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.