Why Pride Still Matters

London

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I haven’t been to Pride in London since Victorian times, when we were beaten with wolves and locked up at the bottom of the lake in Hyde Park before appearing in magistrate’s courts early in the morning so that the judges could get off to brothels before teatime, but if one thing could persuade me to go to Pride today, it would be the rainbow tube stations. You need sunglasses to go into Oxford Circus at the moment. This year Pride is sponsored by Barclays and Tesco, although this apparently doesn’t entitle you to an overdraft or 20% off a bakewell tart. As always during Pride and Wimbledon fortnight, the good weather is breaking; a sure sign that God hates poofs and tennis.

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Like all movements that pass from repression to inclusion, it went through a number of stages taking decades. First illegality and invisibility, then protests, jailings, riots, visibility, legality, grudging acceptability, full acceptance and finally active inclusion. The gap between these last two stages is by far the longest. I have never not known freedom in London, and count myself lucky to have grown up during the bridge between acceptance and inclusion.

Why? Because I was able to experience the growth of London’s liberal independence free of commercialisation, when it was still something fresh, exciting and slightly piratical. It’s a sanitised product now, to be sponsored by banks and supermarkets as a way of gaining instant kudos, and no worse for that, just a bit less fun. The upside is an earned right; to be as boring as anyone else.

So, despite the closure of nearly 70% of London’s LGTB+ venues, mainly due to rapacious property developers, the arrival of equality and the right to marry would make you think it was Job Done. It’s not.

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It’s now 18 years since a neo-Nazi walked into a gay bar in Soho and blew it apart with a nail bomb, severely injuring 70 and killing 3. The venue was regularly used by my company for office drinks after work. On the night of the bombing we all headed there for beers, but just as we drew close the place exploded.

One of the survivors was a much-loved barman, David Morley. He suffered burns during the attack but continued to help others in the area despite his own injuries. Five years later he and a friend were accosted by a teen gang including a 15 year-old girl at Waterloo Station. Morley was beaten to death. His injuries were horrific. The gang was wandering the streets ‘looking for people to beat up’.

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This year, Karar Noshi (above), a famous Iraqi actor, was tortured to death for having long hair and ‘looking gay’, the 15th transgender person in America was just murdered, an MP who voted against the equal age of consent has been appointed Minister for Equalities, a man was stoned by a homophobic gang in Belfast, and Linda Harvey, a Christian commentator who has previously complained about having nowhere to shop because stores are too gay friendly, wants to trademark the rainbow because LGBT+ people have stolen it from God. Here she is. To be honest, although we could probably have a good argument I wouldn’t really want to have dinner with her, mainly because she has a face like a slapped arse.

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To be in London now is to think in a fundamentally different way about gender, race, sexuality. Away from city, you’re more likely to notice who isn’t visible. You breathe a sigh of relief when you return. As we know, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Otherwise you end up with the mentality of those in Russia, Nigeria and Egypt. It’s a safe bet I won’t be going on holiday to Azerbaijan or Chechnya anytime soon – too bad; my generous tourist buck might have helped their crumbling economies. Although the main reason I wouldn’t go is that, frankly, they look like utter shitholes.

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So, we reach the end of a long (50 year) road. Rights can be enshrined by law but may still be eroded by loss of public support. London’s welcoming liberal attitude is rightly legendary and has become enshrined in its character. Pride helps to make sure that it stays that way. Have fun, have pride, whoever you are, whatever you do.

 

 

13 comments on “Why Pride Still Matters”

  1. Jo W says:

    Well,Chris,another excellent and thought provoking post. Happy Pride Day everyone!
    P.s. Weatherwise,’god’ doesn’t seem to care for school holidays,either.

  2. brooke says:

    The struggle continues…

  3. bill says:

    Tell Linda Harvey her husband is gay; I know, I’ve slept with him.

