Symon Hill has been at Pride London today, and I’m sad that I haven’t, because marching with the Christians at Pride last year was a revelatory moment for me of being both publicly queer and publicly Christian, that I had never experienced before.
There has been some controversy about the changes to Pride this year, and Christians Together at Pride have put out a press release welcoming its stripping down to a procession that goes back to its roots, 40 years after the first Gay Pride parade in the UK. Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said that:
“Taking the parade back to its roots will hopefully give us an opportunity to highlight the areas where there is still inequality and discrimination. With the wonderful changes we have seen in the past few years to equality legislation in the UK it is easy to become complacent and believe that there is no longer a need for campaigning. However, many LGBT Christians still struggle for acceptance within both their religious and LGBT communities and we hope the presence of Christians Together at Pride will send a very positive message.”
As they suggest, a return to Pride being rooted in social justice means going beyond single issue campaigns, to pay attention to the complicated natures of people’s identities, and how these intersections of identity affect their experience as LGBT people. I came back to this idea when I was reading around on twitter this afternoon, and noticed that some disabled people are boycotting Pride this year, because it hasn’t been up to scratch on access. The vehicle ban has caused problems for some groups, including older LGBT people who would usually have had an access bus on the march, but activists including Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, the national organisation for disabled LGBT people, say that the access problems existed before the ban. They have criticised the organisers for failing to give access information until less than two weeks before the event, not consulting with disabled people who have raised concerns in the past, and not effectively tackling major access issues like hiring accessible parking spaces.
Although not being disabled I can’t speak from personal experience on this issues, this seems to suggest an area in which all LGBT people should not be complacent in campaigning. If we see Pride as a protest rally, then we need to be alert to what has not yet been achieved, and that involves protesting for a society that doesn’t disable people, and creating Pride as an event in which all the participants can be publicly themselves, in their complex identities.