David Furnish: Bigotry is festering so Pride is now more important than ever

david furnish: bigotry is festering so pride is now more important than ever

Gay Pride parade. Photo: Getty Images

It’s another normal day in the Furnish-John household. Daddy Elton has woken up in his tour hotel in Germany to check in with Papa David to see if our sons safely got to school this morning.

Every day I drop the boys off at the school gates, they bound into the building full of confidence and laughter. Parents and school staff give me a friendly wave and smile before I head into the office for another day’s work. This blissful routine was unimaginable when I was growing up in Canada.

I tried to come out to my mother when I was 21 but was met with a cascade of tears, emotion and fear. How would I ever find happiness? The simple things that brought my mother so much joy – through marriage and parenting – would be unavailable to me.

She was terrified I’d be discriminated against, pushed into the shadows and denied the right to a happy and fulfilling professional and personal life. I grasped at straws, trying to come up with examples of other gay people whose hopes and ambitions matched mine. But it was 1983 and there were none.

I’m incredibly grateful for the progress we’ve made – in Canada, in Britain where I live, and in many countries. But if I was dropping my children off at the school gates in Florida, I doubt they’d feel the same level of safety and acceptance within their community.

Governor Ron DeSantis, in a bid to gain political power and harness hate, has weaponised sexuality, passing laws that have cast a wave of blind fear over teachers, prohibiting them from having open and age-appropriate conversations about the everyday fabric of our diverse world. These new laws are cleverly crafted and deliberately vague, blurring the lines over what exactly can and cannot be said within the classroom.

Even worse, parents can now take legal action and sue schools for crossing these “undefined” boundaries. Cash-strapped school boards desperately try to avoid costly litigation, so their immediate reaction is panic. Beautiful and unifying books are being yanked from shelves to avoid conflict.

I remember my son taking The Family Book by Todd Parr to his school. This book warmly paints a world where families come in many different colours and configurations – single mothers, two dads, a black father and a white mother, etc. But together they make up a world where all families mean love.

This simple, but inclusive and harmless message laid a foundation of acceptance that brought my sons a great deal of comfort. Now this book is banned in Florida schools.#

But DeSantis hasn’t stopped there. He’s recently passed a law that allows doctors and insurers to deny medical treatment “on the basis of religious, moral or ethical beliefs”. In other words: a doctor can refuse to treat someone because they are gay.

This is one of the most diabolically anti-Christian pieces of legislation ever devised. It’s inhumane. Did we just step into a time machine and return to the Dark Ages? This barbaric man could be the next president of the United States. What the hell has happened?

The reality is that an increasing number of political leaders from the US are now harnessing the hate of a vocal minority of extremists and pandering to fringe voters in a bid to gain power. They desperately need to bring in those extra few votes – to get into office in an America that is politically divided on a knife edge.

There are now over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ US bill proposals this year alone. More than ever before. They are demonising my community and my family. This is unprecedented and terrifying. A baffling irony is not lost on me: the same country that made it possible to enjoy the precious gift of children through surrogacy in one part is now denying our family’s visibility in another.

So does Pride still matter? You bet it does.

Pride matters to all of us. Pride is about visibility. It’s our opportunity to demonstrate that we are an equal, tolerant, and loving world.

By putting our arms around everyone, we send a powerful message of inclusion and acceptance. I plan to march this year to celebrate the progress that we’ve made and stand shoulder to shoulder in support with my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, whose lives are tyrannised in other parts of the globe because of who they chose to love.

It’s blindingly simple to me: love builds healthy societies and a healthy world. And that is something I will always march for.

David James Furnish is a filmmaker and the husband of Elton John

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