Today’s guest blog is by Chas Brickland, Volunteers and Student Engagement Officer at the University of Southampton.
Pride marches that we may be familiar with in the UK today can vary from modest, local, community based picnic in the park affairs to truly massive events with tens of thousands of people taking part. Dwarfed, of course, by events elsewhere in the world – the biggest in São Paulo attracting 2.5 million participants with over 3.2 million people attending.
Some people believe that many Pride celebrations have lost their way, become too corporate, too far removed from the political roots and the struggles of the people they claim to champion. Others argue that it is crass or vulgar and not what many LGBT people would identify with and so is no longer representative of or indeed helpful to our community.
I can empathise with both perspectives. I’ve attended a lot of Pride celebrations and I can definitely say that if you weren’t familiar with the historical context of Pride marches as a way to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, in which LGBT New Yorkers took a stand against institutional oppression and persecution and really kicked off the modern LGBT civil rights movement, you weren’t likely to come away any the wiser.
But I’m not sure thats necessarily the awful thing some people make it out to be – I certainly don’t think it renders Pride inert or pointless. Yes it’s important to know how we got to where we are today; the people and organisations that have got us this far, but I believe Pride also serves a different, but just as important purpose – at least in the UK. In parts of the world where LGBT lives are still in very real danger and where oppression is rife and state sanctioned, Pride still represents all the same struggles as the riots did in 1969.
We are in a far more privileged position here in the UK and while Pride does still encourage us to acknowledge and be appreciative of that, I think it is now more a way of showing solidarity with those with whom we feel we share a common experience. They build a sense of community in a world where a lot of us have spent a large portion of our lives feeling like we are the only ones in the world that feel the way that we do.
You can criticise the flamboyance or the ubiquitous over-zealous gentleman in leather, the cheesy music or the camp atmosphere, but what makes Pride events so enjoyable and meaningful is that they celebrate the huge diversity of our community whilst giving us a space to actually be a community – something I’d argue we’ve lost in the Grindr age.
You can come along and grumble all you like that there are far too many rainbows or too much pink glitter, you can mourn the diminishing political messages or the perceived increase in apathy and complacency. Or, you can come along and look around and marvel at the spectacle, look around at all those people whose lives with every passing generation are getting that little bit better and truly appreciate what we have accomplished.
Yes there is a huge amount still to do, yes we still have homophobia and yes for a lot of people around the world it is so much worse. But let’s take this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the huge amount of work that our community partners, our allies and all of us have done and take pride in just how far we’ve come.