On Friday the 25th annual Brighton Pride Parade took place and has become a massive economic boost for the city as it attracts people from across the world. In recent years Pride has become less politicised and more about celebrating all things LGBT. However Pride at its core is not an apolitical institution, it is a modern manifestation of a political movement to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community. Although corporations line up to support Pride to improve their public image it is also essential to realise that the oppression of the LGBT community is inextricably linked with other oppressed groups such as women, workers and ethnic minorities.
The modern gay liberation movement was borne out of the socially conservatives attitudes that permeated U.S. society in the late 1950s, a full decade before the Stonewall Riots catalysed discontent into a full blown movement. The concept of ‘gay pride’ or ‘LGBT pride’ was a reaction to conservative attitudes that deemed homosexuality to be a mental illness with the invention of the slogan ‘Gay is Good’ by gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny in 1968 a cultural precursor to the movement.
Despite retaining Kameny’s positive and inclusive message post-Stonewall Pride parades have been slowly declining in their militancy. Pride’s retention of this positivity is essential is continuing the destigmatization of the LGBT community however Pride must also be more vocal in its support for other liberation movements, rather than simply feature such voices, like Gay and Lesbians Support the Miners, among a plethora of apolitical corporate slogans. This support is hard to guarantee as one of the strengths of modern Pride is that it welcomes people from a across society and the political spectrum, and therefore aligning the institution with workers’ rights movements, for instance, may contrast with more right-wing elements of the LGBT community.
In recent times Pride has begun to rediscover its more radical roots when it banned the UKIP LGBT group from marching in the London Pride Parade a few weeks ago. As a consequence of this decision many liberals began complaining that this was the LGBT community becoming more inward-looking and no longer being the beacon of tolerance that it used to be; some even dared to call the organisers of Pride bigoted.
Incorrect. Pride is an organisation with stated political goals centred upon achieving full equality for the LGBT community both legally and socially. UKIP on the other hand is a political party that opposed the passage of the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act and contains members that have in the past stated that the flooding of the Somerset Levels was God’s wrath for British society’s tolerance of homosexuals.
The weak case could be argued that the Conservative Party’s LGBT organisation should also have been banned because there were many vocal opponents of same-sex marriage from within the ranks of Tory MPs, however my response to that would be that it wasn’t party policy to oppose the bill and that it was introduced by a Conservative Prime Minister and backed by most of the mainly Tory Cabinet.
It is essential that Pride rediscovers its more radical roots and begins more vocal opposition to the continued injustices in our world that impact LGBT people as well wider society; sexism, racism, ableism and classism all cause the same kind of misery and anxiety around the world that homophobia does. Pride must be the global vanguard in introducing the younger generations to the heroes of the past that stood against homophobia, but also those who fought racism along side Martin Luther King and supported for union and worker rights during the Thatcher era.
By become more political we risk alienating some people who do not wish Pride to be the radical voice that it must become, but if the risk pays off we will transform societies around the world in saying that all forms of prejudice, including many that are now passive and unresolved. The next generation need to be energised and active in the betterment of humanity and it would be a betrayal of the LGBT movement’s pioneers to allow Pride to continue its current trajectory toward corporate patronage castrated of any radicalism.