As the LGBTQ+ community heads into Pride month, Lee Williscroft-Ferris considers why exactly we are ‘still protesting this shit’.
June is Pride month and, as always, my Twitter timeline is a mélange of highly divergent vibes, from the celebratory through the political and nonchalant to the depressingly tragic. In the last five days alone, I have read four accounts of queerphobic incidents, ranging from verbal abuse to the literal hospitalisation of a gay couple in the aftermath of a homophobic beating. Not to put too fine a point on it, I am over this shit.
Pride can be tiring. I’m not one for crowds and would much rather spend my weekends pottering around the house, watching crap on Netflix, stroking random strangers’ dogs and reading Vegan Life magazine. Historically, however, I have been what one might call a ‘political gay’. For me, Pride has always been political. I have repeatedly railed against the commercialisation and depoliticisation of Pride and have proudly marched under my trade union’s banner at parades the length and breadth of the country. I’m all about the politics and less about the party.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I am over this shit.
That said, I long for the day when we can put away our rainbow garlands, face paint and whistles and just be. Certainly, that’s what the ‘straight pride’ mob would love to see and therein lies the bitter irony; their feral prejudice blinds them to the reality that their persistent refusal to just leave LGBTQ+ people the fuck alone is precisely why Pride remains an absolute necessity.
LGBTQ+ people also desperately need their self-declared ‘allies’ to see beyond their comfortable boundaries of ‘acceptance’ and appreciate the lived reality of their queer friends and relations. It can be genuinely difficult for the non-prejudiced to comprehend the negative attitudes of the less enlightened, much less the readiness of some to express their raw hatred through vile words or acts of physical violence. Merely not being queerphobic oneself is not sufficient – instead, LGBTQ+ people need ‘allies’ to be aware of the residual prejudice still inherent in our society and join us in combating it.
The safety in numbers afforded by Pride belies the everyday reality of life for many LGBTQ+ people in the UK. It’s a point that’s been made countless times in the past but it’s one that bears repeating; legislating for equality does not necessarily equate to social acceptance. On paper, some LGBTQ+ Brits enjoy some of the most advanced rights and protections in the western world. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children. Anti-discrimination laws are constantly evolving and being enhanced to afford protection to queer people. Yet, the fact is that neither a marriage certificate nor parenthood are a defensive barrier against the slur or the fist.
Merely not being queerphobic oneself is not sufficient
For others under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, the rain is falling no less hard. While visibly gay couples suffer public humiliation, all too often, our bi and trans kin continue to have their very existence questioned and devalued both within the community and in wider society. Meanwhile, widespread cisnormativity, misogyny and racism represent a persistent stain in queer organisations and social circles. Fathoming the extent of these issues and our own role in perpetuating them represents the first step towards extinguishing the flames.
In summary, I’m sure we all yearn for the day when Pride becomes a celebration of equality before progressively organically losing its significance with the dawn of full socio-legal equality for all queer people – in short, complete queer liberation. However, rather than moving closer to that day, it currently feels as though we are regressing and it’s easy to become battle-weary, disillusioned and disengaged. Nonetheless, we must make our voices heard more loudly than ever as part of a battle fought on several fronts. Go to Pride and allow yourself to be energised by a spirit of solidarity. Beyond that, challenge queerphobia, regardless of whom it is directed at. Join a trade union and represent the interests of LGBTQ+ members in the workplace, as well as fighting for effective anti-discrimination policies and practices. Lobby those in power or, even better, run for office yourself. Do something.
It currently feels as though we are regressing and it’s easy to become battle-weary, disillusioned and disengaged.
So, I shan’t be rolling up my rainbow flag just yet. None of us should rest until every single member of our community is able to live in complete freedom and, crucially, safety. Then and only then will the concept of Pride have perhaps run its course. Until then, say it with me: we’re here, we’re queer and we’re not fucking going anywhere. Deal with it.
Follow Lee on Twitter (@calamospondylus)