Pride Month is an opportunity for the wider community to celebrate and acknowledge the importance of self-expression, diversity and the dismantling of rigid and harmful norms around sexuality and gender. It is a time to acknowledge the significant contribution of the LGBTIQA+ community as a whole to the advancement of civil rights and equality. But while the majority of the community embraces Pride Month and its messages of positivity, a recent rise in anti-LGBTIQA+ hate speech by a vocal minority has become an unfortunate element of public discourse.

When loud voices seek to deride and dehumanize people who are trying to live authentic lives enabled by the freedoms inherent in a democratic society, we as a community – as a society – must stand up and challenge regressive attitudes and misinformed beliefs. Denying people the right to safely express their identities and encouraging violence or abuse impacts real people, compounding mental ill-health, inequity and division. Brash and obvious bigotry is buttressed and enabled by the silence and acceptance of more subtle forms of discrimination, which is where we can all be a part of cultural change.

Rejecting harmful gender stereotypes and rigid gender roles will not only progress gender equality, but deepen our collective ability to foster a safe, accepting environment for people of all gender identities and sexualities. Teaching our children that they are free to express their authentic selves and providing a safe, non-judgmental environment to do so is imperative to breaking the cycle of inequity and discrimination.

In the workplace, community and social settings we can all challenge disrespectful comments and ‘jokes’ targeting LGBTIQA+ people or disparaging those who do not conform to traditional gender roles and behavioural expectations. These are acts of prevention which will contribute to cultural and social change over time. The more people who commit to actively challenging and rejecting expressions of disrespect, bias and discrimination, the more empowered we will all feel in doing the same.

It is so important to celebrate Pride – both within the LGBTIQA+ community and as allies within the wider community – in order to acknowledge the significant positive impact LGBTIQA+ activists have had on social, cultural and political progress in Australia and around the world. Public representation of LGBTIQA+ communities is crucial to ensure our young people are able to follow a path in life which fosters health, happiness and wellbeing – whatever their sexuality or gender identity. This Pride Month and every other day of the year, let’s commit to challenging discrimination and celebrating diversity.