LONDON PRIDE 2012 – a huge opportunity

There has not been a lot to be proud of at London Pride in the past few years. The oldest pride in the country, reaching its 40th year, has degenerated in just a few years from being a loud and long, high spirited parade, with a political and socially motivated rally in trafalgar square, plus a wild and wonderful soho party, into an increasingly feeble march, a b-grade pop show (from which this year even our the country’s prime gay activist, Peter Tatchell, has been banned) and a drunken mess in the centre of our great city.

Many people had already lost interest in pride as an event a few years before this when our beautiful post-march park parties became corporate sponsored, artificial arenas instead of a community coming together to celebrate. The switch to the west end focus was at first exciting, as we filled Trafalgar Square, the centre point of the nation’s spirit, with awesome queerness. Now there is a massive security operation in place, and searching of people going into the square – this despite pride being the event the police worry about the least because it is so peaceful – and little prospect of radical statements in any form, as the focus becomes entertainment not enlightenment.

I wonder if everything will be so peaceful this year, as there is an accumulation of anger and disappointment at the cutting back of festivities, banning of floats and buses from the parade (leaving elderly and many disabled lgbt unable to participate, not to mention the tired out, drug-fucked bunny boys lol), shame that we are hosting ‘World Pride’ but are having our most limited event since the early pride marches of the 70s, and frustration that we cannot even dance and perform in our beloved soho streets – into which our pink pound pours so much money. What will be the outcome?

The sense that something needs to happen is building. The realisation that we don’t need floats and spectacles and djs to have a great pride is spreading. Pride is made by the people – and the attitude they bring. The point that there are political and social reasons for pride – that its not just a case in glorying in the freedom we have now to fuck, to love, to be out at work, soon even to marry – is getting home too. Across the world many of our kind do not enjoy these privileges – even in the Commonwealth 44 countries make same sex relations illegal. This is a disgrace and we all know it. We have known it for some time, but any anger or compassion we might have felt about it has been anaesthetised away by the overwhelming pressure to make pride, and gay life as a whole, into a party.

In the 70s and 80s we had reason to shout loudly about our love, because we were battling fierce reactionary forces in society that would beat us down and send us back to the closets. By the end of the 90s, as aids started to fade to the background of gay life, an insatiable hedonism was building on the gay scene. After nearly two decades of activism and compassionate action in the face of an epidemic, and a community united under fire from both disease and tory government, a harder, faster, more superficial, more judgemental, scene emerged. The whole western world was caught up in a brash consumerist madness for several years, we were part of it, and like the rest of the west, we have not yet found our way to the next life stage.

I hope our anger and frustration, not just at westminster council, the mayor’s office, and the apparently useless pride committee, but also at the inequalities and evil perpetrated against people like us across the world, gets an airing this weekend. It is the love in us that will bring this out. If we care enough we will go to march this weekend and prove that pride is about people, and that we are a portion of humanity that LOVES INTENSELY. If we start loving each other, caring about our brothers and sisters across the world, and creating a gay culture that supports and nurtures instead of uses and abuses, preens and poses, we might re-inject some pride into being gay.  This pride, from the ashes of crisis, could present a huge opportunity for gay life to grow up a little bit. 

4 responses

  1. Thank you for this fabulous posting; it’s really helped crystallise for me some of the unease I’ve felt about recent Pride events (also in Oxford, not just London). Many blessings to you, heart.

  2. In 2010 I was late for Pride and joined at the back and with stragglers and tried to hurry forward in the procession to get to the section that I wanted to be with. The hostility from both police and stewards who told me variously that I must not run, that I had to stay “in my section”, that I could not overtake a float because it was dangerous what with those big wheels and everything going round and round…. it was breathtaking. I had a good time though, and dismissed the attitude from those who perceived themselves to be in authority.
    In 2011 I was late for Pride again. I joined the route about a quarter of the way along and tried to find a gap in the railings that kettled the (non) protestors. No gap. Tied to unhook them to create an entrance i a couple of places and was stopped by police, deaf to the logic that I was trying to get IN to the march and therefore not be a nuisance or an obstruction on the street. I just moved on each time rather than engage with the jobsworths, and passed many other obviously queer folk who were observing from the wrong side of the barrier. They no doubt had had the same problem but were content to be obedient and not take part. I found a section with less people leaning over the railings and began to climb over the railing. There were more people now and gaps were few and far between. Almost as soon as my second leg began to leave the floor I was swooped upon and threatened with arrest! A steward came and stood on the other side thus preventing me from hopping down. This riled me. Who were they here supporting? I tried to argue sense to no avail and so had to climb down in more senses than one. What was going on? Don’t I look gay enough? Was I supposed to have booked a ticket for this display of gay liberation? I almost cried with frustration, but the emotion was fuel for me, and I ran down a little way further, and seeing a gap vaulted the barrier at speed. There was a shout of “Hey”!” and another female voice of “You can’t do that!” but I was gone, spinning past a wheel steward and rather than sacrificing myself to the hooves of a festival float, nipped to the other side and lost myself in the crowd. I felt defiant and triumphant. I recognised the feeling, and then realised that I had not felt that on Pride since the late 1980’s. Something has been lost. and something has to be put back, because there is, once again a repression of our rights to be free as LGBTQ people At a point in time when most of the out of town people coming to “World Pride” will have hired coaches and booked train and plane tickets that are incompatible with the new earlier time introduced at the 11th hour, and the cancellation of many features of the event, it is hard to see this having any effect other than suppression and disruption. It might be safer, but then it might actually turn out to be incendiary. Not everyone is content with the measures that have been imposed this year, or this continued trend towards bland standardisation of public events, and therefore, invisibility. It comes back down to the people. What Pride is near reduced to is what Pride initially was; people standing up for themselves, together against those who seek to oppress their rights to liberty. The absence of banners at the event in recent years has been noted with sadness, and the focus on just getting pissed, or turning up after the march (I refuse to call it a parade) to be entertained, has been a worrying trend. The opportunity now is to take back the power. Reclaim Pride as a peoples event. The most successful LGBTQ event in history (duration, enthusiasm, liberating effects etc) did NOT have an organising committee. BE proud, DO something, SAY even more. The essence of Pride is organic and infectious, so tell your friends, but unlike Stonewall, do not let it be dominated by fear of the authorities or anger at the organisers. Then they would have won for they will have taken our attention off the celebration of WHO WE ARE and made us put our energy into negativity, hate and paranoia, all of which are the energies of division, distraction and of being drained. Let us come close as a community, love, and support each other without pigeon holing, make placards in the spirit of the Gay Liberation Front, and may the PEOPLE re-occupy PRIDE.

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