Every privatised body invested in running Pride failed the LGBTQIA+ community this year, be it Pride in London, or the Mayor. Yet even Covid-19 failed to stop it.
This year, the survivors of GLF, celebrating their 50 years of activism; organisers of the first Lesbian and Gay pride march in 1972; ranks swelled by today’s young activists responding to the call of GLF – Reclaim Pride, were once more in charge of the day.
It’s four decades since GLF was ousted from running Pride by commercial organisations taking it in a direction that proves more expensive year by year, and more and more restricted. It has turned our community away from Pride as a political demonstration into a purely street carnival, the origins of which have been deliberately obscured by each passing administration.
It’s a curious thing that events conspired to give us the opportunity to take back our legacy and run the 48th London LGBTQIA+ Pride march. A stroke of poetic justice: the kind that only happens when you’ve worked for it.
The march this year was supported on the ground by Out L&G police. They had worked on all the details, right down to the traffic lights around Trafalgar Square that had in place the material with cut-outs of the GLF interlinked symbols of Venus and Mars, representing lesbians and gays, glowing red or green at the crossings.
Those Out police, we learned, openly volunteered to protect us. They wanted to be with us, to meet us; to tell us about their spouse and their family, and they thanked us for what we’d made possible.
Sure, we older dykes and radical queens were wary of the police at the beginning of the conversation, but that exchange between us and them felt human and heartfelt, and the recognition given to us as GLF survivors, was for all the thousands of gay libbers who had walked through the doors of GLF and stayed to make the change.
The 2020 Gay Pride march arranged by us, is proof if any were needed, that we as a community are capable of running Pride ourselves. The only question that needs to be clarified is – what is Pride in London for? Is it to make one rich man richer, or to enrich the community for everyone’s benefit?
Pride needs rethinking
Certainly, the present Pride in London controlled by Conservative Central Office, doesn’t work. The best model we’ve had was the Pride in London Charity which ran the event from the 80s to 2013 when Mayor Boris Johnson’s business shakedown smash-and-grab, saw the charity bankrupted. Boris Johnson handing the vacancy over to Cameron, and him gifting it to his gay communications officer working in 10, Downing Street.
Michael Salter’s administration never challenges the number of people allowed on the parade, or challenges Westminster Councils’ annual claim for restitution of earnings lost from parking tickets, because some spaces had to be closed to let the parade through.
These conservative conspirators are seeing their councils and their friends do alright out of us, while failing us on everything else; recognition of community, solidarity, intersectionality, self-declared gender identity, racism, LGBT migrants, or the gay liberation politics and culture that has grown up in our community over the last fifty years. Everything that makes our society, our lives, vibrant, authentic and more advanced than theirs.
The conservative Pride in London has imposed on us the military and its murderous and wicked industry, responsible for some of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times. Forced on us the banks responsible for the financial crash; 14 years and counting of austerity, and rip-off Britain utilities. Pushed hard right politics that encourages homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and racism, all on the rise and impacting heavily upon the precariat, low-paid and unemployed, more than it does on them, or so they think.
There is also the issue of falling numbers of those attending Pride, and on this matter the Mayor has a role to play, indeed he has been doing so for some time. Sadiq Khan serves on the committee of the military and civil authorities that actually decides the maximum number of people there can be on the Pride parade.
Since the conservative party took over Pride there has been an annual decrease in how many people attend, from 30,000 down to 24,000 on the last of their Gay Pride marches in 2019. In the 1980s the numbers joining Pride were between 100,000 and 300,000 – and we went on afterwards to one of the London parks to celebrate, not pushed into the usual bars and separated, dispersed over the city instead of having that once a year come together party.
A note about Soho Pride. That is a separate event on the same day as Pride in London. Its cartel of publicans and brewers cater for a clientele who are not interested in the Out Pride concept. They prefer the closet, so, no worries there about loss of business in their manor.
All these relationships with Pride, both personal and political need rethinking. GLF will therefore be providing a venue for this discussion and for many others at the upcoming Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Conference at the Bishopsgate Institute next May. Inshallah.
Let us be clear. We activists in Gay Liberation take our civic responsibilities very seriously, because we already know what the loss of that status means.