July 23, 2013
There will be no equal pride as long as we are not equal
A few weeks ago, Channel 4 asked me to participate in their 4Thought programme on being LGBT and Jewish (I’d previously sourced them a friend for a different theme) to coincide with London Pride. I agreed, filmed it, and thought nothing more of it other than “ZOMG, I’m going to be on telly! And no-one watches telly anymore, so I don’t have to tell anyone if they make me look bad”. As it turned out, they took three hours of insightful, thought-out analysis on Pride, LGBT, Judaism, and our society, and produced a minute and a half of TV that barely mentioned Judaism at all and said not much more about anything else. Maybe I wasn’t soundbiteable enough.
The reaction from my friends, feeds etc, was as proud and as gay as you would expect. Several people had caught it airing, and as I was actually walking down the Pride route, a friend I went to school with and hadn’t seen in five years jumped out the crowd and screamed that it had been so long and had she seen me on Channel 4 the day before?
I didn’t want to contribute to the “Pride, what is it good for” debate that happens every year in the run-up to a major local Pride, so I didn’t say much about it at the time – I think it should be obvious to every LGBT person why we march, and the main arguments seem to be over money. Not that that’s not important, but it’s not something I wanted to get into.
But I checked my page on the 4Thought website recently, though, and I was surprised to see that all of the comments are from heterosexuals claiming that we don’t need Pride because everyone can be proud and Pride should be Equality Pride, to which everyone should be able to come.
Someone wrote: “I agreed with all of that until the last sentence. Pride should not be about reveling in the fact that straight people are the ‘different’ ones for once. Straight people should be as welcome at pride as gay people. It should just be a celebration of being proud of who you are: gay, straight or whatever!”
Another comment said: “we dont need pride because everyone should have the right to express themselves and be pround anyday. why have just one day. stop having gay pride, or black history week/month etc and just have people pride, we are all the same whether we are black,white,purple or green, or gay, straight, bi-sexual,trans or anything.”
I choose to assume that this people are genuine and not just homophobes trying to put a respectable face on their bigotry (not so sure about the comment who suggested Tolerance Pride, apparently unaware that you only tolerate things you can’t accept) like Straight Pride. I also assume with greater certainty that none of them have actually ever attended a Pride, as plenty of straight people go. The difference is that they’re assumed to be LGBT unless they explicitly specify otherwise – exactly the opposite of every other day of the year. That was my point. That’s the point.
I had a great time at London Pride, but apparently in between the sticker-collecting, enthusiastic cheering for the LGBT Nigerian group that turned out (all two of them), and silent disapproval of all the corporate delegations that showed up (Facebook had more people there than Stonewall), we forgot to tell people why we were there.
The part of the Pride that I was watching from happening to be one of the designated crossing gates, so that at gaps in the march, people could get across from one side of the road to the other (one of the friends I was with told me that the there are two events in the year when they shut down so many major roads in central London – Remembrance Day, and Pride). Some people were nicer about this that others – one woman crossed over to our side, complaining all the way, and then shouted something like “I’m straight and you don’t see me parading my sexuality around!” My friend yelled back, “Try being oppressed for hundred of years and see how you feel then!” I quietly said “*thousands”.
I suppose that for many people, they see Barack Obama supporting same sex marriage and think everyone is is now equal and that is just fine and dandy. No-one seems to stop to consider that the reason he’s “supporting same sex marriage” is because it doesn’t exist yet and there’s quite a lot of people, including here, who don’t want to see it happen. Though as as of this week, there’s nothing that British homophobes will be able to do about it.
For the most part, it’s manageable. We live in a first world country with gay MPs and the Mayor led World Pride last year and it’s starting to seem kind of weird when celebrities we all knew were gay finally come out.
But, on a more personal level, I see friends being put in awkward situations because their partners are presumed to be a sex they’re not, and others have been threatened in the street for holding hands. I’ve had friends beaten up, and others are still disowned by their parents despite this new world we’re living in. The stories I hear from my trans friends about trying to access NHS services are horrific, and they’re still happening on a daily basis. I was told I was probably going through a phase only a few months ago by someone I consider a friend.
It’s 2013, and it’s such a good time to be gay. But it’s still better to be straight.
There will be no equal pride as long as we are not equal.
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