The rain is falling. The rainbow flags are fluttering. The right-wing Christians are sharpening their axes. It can mean only one thing: it’s the night before Pride. Yes, tomorrow thousands of people, both gay and straight, will throng the streets of London, pile into Trafalgar Square, take over the streets of Soho and party in Shoreditch in celebration of diversity, equality and pretty much all things gay. It will be one of the jolliest parties of London’s year and, come rain or shine, will bring a smile to the faces of all who participate and all who watch (except, of course, the anti-gay ‘Christians’, who will position themselves, as always, at the end of the route in Whitehall, with their lurid placards telling gays that Jesus dislikes them and that Adam didn’t fancy Steve. If you’re following the march, by the way, be sure to look out for a traditional highlight: the fabulous London Gay Men’s Chorus singing Lily Allen’s Fuck You in full harmony as they pass the bigots by!).
After last year’s fiasco, Pride is back this year with a vengeance. And what a year it has been. The UK parliament has this year made huge steps towards allowing gay people to marry, the momentous nature of which should not be underestimated. When civil partnerships were introduced 9 years ago, it was unimaginable that one day gay people would be allowed to marry like straight people, but thanks to the tireless efforts of some hard-working MPs, Lords and Ladies and ordinary folk, this year that day has come a lot closer.
On the world stage, this year saw marriage for gay people legalised in New Zealand and in France, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which effectively barred same-sex couples from being recognised as spouses for the purposes of federal laws, ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. Equality is coming and that’s definitely worth being proud about.
But, with the theme of this year’s London Pride being Love (and Marriage), it behooves us to remember the anti-gay policies that have been implemented around the world this year, which do not engender a sense of pride in anyone, save for the bigots who have championed them. Due to the large number of regressive and oppressive policies that have been introduced this year, it is impossible to list them all, so I offer just four salient examples. In May of this year, the Lithuanian city of Vilnius banned its gay pride march; Russia introduced, and has very nearly enshrined into law, a bill banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”; Nigeria introduced, and has very nearly passed, a bill condemning anyone entering into a same-sex marriage to 14 years in prison; and, much closer to home, the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly voted against allowing same-sex marriage, despite England and Wales moving ever closer towards it.
It’s been a great year for some, and a scary, threatening and dangerous one for others. So scary, threatening and dangerous for some that they have seen no alternative other than to end their lives. The example of Jadin Bell, a 15 year old from Oregon who hung himself this year after being bullied for being gay and the first of many hits when I googled gay teen suicides 2013, serves as a reminder that we have a long way to go until we can say the fight is over.
And so fight we must. Proudly. Whether marching through London or sitting in a classroom in middle America feeling the pain of sly laughs, unseen kicks and vicious rumours, we must hold our heads high and show the world that we are proud of who we are and that we will not stop until we are treated as equals. That’s easy for me to do, but not so easy for the child in the classroom suffering bullying, taunts and violence because of their sexuality. And that’s why I’m marching, so that one day they too will feel able to march. And, so that maybe, just maybe, one day we won’t need to march at all.