Pride Month – Petal Pioneers Pride Month – Petal Pioneers

Pride Month – Petal Pioneers

A blossoming world 

As we celebrate pride month, we celebrate the progress that the LGBTQ+ community has made. As a member of that community, I’m proud to say we’ve come a long way in just the last few years alone. But I would be foolish to use this article to list our achievements, without highlighting the long road ahead to achieve equality for all in what is still a very hateful world. It’s easy to forget how fortunate we are in the UK to live in what I consider to be an accepting society, although hate crimes and discrimination exists in pockets. There are some 71 countries that have laws against being gay. A large majority are within Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Although the United States presents itself as a progressive democracy, it was only in 2020 that the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful to dismiss an employer based on their sexuality or gender identity. The UK government is yet to ban conversion therapy, and in April altered their plans to exclude trans people from the ban. Same sex marriage is legal in 31 countries, the Netherlands taking the lead in 2001 as the first. Now a days it can be easier to make our voices heard with help from the internet, but what must it have been like centuries ago when anything but the normal heterosexual relationship was a taboo? 

Wilde and wonderful 

Figureheads of the gay community took it upon themselves to lead the way out of oppression. So where do flowers come into all of this? Well, it’s been common to wear a boutonniere to a posh event for some time now, and our cunning LGBTQ+ ancestors took advantage. If you’re a theatre fanatic like me, you may be familiar with the work of Oscar Wilde. A playwright, poet, and author whose work was most popular during the 1980’s, Wilde became a visible figure within the community, which he knew all too well. Rather fearlessly, he became known for wearing a boutonniere, the flower being a green carnation. This soon became his symbol of pride, and he engaged others to follow suit. This subtle act of solidarity was a welcomed act of defiance, welcomed by his thespian community. Sadly, Wilde was imprisoned after legal battles depicting his homosexuality; these trials were seen as the first celebrity case of their kind which took place in 1895. After two years of his sentence, Wilde lived in exile, before dying just three years later in Paris. To this day, his play The Importance of Being Ernest is a critics favourite. 

Photo credit Tumblr 

The Pansy Craze 

At the start of the 1930’s, there was an uprising in popularity of drag queens, known as ‘pansy performers’, in LA, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It is thought the performers got their name for dressing flamboyantly, alluding to the pansy flower, known for its bright bold colours. Gay friendly bars were present, with a demand for gay nightlife ready to thrive. This had been present as far back as the late 1800’s but started to become prevalent through the roaring 20’s. Youngsters would flock to the city to take up bohemian lives, to explore the underground scenes the city had to offer and connect with their community. With the help from performers such as Jean Malin, as many as 7,000 people would flock to take part in parties that saw prizes handed out for the best costume, Malin often among the winners. But this was soon stomped out through police raids across cities. Hollywood also took the time to introduce the Hayes Code allowing self-censorship of their films, permitting them to strip films of any homosexual content entirely. Where progress was being made, it was kicked to the curb. 

Vivaciously Violet 

In 1926, New York City was shaken by a debuting play that took to Broadway. ‘The Captive’ (La Prisonnière) is said to be the first Broadway play to deal with lesbianism. The play depicts Irene, who loves a woman, but is forced into marrying a man – she famously says it is “a prison to which I must return captive, despite myself”. Although her female love is not seen throughout the play, they leave behind violets for Irene, a symbol for their love. Lesbians soon clung to this gesture and used the violet in solidarity, claiming the flower as their icon for lesbian love. The play however was not received well, causing chaos among the press and its critics. After just 160 performances, the show closed. As a far worse consequence of closing, the topical debates triggered a new state law that dealt with obscenity. Theatres were no longer permitted to depict homosexuality, with actors and producers being prosecuted for being involved in what was considered as an immoral drama. If there’s comfort to be had, perhaps it can be drawn from the solace that these gay women found in wearing a violet boutonniere, a symbol that was recognised widely for decades to come. Florists on the other hand, saw a big decline in sales of violets as a result...they were not impressed. 

Transcendent roses 

Roses have become a symbol for the trans community, not for their beauty, but rather sadly for their association with death as a funeral flower. Last year Forbes magazine reported that there had been 375 murders of transgender people – this is the highest figure since records started. Hate crimes have soared and we’ve heard far-right political rhetoric becoming hostile towards the trans community. The UK police reported that in 2019 they saw an 81% increase in trans hate crimes, compared to 2016-17. Much of the focus on trans rights recently has been focused on hormone therapy and the use of hormone blockers among children. I remember my outrage by an article I read earlier this year about Texas governor Greg Abbott who undoubtedly is waging war on trans youths in his state - a state that has the second largest trans population in the US; Greg Abbott has officially directed state agencies to begin investigating gender-affirming care for trans youth, deeming it “child abuse”. As a result, this means nurses, doctors, teachers, anyone will be obliged to report instances of what’s being referred to as ‘abusive procedures. This rhetoric refers to puberty blocking medications, gender reassignment surgery and anything defined and gender affirming treatment. Abbot wants parents of trans youths to be reported too, it’s terrifying. Texas is just one of many states that are introducing new laws that target this minority, and we must do more to protect trans rights. Click here to donate to charities benefitting the community. 

Wear your petals with pride 

Flower Shops Network wants everyone to be proud of who they are and who they love. This Pride, we encourage the world to push for equality for the LGBTQIA+ community by wearing flowers, its easy... 

1. Choose a flower that best represents you 

2. Cut an inch below the flower head so it's a very short stem 

3. Attach it using a safety pin to show your support for Pride'22 🏳️‍🌈  

Want to enter our competition? Show us! This can be a small design, a rainbow bouquet, or perhaps you're a florist and have dressed up your shop? We want to see and share your work!  Use the hashtag #PetalPride and tag us @flowershopsnetwork on Instagram or Facebook 

The common denominator among our petal pioneers is their pride and resistance against hate. In the same spirit, I encourage everyone to be proud of who they are and who they love. Support the LGBTQ+ community, continue to challenge the red tape of society, and push for equality – the fight is far from over. For more information on how you can join in with celebrations throughout pride month, click here.

Want to send someone a pride bouquet? Check out our Petal Pride bouquet, with 20% of sales being donated to MindOut a UK charity that supports the mental health of the LGBTQIA+ community. Celebrate pride with flowers this year!