Everyone’s opinion of Pride is different. Pride events have increased in size and the number of events being held in large cities tends to have a mainstream festival feel. I find that small town Prides, such as Kirkcaldy, who are holding their second Pride this year, try to have the local community at their heart by including local bands and such like. I have felt, in recent years, that rainbow capitalism has replaced the organic and inclusive resistance movement that was set up to protest the injustices of both inequality and persecution of the LGBTIQ+ community in the larger city Prides.
Rainbow capitalism is the targeting of marketing at the explicit inclusion of LGBTIQ+ community to produce profit. This manifests through tailored products and services being offered to boost economic activity for corporations and marketing campaigns. That said, some of the core messages of Pride still exist and these events continue to inspire and mobilise LGBTIQ+ activists to tackle contemporary issues. These include the ongoing fight for LGBTIQ+ inclusive education in schools, spearheaded by the TIE Campaign, and issues surrounding sexual health and the stigmatisation attached to them.
What Pride means to me has changed over the years. I saw it initially as a weekend to meet up with friends, family and loved ones to see a variety of acts from drag queens to mainstream popstars. It was a piss up where you could feel relaxed in an LGBTIQ+ inclusive environment; much more public and open than that of a bar. To an extent, I feel this is what most peoples’ attraction is to Pride is but after becoming more politicised in recent years I’ve started to view it in a more critical light. I feel large city Prides have become just another summer festival which aims to push boundaries of its size and capacity whilst focusing on the status of the artists performing. This year in Glasgow the event will take place in Kelvingrove Park with an after-party concert with the camp pop sensation Steps. A ticket will cost you £45 for a two day ticket, to the other acts and activities, and the entrance fee to the after-party concert. This all seems ‘fair’ for seeing such a popular act but is that really inclusive at that price? Albeit it tickets for the weekend, without access to the after-party is £15. The Pride website homepage is littered with ‘pro-LGBTIQ+’ corporations such as RBS and AXA insurance with very little about the core issues Pride should be raising. The focus has shifted far too much towards rainbow capitalism rather than the issues impacting on LGBTIQ+ people here in Scotland, the wider UK and overseas.
Well, so what? There is nothing wrong with this casual capitalism creeping into community events, it reflects the shift in mainstream society, more is the pity, but we should be remembering what Pride is about and the struggles that the LGBTIQ+ community face and have faced.
On the 28th of May 1988, little more than 30 years ago, Lark in the Park took place in Edinburgh to protest Section 28 which had come into effect a few days before it by Margaret Thatcher’s Government. This prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in the classroom, or other public buildings, and silenced any discussion of LGBTIQ+ issues or its existence for nearly 13 years; which was during my time in the education system. As a gay man, I find it sad that LGBTIQ+ inclusion was not encouraged or promoted during my time at school as it could have enhanced my experience of the Scottish education system and could have made me feel confident expressing my true self. I was lucky to have an open minded and caring family that always taught me it was ok to be ‘who I really was’ but that experience is not echoed in every LGBTIQ+ individual. If a young person has questions or concerns around LGBTIQ+ issues should, and should always have had, access to support; not have their community silenced under a right wing Tory Government. It was as little as 17 years ago the repeal of the Clause 28 campaign was successful in installing change in Scotland. This meant the younger generation have had the ability to seek out support and not have LGBTIQ+ issues silenced or forced underground in civic life; all because of Pride and public demonstrations.
The Lark in the Park was pivotal in raising awareness of this nasty policy and lead to prominent LGBTIQ+ speakers publicly coming out, literally in some cases, to express their disgust and opposition to Thatcher’s obsession of control and ‘tradition’. This meeting of like-minded people and political activists present to show solidarity and displaying willingness to resist oppression and inequality faced by a minority group in society, from the mainstream media and their own Government. That is what Pride should be. Politics should be front and centre. We should all be standing side by side with the trans community who are experiencing dreadful levels of suicide attempts and ongoing low levels of mental well-being. On average, according to Stonewall, 48% of young trans people have attempted suicide. What is causing these people to feel so low and isolated that they want to end their lives?
Moreover, we should be remembering and highlighting what is happening abroad where homosexuality is illegal in some Commonwealth countries and beyond. We should also be remembering that in Chechnya gay men are being hunted down by the authorities and facing persecution. These are the important issues; amongst many others.
What Pride means to me is the increased commercialisation of a community event that was originally intended to express discontent and show an appetite for equality. In large city events, we see mainstream festivals that are sponsored by big business and are obsessed with securing the best and biggest acts to attract more numbers. However, alternative Pride events are organised in venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which tend to reflect the true nature of what Pride once was, with no or very little fee for entry. Try and seek them out if you can; if not do enjoy the party. Whilst doing so, always try and reflect on the injustices facing the LGBTIQ+ community globally and take political action where you can.
Happy Pride to one and all!
You can read more of Brian’s writing here