What is the point of Pride anymore?
This weekend I went to Edinburgh Pride. Edinburgh Pride is not a big affair. It started with a march along the Royal Mile followed by a ‘festival’ — an afternoon of bands and drinking. I had no interest in the festival at all, so decided to head to the march instead.
I am not surprised, but in the end, it was rather disappointing. The crowd was actually a decent size, but I couldn’t help but wonder, why were we all there? There was hardly a political message to be heard, with no one even bothering to chant along the march. We walked very quietly, expressing our pride and politely as possible. Instead, the majority of flags and banners were those provided by the corporate sponsors — banks such as Barclays, RBS and the Bank of Scotland, as well as the restaurant Nandos.
It seemed a crazy contrast to the huge anti-austerity protests that were happening around the United Kingdom on the same day. While tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest harsh cuts by the Tory Government, the gay community in Edinburgh were “celebrating” the work of our proud sponsors — the UK financial sector. On a day of huge anti-austerity protests there was not a single austerity message to be found.
Is this seriously what we’ve come to?
In London it has been noted that the pivotal group, Gays and Lesbians Supporting the Miners, will be leading the London Pride this year. GLSM was so important because it realised that the fights for gay and lesbian rights matches the fight against conservative attacks on unions and workers.
And that fight continues in earnest today. Conservative austerity is going to have a huge impact in the UK — hitting the poorest hardest. And that means hitting LGBTIQ people as well. Gays, lesbians, and trans* people often face severe poverty (particularly those who find themselves homeless due to queerphobia) and they will bear the brunt of austerity cuts coming under this Government.
Yet, instead of standing with those fighting against austerity during the protests this week, Edinburgh Pride instead celebrated our proud financial sponsors. We waved the flag of where our allegiances lie — with the capitalist class instead of those fighting against their oppression.
In the end I wished I had ended up getting on the train and heading to the protest in Glasgow this weekend instead of Pride. And that feels really sad to me. It’s sad parts of the queer movement have lost the important connections we once built with the working class, along with so many other movements fighting oppression today. It’s sad that we find more space for banks to sponsor our events rather than to question their dodgy practices (the sorts of practices that created the financial crisis that Conservatives are using as an excuse for austerity).
Pride used to be something political and radical. It used to be a locus for change. Not it seems just to be a big party, backed up by our corporate sponsors.
There is still a point to pride. But sometimes I don’t think we realise that anymore.