    Just kidding. I have better taste than that.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The actor “looked gay” the ignorant American woman has a “face like a slapped arse.” What has looks to do with who they are? These people who know nothing about their faith bug me perennially but there are days when my face is a smashed pudding.
    A good reminder, Chris, that progress is only in pockets. My west end friend will watch the Pride Parade on the long August weekend and someone in the group will say, “Isn’t it wonderful that we lived to see this?” while they drink cocktails from a thermos. The big argument this year was whether the organisers would allow the police to march in their uniforms or not. Our Prime Minister was in the parade last year, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has come to a reasonable frame of mind yet.

  5. Linda ayres says:

    Thank heavens we live in more enlightened times, but it irritates me when I hear that ‘gay’ marriage means equality. Until heterosexual couples can enter into a civil partnership there is no equality. Please do not get me wrong I have no wish to deprive any couple in love of the right to marry, but some couples who have previously been married would welcome the chance to legally protect their new partner.

  6. brooke says:

    I live in the US and I know you can live in civil partnership here. You use a contract which is treated by the courts as any other contract between consenting adults. Assuming of course that your prior spouse is dead and/or you are legally divorced. Depending on the circumstance you may need other documents, e.g. “advance directives,” that state your specific wishes on how you wish to be cared for if you are too ill to state your wishes.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Sorry about that. Here in Canada marriage is marriage, gender doesn’t enter into it. I thought the civil contract thing was disappearing.
    Here’s another thing, though. There is a small movement agitating for birth certificates that don’t specify gender but leave it up to the child to decide when it has reached adulthood what it should say.

  8. admin says:

    I don’t see why civil partnerships should be equal for all but I’m not sure I agree with failure to specify gender on a birth certificate. Basic biology dictates that, and can be changed later, with the understanding of what it involves. I can’t imagine that the pressures on a non-gender child at school would not be damaging.

  9. brooke says:

    I agree with Admin. General laws that address sex, marriage and relationships are broad bush and the consequences to individuals can really do damage. That why I preferred a contract to “marriage.” What I wished, what I owned, etc. was very clear and would stand up in any US court.

  10. Peter Tromans says:

    Dear Chris,
    I am strongly in favour of making civil partnership equal for all. By ‘all’ I intend any two people – not necessarily lovers, they could be mother and daughter, brother and sister – who happen to share a life and want to share various fiscal, financial, pension fund, inheritance and family rights.
    Though I am happily married for 35 years, I question what marriage offers beyond what a civil partnership should. What is marriage: some convention of society, a means for the state and religious groups to control our lives and an opportunity for others to profit, whether they be involved in the ceremonial at the beginning or lawyers circling like vultures around an unhappy ending?

  11. Brian Evans says:

    I also think that civil partnerships should be open to all.

  12. Wayne Mook says:

    Civil partnerships are basically being fazed out. I’m married but it was anything to do with religion. The state has a say in fiscal, inheritance, pension and family whether married or not. In the UK there is no legal next of kin, so if you want money to go to someone make sure you let the pension company know or make a will.

    If you just live with someone the lawyers can still circle and it can be a whole lot messier, especially if children are involved.

    The state will always have a say in peoples lives, if you want a rule of law, just how much and how depends on votes.

    Unless the get rid of civil partnerships then they should be open to all.

    As for Pride, with what has happened over race & Brexit I think we need to keep banging on about equality and show people we are all here and all count. Pride is a good way to show and celebrate our society.

    As for stealing a rainbow, maybe we should tell her they are not real rainbows, not even copies as they don’t have the same colours. Therefore they are not stolen and she has thus born false witness, so has broken one of the commandments of god and will surely die, as it says in Exodus. Not that I would judge anyone.

    Wayne.

  13. brooke says:

    @ Wayne, if you mean Linda Harvey, pictured above, I would point out 1) she is wearing make-up; 2 her clothes are multi-colored and 3) her hair is not covered. I think according to Leviticus she eligible to be condemned by the community, i.e. stoned. But we would certainly not judge anyone or do anything like that to another human being–even though we are non-believers.

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