Comment: Pride needs a political motive or it needs a change

Ollie McFadden July 9, 2012
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On there has recently been a back-and-forth between those who support the modern Pride movement in the UK and those who do not. As far as I’m aware we have had two articles in favour of Pride in its current form and only one opposing, this article will equalise those numbers.

I’ll quickly share a couple of things with you about myself so that you understand where I’m coming from (and any ad hominem fallacies in the comments box can at least be accurate). I’m an 18 year old, white, upper-middle class, male who lives in south London. I also happen to be gay. Many would argue that these things contribute to my ability to ‘blend in’, a point Mr Selum makes exceptionally well in his article.

Firstly, the idea of ‘blending in’ is unpleasant to me. ‘Blending in’ seems to suggest we go back into the closet. The idea I, and I believe Topher Gen if I may put words into his mouth, support: is integration. This is about being part of society, no longer defining ourselves by our minority status and pushing ourselves to the fringe. Simply living and being. We can be proud of who we are without making a ‘big deal’ of it. I think this goes for all minorities that have (or almost have if you care about gay marriage) legal equality.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine on this issue and he put the integration argument very well.

“What annoys me more than anything is when people introduce themselves as ‘Oh hello, my name’s John and I’m gay’.

“People don’t run around introducing themselves as straight! If the LGBT community wants to be taken seriously they need to stop treating sexuality as the most important fact about themselves.”

Interestingly, I have not got a single friend, of any sexuality, who disagrees with this opinion.

I mentioned legal equality; this is because an act of civil disobedience, such as Pride, is designed to be a protest against the government. A protest will rarely change the opinions of individuals, indeed they are not designed to do so.

By definition an act of civil disobedience must have a political motive to not be considered merely a street party. Generally, a group will protest against the government, which then rolls back discriminatory laws and allows the truth about your minority to come forward (assuming of course the government listens).

This has happened in the UK with regard to sexuality and indeed, as far as I can tell, ethnicity and gender.

I would therefore argue that Pride in the UK is protesting against an invisible enemy, and has lost all political motivation.

We’ve seen it with the uproar about the lack of money backing WorldPride in London. Do we really need floats to protest against inequality? Do we need sponsored parties in Soho? Do we need stars of the music industry? No.

Pride has become commercial and aimless, and I think it’s because we don’t have an ‘enemy’ to aim at in the UK as the majority of the government, and the civilian population – this is all that matters in a democracy – support equality.

Many people may think, “It’s all well and good to criticise it but could you come up with something better?” I do have a suggestion on that point. Pride could be designed to be a static celebration rather than a protest.

I’ve always been rather partial to the notion of mass picnic/music festival in Hyde Park, with the different organisations setting up their tents around the edges, accessible to everyone. I believe this could deliver exactly the same results as the march through London, without so much of the negative media coverage the other articles have discussed.

We have a lot of other celebrations already but I certainly do not think another would be harmful in any way. I think it’s useful to be part of the Pride movement, if only to show our support for the LGBT populations in other countries who are nowhere near as free as we are. But let’s stop pretending Pride is about politics in the UK.

Pride, in my mind, should be more focussed on the fact that the LGBT community spans across every other social and ethnic group which exists. We are everywhere. I think Pride is a chance to show unity throughout society, which is desperately needed in the UK. Which is of course nothing to do with the Tory government because we all know they are all about unity across the demographics (possible hint of sarcasm).

Pride is a chance to show togetherness rather than creating an in-group, out-group situation, where you’re either with us or you’re against us. Comments like the following, which I did in fact hear behind me when a straight couple walked past, “This is gay Pride, no straights allowed”, I’m sure all would think, are not the aim of Pride.

I believe that if people were to engage their autonomy they would see that in the long term Pride in the UK, as it is now, is in fact no longer beneficial to the LGBT population of this country, and could be used as a much wider force for good.

Pride in the UK, in my opinion, has lost its political motive, but could it still be an event we can all be proud of?

Ollie McFadden is a student of English Literature, Philosophy and Drama

More: Gay, Gay Pride, lgbt pride, London, World Pride, WorldPride

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