The F Word: Pride 2016 and What's Wrong With England

Many places around the world are celebrating LGBTQ pride this month. In lots of them, it had become a fairly routine part of the calendar until the deadly attack on the Orlando gay nightclub. In a tragic way, that’s that’s given this year’s event some of its old significance.


Pride in the streets wasn’t always a ho­hum thing. In my experience, early pride marches were defiant, riotous affairs, often complete with mini­riots. Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans people striding out of the closet and into the street, was a brave dramatic deal. We’d boo the bigotry of the Church and the State and risk arrest over AIDS and murder.  

And then many of us who marched in the ‘80s started to skip it. I did. The monster floats had became so large and loud and the people’s banners so few and scrawny.  Commerce seemed to have edged out community. And then there was the year that US service people led the parade, the morning after a deadly US bombing strike on Baghdad.

I didn’t feel pride that year. I felt confused. Had liberation Pride lost out to piece-­of-­the-­pie Pride such that now we were celebrating our place in war and killing?

That revolution I found hard to dance to.

I didn’t marry but I coupled up. I started missing Pride and not thinking much about it. But a few months ago a friend asked for my thoughts for a book she was compiling called Pride and Joy and I began to think.

The gifts I’ve received from Pride parades are many. They’re present in the freedom I feel holding my lover’s hand and kissing, just about  anywhere. In the image I have in my head a of a massive rainbow of lives flowing down Fifth Avenue, and the glimpse I got then, and still see from time to time, of a rambunctious grand queer festival of fun and fight that’s seductive enough to overcome haters’ fears and smart enough to embrace all our movements.  

At it’s best Pride’s a chance to meet and mourn and resurrect the parts of ourselves we keep cooped­ up, and to practice stepping off our safe private places on the pavement and into the mad helter­skelter. I marched before and maybe I’ll march again ­ to be reminded of the joy that’s in the mix of singular, special people in a cavorting, common crowd;  defiant, brave, and dancing; different, together.  There’s still plenty – plenty – to mourn and more to fight for and win – and we could all of us do with a lot more dancing. Happy pride everyone!

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