Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, Brighton and Hove Green Party Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty pays tribute to the city’s Pride movement – which this year celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Pride in Brighton and Hove, as our city’s Green Mayor Bill Randall said is one of the events that defines the city. This year’s festival was notable because it was the 20th anniversary of Pride in Brighton and Hove – so it’s a timely opportunity to look back at some of the things that we take for granted today but not so long ago were simply off limits to the LGBT community.
It hardly needs saying that in 1992 when Brighton Pride pioneers sowed the seeds for this defining event, things were different; even in towns like Brighton (we were just a town then). The LGBT community was not as empowered or as obviously and openly part of the political and social landscape as we are today. We were still recovering from the devastation and loss inflicted by the AIDS epidemic. Remember that treatment prospects for HIV were far less successful than today.
Outside of London, the visibility and participation of openly gay men let alone trans, bi or lesbian groups was still patchy in local communities. Even in Brighton, for example, it’s remembered by many long standing members of the city’s LGBT community that the local council in the early 1990s balked at making a small grant to support the fledgling Pride as soon as they came under pressure from the local press.
So we should salute these pioneers – community organisers – who did so much in Brighton, London and other cities and towns to make Pride what it is today. They did so in the teeth of some of the very organisations, media and, yes, certain political parties, who shall not be named, who seem so welcoming to LGBT people now, even joining the parade as if their previous stance was neither here nor there. We have come a long way.
However, there is always the creeping threat of commercialism where the political spirit of Pride can be watered down. There are tendencies for the larger and most successful Prides to fall victim to this phenomenon. Even in Brighton this year we had stewards suggesting that the Pride Parade wasn’t “political” and one lawful parade group who had paid their fee to march – Queers Against the Cuts – were kettled by police on the parade.
So when we march and celebrate in prides in whatever town or city, we need to be on our guard against what I call this mind-creep of commercialism which if not checked can erase our political heritage and the struggles of the past.
Let’s also remember other LGBT communities across the world who can’t afford the luxury to forget politics. Recently courts in Moscow have banned gay pride marches for the next 100 years. When we party in the park we need to remember that an advisor to US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has compared being gay to being a drug addict. Only a few weeks ago a ‘gay hate day’ was held in Cameroon.
I’m proud of our city’s rich LGBT heritage, and here’s to another 20 years of Pride in Brighton and Hove, but let’s never forget the political struggles for equality that continue here and around the world.
Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.