but there's still a long way to go.

According to Stonewall, only three in ten LGBT people of faith (29 per cent) take part at least once a month in a collective activity connected with their faith. And a third of lesbian, gay and bi people of faith (32 per cent), and one in four trans people of faith (25 per cent), aren't open with anyone in their faith community about their identity.

Globally, 70 countries still criminalise same-sex relationships. Eleven of those countries still impose the death penalty or turn a blind eye to violent attacks on people found to be in same-sex relationships.

Demonstrating solidarity

A couple of years after (partly) reading Harvey's book I attended my first London Pride. It was bonkers. Whistles were mandatory, the music was banging, we wore what we wanted and people were there to party. Since then, there have been hundreds of Pride events across the UK and they've become a significant and inclusive go-to in our country's cultural calendar.

What has made them extra special over the years has been the support from LGBTQ+ allies. My local meeting in Lancaster made its own rainbow banner and our Pride is happily held on a Sunday when Friends and little Quakers head out of the meeting house to join and take part. Last year one of the churches made a huge papier mâché Jesus that swayed alarmingly back and forward during the march – thankfully it didn't rain otherwise bits of him might have plopped onto the participants below!

Preparing for Pride

So why the heck, I can hear you cry, are you telling us all this?

The reason is, because beavering away in the background are Quakers in Britain staff members preparing for this year's Pride season – and we want you to have the opportunity to get involved! We're currently working on resources and merchandise that you'll either be able to wear or hand out to demonstrate Friends ongoing solidarity with those who continue to be marginalised or oppressed.

In 2021 we stated in our Britain Yearly Meeting epistle that “our individual tasks are our Quaker spiritual discipline: loving our neighbour – on our street and across oceans" and that “belonging is being accepted as one's true self."

These are powerful statements for those outside of our Quaker family who still feel ignored and threatened because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It's so important that we reassure them (like Harvey did with me) that there is a loving and welcoming faith community waiting to embrace them and offer them a spiritual home.

And I can promise you, that you'll have a blast at the same time! So, grab your rainbow feather boas, order a free Quaker t-shirt, and make memories that will last a lifetime for you, and those you connect with. (P.S. Don't forget your whistles).

Order Quakers in Britain resources to celebrate LGBTQIA+ inclusion all year round. Closing date for orders is 6 May so that they can be delivered in time for Pride month in June. If you or your Quaker community will be attending a Pride event, you can also use this form let us know!