Homosexuality is decriminalised, same-sex marriage is legalised, adoption is opened up to queer families and everywhere you look across the Western world there seems to be a progressive tide sweeping away bigotry. In such a world LGBT pride parades seem frivolous, reinforcing a divide between an “us” and “them” that the rest of the world seems intent on leaving behind. If you asked me what I thought of LGBT pride a year or two ago, this would have been my answer: that it’s a bit of a fun, a chance to meet like-minded queer folks, put on some glitter, maybe meet someone nice in Superstar; but it never felt like a political march on which our rights depended. This perspective was undoubtedly the result of my own privilege, I may be bi and face all the myriad of stereotypes and prejudice that come with that but i’m not denied access to bathrooms, I’m not denied jobs or housing, I’m not the two in five trans-people who have experienced a hate crime for merely existing. Being white means I can go under the radar when it comes to a lot of this, being bi meant I could play up my queerness when around those whom I felt comfortable with and downplay it around those I did not. It is only in the past year that I came to truly embrace my identity as a bi person and no longer felt the need to live inauthentically. It is only this year that I realised not just how far we have come but how far we have yet to go. Below are just five of the plethora of reasons why pride remains so vital to the LGBT community:
1) Existence as Protest
The picture below serves as a bold reminder to those who fail to see the need for LGBT pride in 2019:
On the 7th of June this year these two women, Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris, were subjected to a homophobic attack and left covered in blood after refusing to kiss for a group of men on a London night bus. This is part of a trend of escalation of LGBT hate crimes in recent years with reports confirming that anti-gay and lesbian hate crimes have more than doubled in the past five years and that hate crimes against transgender people have trebled. When the couple was asked if the incident made them less likely to hold hands in public Chris responded by saying that “I am not scared about being visibly queer. If anything, you should do it more”. It is in this regard that pride is absolutely vital. When our mere existence as queer people already marks us out from the crowd, pride becomes a way of embracing our identity and exposes the public to that which they wish to erase and marginalise. Pride is a vital asset when it comes to our living authentically for no matter how much we forget who we are, the world does not.
Anyone who is bi or trans will have some experience of erasure. Whether it’s your sexuality that is denied or your entire existence as a trans-person, erasure has a damaging effect not only on how the world sees us but on how we see ourselves. How many times have bi women been told that they’re actually straight and that they just say they’re bi for attention? How many times have bi men been told that they’re actually just gay and in denial? Why is the world under the impression that everybody, whether male or female, is obsessed with men? For as long as bi identity is erased or swept aside, the world needs reminding: bi girls who go to pride with their boyfriends are still bi, bi people who haven’t dated anyone yet are still bi, bi guys who have only dated guys are still bi, married people are still bi, bi people are bi regardless of their relationship status. You don’t have to be Captain Jack Harkness in order to identify as a bisexual.
3) Blood Donation
In the UK men who have sex with men are unable to give blood until three months after their last sexual encounter with another man, even if that encounter was far safer than an encounter a heterosexual couple may have had. In the US there is a blanket ban on blood donation from men who have had sex with men in the past year. This is nothing but a leftover piece of bigotry from the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s and while the science has moved on, the politics has not. When HIV is now testable within a month of infection and heterosexuals who engage in risky sexual behaviour do not receive the same level of scrutiny it becomes clear that there is now no scientific justification for a blanket ban on blood donations.
For those unaware of this lovely group of so-called “feminists”, TERF stands for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists”. They are basically gender essentialists who argue for women’s rights on the basis of sexual organs. The likes of Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer thus argue that trans women born with XY chromosomes are infiltrators who are using their privilege to appropriate woman-hood for their own malign purposes, you know, like being denied employment or access to bathrooms. All of this transphobic hysteria is predicated on the idea that trans-women are simply men in dresses, an idea that is quickly dismissed as soon as people actually come into contact with actual trans people. In 2015 trans-man and activist Michael Hughes made this point clear when he demonstrated what using the bathroom which correlated with his biological sex would actually mean by taking selfies at the local ladies toilet. The women using the toilet were unsurprisingly upset to see a gruff bearded man using their toilet. This again is why pride and trans visibility is so important.
Those who attended the Pride Parade in London last year will be aware of the large TERF presence there that disrupted the march. GayTown here in Liverpool were quick to make sure these TERFS were denounced as what they were, bigots under a feminist guise. But unfortunately, another group of anti-LGBT feminists known as SWERFS have also crept into feminist and LGBT marches. SWERFS or Sex-Worker Exclusive Radical Feminists are socially and sexually conservative feminists who often argue in spite of the voices of actual sex workers that sex work is an inherently coercive industry, ignoring the fact that sex work is like any other type of work and that sex workers deserve protection like anybody else. With sex workers being disproportionately LGBT and from ethnic minorities, Pride should remain a place where they feel safe and can push for decriminalisation and sex worker rights and recognition.