Pride: Party and Protest
Organisers of Sheffield Pride recently came under fire for stating that the cities Pride event was a “march of celebration, not protest”. The organisers clarified that offensive language on placards would not be allowed and placards would need to be reviewed by Pride management. The backlash against the Pride organisers was almost instantaneous with the tweet being shared across social media. The backlash against the ‘guidelines’ forced Sheffield Pride committee to issue a retraction and apology for the misunderstanding. Despite the apology the debate is out in the open and I think it is important to consider Pride as both party and protest.
It is important to look back at the origins of Pride in the UK, the first gay pride event to happen was in London on the 01/07/1972 which was the closest anniversary to the hugely significant Stonewall riots of 1969. At this point in the UK homosexuality had only been decriminalised between two consenting adults in 1967 and equality was a pipe dream for gay activist of the time. The age of consent was higher for gay men, gay people had no recognition of their relationships and discrimination was rife in the political establishment, among the police and all other elements of life in the UK.
At this point in time Pride was primarily a protest, young gay activist including Peter Tatchell took to the streets to protest huge levels of discrimination levelled at their community. Less than a thousand people turned up to the event with many fearing arrest and the risk that they might be evicted from their homes. Between 1972 and 1999 gay rights were still an outlier issue with huge strides left to make and with homophobic policies such as Section 28 enacted by the Thatcher Government and the AIDS crisis that ravaged the gay community Pride was an event where the LGBT community had no choice but to shout and be visible.
It has only really been in the last 10 years or so where the meaning of Pride has taken new shape, with reforms to legislation that have seen LGB people acquire near equality in the UK social attitudes have changed massively. If we look at Manchester Pride which takes place during the August bank holiday tens of thousands of people from all over the world come to celebrate with straight people in attendance enjoying a weekend of music and fun. Manchester Pride retains the elements of protest with the parade having representatives from Labour, Tories, the Lib Dems and the Greens all in attendance. Religious organisations such as the Quakers are also in attendance and the Candle Lit Vigil held on the last day of Pride keeps the event grounded in its roots.
Despite the party atmosphere of a Pride event such as one in Manchester there are a vast number of issues that still need to be addressed throughout the UK. You may have noticed I purposely omitted the ‘T’ in my last paragraph. That is because there is a truly hostile environment towards our trans brothers and sisters in the UK. In research conducted by Stonewall a shocking 48% of 781 trans people surveyed did not feel comfortable using public bathrooms. We have also seen disgusting headlines out of media publications such as the Daily Mail with one columnist claiming that a trans teacher by the name of Lucy Meadows was “not only in the wrong body…he’s in the wrong job.” This particular teacher would later go onto to commit suicide after the media storm. This same writer would also ask readers to not consider Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black the ‘new normal’ after the announcement that they would become dads.
It is precisely the reasons outlined in the paragraph above that Pride must remain a protest, whilst the UK is a great place to live if you are LGBT there are still wrongs that need to be addressed. We also must consider that LGBT people are oppressed all around the world with gay people still facing the death penalty in 10 countries and shocking levels of discrimination in many others. Until gay people are liberated around the world I fundamentally disagree with the original statement by Sheffield Pride and call on LGBT people to have a bloody good time at Pride but also remember that Pride is a political statement and must continue to be until not a single person on the planet faces discrimination for being LGBT.
By Daniel Carter