Pride season is now upon us, and in Pride in London’s 45th year, our Chair, Ethan Spibey asks whether it’s still relevant…
You may know that Pride in London started in 1972 and the context then was fundamentally different, one where discriminatory and downright homophobic practices were commonplace and equality wasn’t exactly on the agenda. The Pride marches then were displays of solidarity, of strength and of resolve. Far from being a celebration, it was a protest, symbolic of the struggle so many went through to achieve the rights we enjoy today.
45 years on therefore, many ask the question whether Pride is still relevant, whether the changes in attitudes and society mean Pride should also change from the protest march it once was into something entirely different.
Unfortunately, I disagree.
I’d love to sit here and say that there isn’t a need for Pride anymore, and frankly, I’m sure we’d all like to live in a society where it isn’t necessary, but that’s just not the reality. The reality, whether that be in the workplace or in wider society, is that LGBT+ individuals continue to suffer at the hands of discrimination and so the need to fight against those practices is as necessary now as it was in 1972. Despite the fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have the family I do, many individuals, as highlighted by this year’s national TV campaign, continue to grow up in an environment where they are neither respected nor valued for who they are. Hate crime shows a worrying resurgence and discriminatory practices in the workplace are still an alarming fact of modern day life.
Pride acts as a demonstration of the struggles that our community still face, but also as a celebration of how far we’ve come. For me, seeing the armed forces LGBT+ networks marching along Oxford Street is a paradigm shift from where we once were, and the corporate groups which now play a vital role in keeping Pride viable, demonstrate how much attitudes have changed.
That’s not to say that there still isn’t much to do. Clearly, the subject matters and contexts have changed, and an ever increasing knowledge of our community continues to highlight the areas in which LGBT+ individuals are disadvantaged. The unfortunate truth is that 45 years on, we are still a long way from a society where Pride isn’t needed. The challenges facing gender and race continue to marginalise an already marginalised community. From speaking to the Co Chair of a Pride in London at our most recent roundtable, ensuring that Pride represents all those in our community is an ongoing focus and priority.
So this year, of course we should celebrate the victories we have had as a community, enjoy the vibrant demonstrations of love, but we should also remember that so many of us need Pride just as much today as we needed it in 1972. The day when Pride is simply a reason to celebrate is unfortunately a distant dream, I’m just grateful for the thousands of volunteers across the country that share the belief that together, we can make that dream a reality.