I was proud to recently attend my first Birmingham Pride and march with Stonewall in the parade. It was one of the most positive atmospheres I have ever experienced. The wet weather did not deter thousands from taking to the streets to march in support of LGBT+ equality, with many out in force with rainbow umbrellas.

Unlike the article published last week, I believe that the increasing acceptance of sexuality and gender identity across society is something we should all celebrate. As Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently said:

‘Societies where people live freely attract world-class talent, business investment and are more stable and prosperous’.

Pride continues to play a vital part in making this happen.

We are not 'abnormal': Don't tolerate us, accept LGBT+!

Our Stonewall group were fourth in the parade and were proud to spread the chorus of ‘L-G-B-T‘ and there is absolutely nothing wrong with children and families being part of the celebration of diversity. We are becoming increasingly socially liberal as a country and this is why I felt able to come out as a gay Tory after the October 2016 Conservative Party Conference. Our Prime Minister, Theresa May, has helped our Party become one that champions freedom, equality, diversity and opportunity, regardless of someone’s background or whom they love.

I would like to see young children being more exposed to diverse culture, especially in school. The government is in the process of making Sex and Relationship Education LGBT+ inclusive and they are currently reviewing the Gender Recognition Act to ensure that transgender people are finally given the equal rights they deserve. The very reason why young people find it so hard to come out is because there remains a huge stigma towards identifying as LGBT+ in schools. Bullying and discrimination are at very high levels in many schools and this has to change.

We are not 'abnormal': Don't tolerate us, accept LGBT+!

I look forward to the day when being gay is seen as ‘normal’ and people don’t have to go through the tough process of coming out. I look forward to the day when people like me don’t feel like they are the ‘only gay in the village’. I also look forward to the day when every society across the world accepts LGBT+ people — especially the 37 Commonwealth countries who still haven’t legalised homosexuality.

The number of businesses and organisations who are proud supporters of the LGBT+ community continues to grow. Stonewall annually publishes a Workplace Equality Index to measure the progress of organisations on lesbian, gay, bi and trans inclusion in the workplace. After all, people perform better when they can be themselves. There is a massive business case for LGBT+ equality and we should celebrate the amount of talent our community has to offer in workplaces across various sectors.

There are some who believe that Pride no longer has relevance because we have achieved marriage equality in most of the UK. I couldn’t disagree more. Same-sex marriage still hasn’t been legalised in Northern Ireland. The UK still has a long way to go to ensure transphobic bullying is tackled head on and to change the misconception that gender dysphoria is a mental illness, as it is not. Gay people still face hateful attacks too. I read an awful story about a gay guy who had rocks thrown at him in central London. This all demonstrates that LGBT+ people are still not free to be themselves.

As a country, we have come a long way in terms of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality. We still have a long way to go to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and the discrimination faced by transgender people. Conservatives have helped make life better for LGBT+ people whilst in government over the last eight years. The Prime Minister rightly called for 37 Commonwealth countries to legalise homosexuality in her speech before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It’s time for us to champion events such as Pride and work to create a society where everyone is free to be themselves.

By Joe Porter

Joe has recently finished his third year studying Marketing & Politics at Keele University. He served as a UK Youth Voice Representative for the West Midlands for three years and has been a Stonewall Young Campaigner since October 2017. He has been Co-Leader of Undivided since summer 2016 and sits on the Advisory Board for the APPG on a Better Brexit for Young People and has given interviews on ITV, Sky, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and NTR Television. He has been a Parish Councillor for Endon & Stanley since 2014 and was recently part of the UK delegation to the Commonwealth Youth Forum.

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