Why I'll Be Skipping Pride This Year
Every year I think Pride in London can't sink any lower; every year I'm proved wrong.
Posters tweeted by Pride in London
Yesterday, when Pride In London took to the #LoveHappensHere hashtag to get us all pumped for another year of Barclays floats and warm tinnies in the sun, they decided to draw attention to LGBT people's most valuable trait: how we make our heterosexual friends feel about themselves. Just think of queer people as an army of your own personal Gok Wans!
"My gay friends make me more attractive by association," read one poster produced by Pride in London and posted to Twitter, quoting a guy called Marv from Vauxhall. "Being homophobic is sooo gay," read another, attributed to Tori from Leyton. "Befriend a gay person and win a prize. Friendship," offered Bradley from Camden. "Gay man, straight man, we're all human" (thanks Ted in London Fields) is almost definitely not a compliment or an expression of ally-ship.
Aside from the fact these slogans verge on the insulting – playing on tropes of gay men being superficial, nothing more than a "gay-best-friend" accessory, and quite literally letting a straight person use "gay" as a derogatory term – they also place straight people front and centre of this year's Pride celebrations. It's a vapid, empty and meaningless campaign that confirms Pride is no longer a chance to unapologetically celebrate our culture, or to make vital demands of what our community needs to survive and thrive.
I've stopped hoping Pride's organisers will actually talk about the avoidable HIV crisis that's been sweeping through our towns and cities, or demand an end to the homophobic deportation system that sees queers seeking refuge in this country forcibly returned to nations where their sexuality is a risk to their lives. Who cares that 40 percent of trans adults in Britain have attempted to take their own lives! Just login to the PrideinLondon.org website to see Barclays, Tesco and Starbucks get more attention and space than literally any one of these causes!
I really don't expect much from the organisers of London Pride any more. Rather than making a statement about the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia still so rampant in our society, it was only two years ago that they invited UKIP to join us for the rainbow parade, despite their disgustingly homophobic history.
I've stopped expecting them to cotton on to the fact that our community gains nothing from pink-washing – letting companies like Virgin Atlantic take centre stage in the Pride celebrations, despite the fact the airline regularly agrees to deport LGBT asylum seekers from the UK on their flights.
I've stopped expecting them to understand that LGBT identities exist beyond the confines of white, middle class, gay male culture. Last year a group of LGBT asylum seekers – who themselves had been on the frontline of receiving abuse from our homophobic Home Office – tried to join in the Parade, but were marched out by beefy blokes in hot pants because they'd failed to cough up the entry fee.
I've stopped expecting Pride to even feign interest in championing real and present causes and campaigns that could make life for less privileged LGBT people in this country a little less tough.
WATCH: Exploring London's LGBT Club Scene
Instead, I ask one simple thing: give me an excuse to get outrageously drunk on the streets of the capital without insulting me and my fellow queers in the process. But apparently even that is too much to ask.
This might well be a cock-up from an intern who didn't know better; I highly doubt there was malicious intent from London Pride's organisers to produce artwork that would sink so quickly and cause such offence. Just hours after the offending artwork was posted an online, they were deleted and an apology was issued. But it's indicative of the thinking that permeates community organisations like Pride in London today – one that stinks of relative privilege and apologism, one that's focused on appeasing our heterosexual overlords.
I spend every day of my life being forced to listen to straight people talk about my sexuality, pass judgment on the decisions I make, talk about my right to love, to live, to marry as an abstract and debatable concept. The fact that Pride In London thought this campaign was useful is just another nail in its ever-increasingly irrelevant coffin.
Every year I think Pride can't sink to new levels, and every year – without fail – the organisers of London's LGBT rainbow flag-bearing piss-up continue to deliver. I'm sure for some people Pride will remain an important affirmation of sexual identity (a chance to sniff poppers with straight people in Soho House free from judgment), but this year I'll be steering well clear.