In June and July, prime Pride season in much of the world, multitudes mobilised to demand LGBTQI+ rights. A renewed sense of opportunity marked the post-pandemic return of some big events, but also a sense of urgency in the many contexts where right-wing groups are mounting a concerted attack on LGBTQI+ rights. Protesters are increasingly connecting their demands to broader struggles – for abortion rights, racial justice, political change and fundamental democratic and civic freedoms. Pride protests are more necessary than ever.

It’s been Pride month across multiple countries, with LGBTQI+ people and allies coming together to insist on LGBTQI+ visibility and assert rights. While Pride events take place the year round, many of the longest-established mobilisations are held in late June and early July, a time of special significance: on 28 June 1969, the Stonewall Uprising in New York marked the start of the organised LGBTQI+ rights movement. One year on, the world’s first Pride marches took place in the USA.

People have mobilised at this time of year ever since. But in 2022, there was a new sense of urgency at many events, as sexual and reproductive rights are increasingly contested.

Back on the streets in New York

In New York, 25 June was a special occasion, with people back on the streets for the first time since 2019, after which the pandemic turned mass gatherings into online events. That wasn’t the only reason this year’s New York City Pride felt different: it came just days after the US Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. To communicate solidarity, the march was led by representatives from Planned Parenthood, with protesters demanding abortion rights.

This made the parade more than just a party. Wherever women’s rights for bodily autonomy are attacked, so are LGBTQI+ rights, and many LGBTQI+ people believe they are next in the firing line: the same reasoning the Court’s Republican majority used to strip women of abortion rights can also be applied to stop same-sex marriage. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has already said as much.

Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ law passed earlier this year, which bans classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, is another sign the US right wing’s anti-LGBTQI+ agenda is on the rise alongside its assault on abortion. Florida’s law is just one of over 300 anti-LGBTQI+ bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in the USA so far this year.

The same party that’s mobilising this onslaught is also behind a brazen attack on democracy, reflected not only in the January 2021 insurrection but also in systematic racial gerrymandering and voter suppression aimed at disenfranchising Black people and other US minorities. The accompanying battle of narratives is seeing books banned in schools, with books on LGBTQI+ issues and race targeted.

People know they’re in for a long-term struggle for rights, and they’re determined to win. They will do so by multiplying solidarity, connecting struggles against the exclusion of women, LGBTQI+ people and people of colour and demanding advances in rights on all fronts.

Trans Pride in London

The UK’s politics are increasingly caught up in the same kind of dismal culture war that has come to dominate US discourse. Here, trans people are the preferred target. In the current race to become the UK’s next prime minister, almost all candidates have made a point of signalling criticism of trans rights.

Under the leadership of outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK government has gone backwards on trans rights. In April 2022 it backtracked on its planned ban on so-called ‘conversion therapies’ to exclude trans people from legal protection. That same month, the government was embarrassingly forced to cancel its planned global LGBTQI+ conference after many LGBTQI+ organisations pulled out in protest at its ‘conversion therapies’ reversal.

Pride participants in New York instinctively understood that abortion rights are part of their struggle, but the right-wing culture war is trying to divide and rule. When politicians and anti-rights groups stoke hatred towards trans people, they present rights as a zero-sum game, seeking to persuade people that trans rights are a threat to women’s rights – even as they attack women’s rights. This makes the kind of intersecting solidarity on show in New York all the more vital.

It also made Pride season even more important for the UK’s under-attack trans people. On 9 July, over 20,000 marched in the Trans Pride event in London, under the banner ‘Pride is a Protest’. They easily surpassed the protest’s previous attendance record of 7,500. Organisers took care to make the event fully accessible for people with disabilities, acknowledging the multiple layers of discrimination that result in the denial of rights.

Radical Pride in the UK and USA

London Trans Pride was a separate event to the official Pride in London parade, held the week before on 2 July. In recent years critics have accused the event of neglecting trans people and excluding Black people and other UK minorities. In 2021, the organisers’ advisory board resigned, saying there was a ‘hostile environment’ for non-white volunteers.

In places where Pride events have long been established, including Canada, the USA and many parts of Europe, official parades have recently been criticised for becoming depoliticised. Critics say they have lost sight of their radical roots to become parties and PR opportunities for corporate sponsors.

The 2020 resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement forced established Pride events to acknowledge the intersections between gender, sexual identity and race, and confront the power structures that deny the rights not only of LGBTQI+ people but also of Black people and other excluded groups. LGBTQI+ police officers had become visible participants in Pride marches in London, but in 2022 the organisers banned uniformed police from taking part, responding to recent revelations of systemic racism, homophobia and misogyny in UK police forces.

More radical events like Trans Pride are springing up in response. This is also the case in New York, where the Queer Liberation March took place on 26 June, the day after New York City Pride. Organised by the Reclaim Pride Coalition – established on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall in 2019 to put the political back into Pride – this year the event sought to throw the spotlight on the people of colour who will be worst affected by the loss of abortion rights, and on the need for sexual and reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for all.

2022 was a significant anniversary in London, marking 50 years since the city’s first, defiant protest of 700 people. The day before the official event, 1 July, protest veterans who in 1972 marched under the banner of the Gay Liberation Front walked the original route again, calling for a Pride open to everyone, with no corporate sponsorship and human rights at the forefront.

