The struggle for the true meaning of Pride
Should Pride be a protest or a party? We are halfway through LGBT Pride Month. But alongside the parades and celebrations, there are fears that hard-won gay rights are under threat.
In two weeks’ time, it will be 50 years since Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of colour, threw the bottles that started it all. They were fighting back against police officers who were raiding one of New York City’s only gay bars at the time: the Stonewall Inn.
That was 28 June, 1969. The Stonewall riots that followed were the start of the modern gay rights’ movement. Every year, Pride Month is held in June in honour of those protests.
In the last 50 years, LGBT people have won new rights around the world. Homosexuality is no longer illegal anywhere in Europe. Same-sex marriage has been legalised in 29 countries. In the Western world, there has been a huge rise in the number of celebrities and politicians who are open about their sexuality.
As a result, Pride parades are mostly joyful events about celebrating love and acceptance. In the UK, Brighton Pride attracts big celebrity performers such as Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. Brands often embrace rainbow flags in June to appeal to LGBT customers. According to The Financial Times, companies pay up to around $175,000 to sponsor the annual Pride parade in New York City.
But some say that LGBT people should return to the spirit of protest that inspired Pride.
“Pride isn’t a party, it’s a time for queer people to fight again for their rights,” wrote the journalist Owen Jones in The Guardian yesterday.
He was responding to recent protests against teaching about LGBT relationships in schools in Birmingham; two high-profile attacks on gay women and a non-binary person, and the NSPCC’s decision to cut ties with the trans activist Munroe Bergdorf after complaints that she is too “sexualised” for a children’s charity.
It is not just Britain. In the USA, President Trump has banned transgender troops from serving in the military. Homosexuality is still illegal in 70 countries around the world. In six of those countries, it is punishable by death.
“Progress in LGBTQ rights has not simply ground to a halt, it is screeching into reverse,” wrote Jones. Is it time to go back to Stonewall’s roots?
Party or protest?
Pride is a protest. Recent events show that progress is never guaranteed. Instead of corporate-sponsored parades, writes Jones, “Let’s have rage, courage and determination — because LGBTQ rights are under threat, and history shows that the only remedy is to fight back.”
For others, Pride is still a party. It is a time for LGBT people to celebrate how far they have come, in a space where they can be completely themselves — and have fun while they do it. That joyful refusal to be intimidated is almost a form of protest in itself. It would be a shame to lose it to anger and politics.
- What does the word “Pride” mean to you?
- Are LGBT rights under threat?
- Design your own poster, advertisement or protest banner for Pride.
- Create a timeline which details the last 50 years of LGBT rights around the world.
Some People Say...
“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”Jason Collins, America’s first openly gay male athlete
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- The numbers of reported hate crimes against LGBT people have risen in Britain. In 2011-12 there were 4,345 in England and Wales based on sexuality, plus 313 which were directed at trans people. In 2017-18, they had risen to 11,638 and 1,651 respectively.
- What do we not know?
- How much that rise is due to a higher number of attacks being reported to the police. We also do not know how many incidents go unreported. Anecdotally, many LGBT people have reported that they have received more abuse recently, with some blaming this on the rise of right-wing populism.
- Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera
- This week, New York City announced that Johnson and Rivera will get a statue to recognise their contribution to the gay rights’ movement. The city says it will be the world’s first permanent transgender statue.
- For example, Pete Buttigieg is currently running to be the Democratic nominee for US president. He is the second openly gay politician to run for president for a major party.
- Schools in Birmingham
- The row began when Parkland Primary began teaching a programme called No Outsiders, which informed pupils about different identities. It attracted protests from parents, who were largely Muslim. The school has now stopped the lessons.
- Five people have been arrested after two lesbian women were attacked on a bus in North London. In a separate incident in Southampton, two actors were attacked on their way to work.
- Someone who does not identify as male or female.
- Munroe Bergdorf
- A transgender activist who supported a Childline campaign for the charity. The CEO of the NSPCC apologised after staff spoke out against the decision.