The first time I saw a pride parade was in Manchester in 2000 or 2001. I was either 15 or 16 and I was in the UK either for my sisters’ graduations, or for one of their weddings. I can’t quite remember which trip it was. Back then it was just some very fancy people in colourful boas and clothings, and it was all a bit of a laugh, a bit of fun, and not very large or corporate. The parade happened to go right past the restaurant we were having lunch in, so without planning to, we got to see most of it.
That wasn’t very long after I first learnt the word ‘sodomy’, which had been bandied around a lot during the trial of the ex deputy prime minister of Malaysia. I won’t go into the politics of that, but suffice to say, because of the way I was brought up – first of all when I first heard the word I had to ask ‘what does it mean’, and when I found out, my response was very much “Ewwwwwww”.
At 15/16, I had no idea what my sexuality was, wasn’t even aware that I had been crushing on girls since puberty (they were girls.. and I’m supposed to crush on guys.. so this inexplicable desire to spend more time with these really hot androgyn girls wasn’t crushes right… or was it?).
Anyway – gay pride – fun, colourful people. NOT something I would ever do, after all I’m not gay.
My first gay pride in London – I went as a spectator, and I had by that point, fallen in love with the female half of my ‘lets have some fun’ threesome buddies/play-partners. But it was just play, wasn’t meant to last, and I really didn’t want to be in love with her so… I went to pride.. and I got drunk.. and I kissed girls… MANY girls..
That didn’t work. I got a good talking to, and that relationship continued.
Pride got put on a back burner for the few years after that – because life developed elsewhere and I didn’t have friends to go with and didn’t have any strong desire to get involved.
In 2014 I diversified my voluntary work portfolio and started to do more stuff with lgbt charities. In 2015 I signed up to be a ‘flagbearer’. It was a new initiative and they wanted representatives to carry flags from every country in the world. I thought that was amazing and I volunteered. I didn’t get to do it in the end because I was deployed to Sierra Leone for the Ebola outbreak right in June/July.. Oh.. what a bummer for pride… but hey saving lives is more important..
In 2016, I had spent enough time in the lgbt charities / inclusive & intersectional activism scene to begin starting to get really irritated by how pride in London was run. It is massively commercialised and corporatized. There were massive rolling accusations of pink-washing, and it became obvious to me that the entire thing was run by a bunch of cis white middle class men. Oh there was the token women and the 1 poc… but the majority of the committee was of that description. I wondered if there was any possibility of changing it. I looked into who could get involved. I discovered to my horror that none of the organising committee gets paid despite it being a full time job for 6 out of 12 months of the year, and a part time job the rest of the time. That leaves the only people who can run it.. to be erm.. well.. super privileged people… or… people from ‘the other half’. Hmm.. Okay that route is shut then… and now I understand it all a bit better.
My partners had no interest in marching, and I had no interested in being counted as a person who made it a success. But marching wasn’t the only thing one could do, and I could man a stall for SwitchBoard, the charity I predominantly volunteer for. Hmm.. that’s a good idea, I’ll still be involved, during important representative work for switchboard.. OK, I’ll do that.
So… until 2017 – I had never march in a pride parade. Of course, by 2016/2017 my involvement in various LGBT charities means I actually have far more options than ever before of marching. I could march with my employers (KCL/UCL), or my charities (Switchboard, Diversity Role Models, Scouts), or go as a flagbearer. I wasn’t spoilt for choice..
But as 2017 pride draws closer.. what happens but some big missteps by the organising committee. The bisexual representation fiasco, followed close behind by the advertising campaign fiasco. HRM…. Both issues which lie close to my heart as (1) I’m bisexual and (2) I have actively gone with Diversity Role Models into schools to explain to schoolkids why “that’s so gay” is not an acceptable way to describe people and objects.
Sigh… These are huge and I mean huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge missteps by PrideinLondon. Yea they are doing a good job overall.. but.. BUT, they have succeeded in making me feel excluded, on multiple levels.
So no, I will not grace PrideinLondon with my presence this year. In any capacity. I know my presence/absence doesn’t make a darn iota of difference, but it makes a difference to me. There are enough people marching that ‘stand up and be counted’ isn’t relevant anymore. The huge number of commercial & corporate bodies marching, and the gradual decrease of charities & community groups is a warning sign to me that PRIDE has forgotten that it started as political activism. PrideinLondon no longer serves the community. It is now an avenue for large organisations to show how inclusive they are – which is also good and needed, but it isn’t the activism I have any interest in.