Vote with Pride in São Paulo

The politics came back into Pride in São Paulo, Brazil too. This has long been one of the world’s biggest LGBTQI+ events, with millions usually attending. As in New York, this was the first in-person São Paulo Gay Pride Parade since the start of the pandemic. And it was shaped by the fact that Brazil soon faces a crucial decision.

In October, voters will elect their country’s president and parliament. Current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is no friend of LGBTQI+ people. He has a history of homophobic slurs and on his first day as president excluded LGBTQI+ rights from the mandate of the human rights ministry.

Although he’s long trailed in the polls to the challenger, former President Lula, there are fears Bolsonaro could close the gap. He’s launched a programme of cash handouts and is spreading Trump-style claims about potential electoral fraud. Evangelical voters are a powerful force in Brazil, and as he seeks to bolster their support, Bolsonaro may well step up his anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric.

This made the São Paulo march particularly timely. Organised under the slogan ‘vote with pride, for policies that represent us’, it aimed to show that as LGBTQI+ people can mobilise in numbers, politicians need to listen to them. Participants demanded Bolsonaro be voted out in October. They are determined their rights will count.

Repression in Istanbul

Turkey, too, has a right-wing incumbent politician happy to mobilise toxic politics to win re-election. Turkey goes to the polls next year and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is desperate for soft targets to appeal to his socially conservative support base and distract from the dire economic crisis he is presiding over.

This is bad news for the country’s circa one million population of Syrian refugees, currently the target of politicised xenophobia, and it can only worsen the climate for LGBTQI+ people. Last year, Erdoğan said ‘there is no such thing’ as LGBTQI+ people in Turkey. In line with this denial, Pride events have been banned and ruthlessly repressed in recent years.

Istanbul Pride, first held in 2003, is the first and largest of its kind in a Muslim-majority country. It used to be a major event, attended by thousands, but since 2015 the city government has consistently refused permission for the parade. Each year people turn out regardless, and each year they are met with violence.

The story was sadly no different this year when organisers tried to hold the event on 26 June. Police in riot gear blocked access to Istanbul’s central Taksim Square and surrounding streets and forced people to leave local cafes. The authorities shut down public transport to prevent people travelling to the protest. When groups tried to gather, police chased them down through the streets. Over 370 people were detained and police prevented media from filming the arrests.

Pride month in Turkey saw a consistent pattern of police repression, including violence towards activists. Police also stopped people bringing rainbow flags and other LGBTQI+ emblems to International Women’s Day events in March, and the authorities are trying to close down a civil society organisation that organised an event on LGBTQI+ children. Sadly, hostility is likely only to increase as Erdoğan tries to cling onto power.

A comeback in Bangkok

It had been an even bigger wait to take to the streets in Bangkok. On 5 June, Thailand’s capital held its first official Pride event in over 15 years, under the banner of Naruemit Pride, using the Thai word for ‘creation’.

In the intervening time, Thailand saw five years of military rule. The military currently retains its hold on power, albeit now in civilian guise. Recent years have seen an ongoing campaign of protests for democracy, led by young people, and an intensifying repression of human rights.

This might seem an unpromising backdrop for a Pride protest, but it made it all the more vital. The event was possible because Bangkok has a new Governor, political independent Chadchart Sittipunt, who won office by a landslide in May. Known as a supporter of LGBTQI+ rights, he was quick to put his beliefs into action, enabling the event to go ahead in a context where the ruling party shows little tolerance of protests.

Thailand has a reputation as a more hospitable country for LGBTQI+ people than others in the region, and promotes itself to foreign tourists accordingly, but activists point to the lack of any legal recognition of their rights; without such recognition, tolerance is a gift from the powerful that can always be taken back. Discrimination remains a daily reality, particularly for trans people.

Thousands at the parade demanded equal marriage. This year the government turned down a proposal to recognise same-sex marriage, and last year the Constitutional Court stated that same-sex marriage would ‘overturn the natural order’. There may be some move to recognise civil partnerships, but this falls short of the full equality demanded.

These demands are not isolated from the broader currents seeking a democratic Thailand. Young LGBTQI+ people are playing a highly visible part in the democracy protests that are also challenging social taboos. Democracy groups have thrown their weight behind marriage equality as part of the progressive Thailand they are striving for.

The ‘Bad Students’ movement sees the struggle for democracy as inherently connected with its demand to reform the education system, where outdated and draconian rules restrict students’ behaviour and appearance, forcing students into narrow binary identities. Struggles for democracy and LGBTQI+ rights will remain intertwined in Thailand.

Defiance in Oslo

Even in countries where LGBTQI+ rights might be considered long established, LGBTQI+ people can still face discrimination, hate speech and violence.

A reminder of these persisting challenges came in Norway, generally considered one of the European countries with the strongest legal protections for LGBTQI+ rights. On the eve of Oslo Pride on 25 June, a gunman launched an attack on a well-known gay bar, killing two people and injuring many more. Police said they were treating it as a terrorist attack.

For safety reasons, the official Pride parade was cancelled, but thousands marched regardless, both to mourn the dead and show defiance, insisting they would not be cowed in asserting their public presence. They laid flowers and rainbow flags on the ground in remembrance and vowed to keep up the fight. That struggle remains essential, everywhere. Pride protests are as necessary and vital as they ever were, from Norway to Brazil and from the USA to Thailand.


  • States must enable Pride events and ensure the safety of participants.
  • Pride movements should build stronger connections with struggles for women’s rights and the rights of Black people and other people of colour.
  • Civil society must support LGBTQI+ struggles and embrace trans rights as an essential human rights demand.

Cover photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images